Insight Inside: WHIP – Taking the Reins

Winston Churchill once said, ‘No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle…‘ a concept proven time and time again in the Colorado Correctional Industries (CCi) Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP).

As part of a mutually beneficial partnership formed in 1986 with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), CCi houses a herd of nearly 3,000 animals near the Canon City Four Mile Correctional Center. A portion of the younger animals are trained by inmates and offered for adoption to qualified applicants, including the U.S. Border Patrol. Operating within a state-of-the-art facility, more than 5,000 mustangs have been trained, giving both animals and inmates a second chance of leading a healthy, productive life.

From conquering the Chisholm Trail to moving settlers into the west, the American mustang is a noble part of our country’s past. Today these intelligent, loyal creatures continue to forge new beginnings, playing an important role in inmate rehabilitation. With over 200 hours of on-the-job training, inmates develop a good work ethic, animal husbandry skills, and respect—creating a better future for themselves and the mustangs.

The Colorado Department of Corrections houses the BLM’s largest wild horse and burro holding facility and is one of five facilities in the nation with a Wild Horse Inmate Program. Over the course of 90 days, inmates spend hours daily training a wild mustang to become a riding companion for trail riders, stables and government agencies. Horses are introduced to a basic skill set using humane, resistance-free training methods.

This cooperative agreement was the first of its kind where it selects wild horses and burros to receive personal and extensive training as part of an inmate rehabilitative program. In addition to providing training services, inmates feed and care for all wild horses and burros at the facility.

The WHIP offers trained horses to people who may not have the experience, time or facilities to train an animal on their own.

The inmates benefit by learning meaningful and marketable work experience they can use when they are released. On average, seven to 10 horses are trained every month and are ready to be adopted.

Offenders are chosen for WHIP by a job board made up of three panel members and overseen by the Warden of the Canon Minimum Center. The offender must have a minimum restrictive custody classification score or less and must be within 5 years of their Parole Eligibility Date (PED) to qualify.

Author: Rick Raemisch, Colorado DOC