Horse Sense

One group's unbridled plan would help mustangs, prisoners and disabled kids help each other.

Ideally, Bowman says, she'd like to work out a relationship with the DOC that would permit not only the adoption of horses into the Pegasus program but also the development of a specialized training program. Bowman suggests that inmates could condition the horses to be more accustomed to being around loud noises and wheelchairs, "balls and toys and kids who scream and kick and sit crooked" --in short, to get the mustangs "sacked out" so that they don't spook easily.

At the moment, though, such talk is putting the cart before the horse. Pegasus officials have had some preliminary discussion with the DOC about joining forces, but nothing definite has been addressed.

"We don't know if it's feasible or not," says DOC spokeswoman Liz McDonough. "We're waiting for them to send us more information, and that's as far as it's gone."

Bowman is hopeful that something can be arranged. "I'm willing to work out what is most beneficial to us, the BLM and the DOC," she says. "Their benefit is in having the inmate gentle the horse, knowing the horse is going to help children with disabilities."

While there's no shortage of demand for the BLM horses, volunteer Middleton notes that the adoption program hasn't always worked as designed. Last year a major Associated Press series revealed that some horses slated for adoption had actually ended up being sold to slaughterhouses. That's all the more reason, she argues, for trying to find a place for them in a program like Pegasus.

"Here are horses that don't necessarily have a place to go, sometimes because they're the wrong color," Middleton says. "I don't think anyone in a therapy program will give a damn about that."

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