The image of a hardened and tattooed prison inmate riding a semi-wild Mustang horse in the deserts of Nevada certainly are not what you would expect to see. Yet, through the Stewart Conservation Camp Saddle Horse Training Program and the Northern Nevada Correctional Facility this unlikely pairing of hardened, imprisoned human and horse are providing worthwhile ranch horses and bringing a sense of self-confidence and worth to prison inmates. 

The Northern Nevada Correctional Center/Stewart Conservation Saddle Horse Training Program is a cooperative partnership between the Bureau of Land Management, the Nevada Department of Corrections and the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Being tasked with the life of a huge, beautiful animal and feeling that they are capable of helping- it’s huge in these men’s lives. They learn patience, compassion, trust.

In this innovative and heart warming program, prison inmates are teamed up with a wild Mustang horse, where the horse gently learns to trust humans and are trained to be ridden so that they are available for adoption. 

Each horse requires 120 hours of saddle training and most of the inmates have never ridden before. It is up to the ranches that house the wild mustangs to teach the inmates to not only ride, but how to approach and gentle a wild Mustang. And many ranchers and prison educators feel that they inmates gain vocational skills that are useful upon release from their prison sentence. 

Almost thirty thousand wild mustangs and burros have been captured over the past few years and are currently being held in government backed ranches and facilities. Horse slaughterhouses have been closed since 2007 and adoption rates have dropped during the recession. The horses and burros held in captivity are well fed and treated well and the union of human inmates and horse inmates is magical for all involved. 

To read more about the The Northern Nevada Correctional Center/Stewart Conservation Saddle Horse Training Program and the adoption process, please read further here. 

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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