A Second Chance - GTN - Gainesville Television Network

A Second Chance

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Thousands of feet of black fences surround the Ocala pastures that are home to thoroughbreds in training. Down the road, among the many horse farms in the area, lies Second Chances Farm at the Lowell Correctional Institute. There, those horses aren't getting ready for the next Derby.

Shake You Down is a winner from years ago. Now he's away from the track. Retired, with a constant companion.

That companion is inmate Evelyn Spillman. She calls the former champion Shake, and works with him everyday. "You get to learn that you're still needed. You're still valuable to somebody. Even if it is an old racehorse."

The program is out of the Florida Department of Corrections and works with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. John Evans works closely with the program and says it's the only program like this in the nation that involves female inmates. "It gives them a vocation. Another thing, it gives them life skills."

Spillman says the program opened doors for her. "I want to do this. For the rest of my life. I've found this is something I'm good at it."

Every horse there is an ex-racehorse like Shake. They usually end their racing career early, and then many are put down. This program gives them a second chance at life.

The inmates do everything from fixing fences to taking care of the horses.  Spillman says even when it's hard, it's still rewarding. "There's not a lot of things to look forward to besides visits and phone calls. They need us. I think that's the most important part."

Spillman says her sentence is up in September. Then, she says she has a job offer in Live Oak, working with horses.

She says she's grateful she got a chance to move on. "We're inmates, but we're still people and everybody deserves a second chance, just like these horses, you know. They were born to do something, and when they weren't able to do that anymore somebody just wanted to toss them away. Why? I think everybody deserves a second chance."

Most of the horses can be adopted, and the goal is to find them new homes.

Reported by: Laura Christmas

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