The prisoners believe they are on the winning side since the training center allows them to take care of horses


The opening of a horse training center at Castlerea Prison has been hailed as a life-changing rehabilitation resource for inmates.

Economy Minister Helen McEntee officially opened the Horses for Hope facility on the grounds of Co Roscommon Prison yesterday.

She described the program as “an innovative, forward-thinking and progressive way of supporting prisoner rehabilitation.”

“I had the opportunity to meet with some of those involved in the program. You can already see the positive impact it is having on them and those who have already completed the program,” she said.

“Finding and securing meaningful and purposeful work and activity after release is absolutely necessary to give people real hope. It gives people the opportunity to have a different, better life for themselves and their families after they are released.”

The newly constructed 10-pen complex provides inmates with horse-racing industry-standard training in horse care and job opportunities upon release.

Selected advanced prisoners complete a 12-week course on horse behavior, safe handling, hoof care, disease and infirmity, grooming and first aid.

The program encourages empathy and compassion through caring for rescued horses.

The facility is on the grounds of Castlerea Prison, but outside the prison walls.

The Irish Prison Service will run the project in conjunction with the Irish Horse Welfare Trust.

To date, over €100,000 in grants have been raised from the horse racing industry.

Inmate Kevin, who is nearly a year into a four-year sentence, said participating in the exercise program has helped his mental health greatly.

“Having been locked in the cell during Covid and now being out here with the horses, it’s been great for me mentally,” he said.

“A horse can be a man’s best friend. When you’re feeling down, it can really lift your spirits.

“When I go back in the evening, I look forward to getting up in the morning.

“The degree opens a new door in life for us too. It means a lot to us. Here we learn from the best.

“You don’t look at the four walls and see people coming and going, so you don’t feel so alien.”

John, who has been serving a nine-year sentence for six years, said the experience was the best thing that could have happened to him during his time behind bars.

“It helped me tremendously. It got me out of the cell and helped me stop feeling scared. It lets you keep your head down and avoid trouble,” he said.

“There is a great deal of trust between the governor and us. You get a chance and you are not blamed for your past behavior.

“I didn’t think I would get this opportunity because between these four walls I often got into big trouble between fighting and doing nothing.

“You haven’t given up on me.
I was given the chance to break my addiction to prescribed drugs and it opened new doors for me. I’ve been on the right track for three years now.”

Fergal Black, Director of Care and Rehabilitation at Irish Prison Service said: “This is an exciting new project for Castlerea Prison and Irish Prison Service and will have many positive benefits for participants and ultimately our communities will benefit from the reduction the recidivism rate safer. The prisoners believe they are on the winning side since the training center allows them to take care of horses

Fry Electronics Team

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