AP NEWS

Taming wild horses brings change to Nevada inmates

March 30, 2019

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada prison inmates are taming wild horses gathered from public lands across the West in a partnership program that is changing the prisoners, too.

Hundreds of Nevada inmates have been taming the horses since 2000 as part of the program involving the federal Bureau of Land Management and the state Department of Corrections, the Las Vegas Sun reported Wednesday.

The animals are given up for adoption after 120 days of training.

The program is popular among inmates at Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City. Prison staff says it teaches prisoners valuable life skills, such as work ethic and patience.

“Being responsible for the care of an animal is a lot more than some of these guys have ever taken on,” said Justin Pope, prison supervisor and ranch manager at the correctional center. “So there’s definitely a physical value as well as a philosophical value.”

That philosophical aspect of the program attracted the attention of French film director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, who wrote and directed “The Mustang” (2019), a film about the horse training program in Nevada.

Shot at the shuttered Nevada State Prison in Carson City, the fictional movie follows a convict, played by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, as he trains a wild horse in prison.

Only minimum-security inmates without a history of prison violations or write-ups are eligible to participate in the real-life program.

Typically, the horses have never interacted with humans when the inmates meet them. It can take up to two weeks for a horse to permit a first touch, said trainer Hank Curry, who guides the inmates through the program.

“They have no reason to trust a man, so we have to build the trust,” Curry said.

The wild horse training program was born out of an ongoing issue facing the Bureau of Land Management and the American West: an unsustainable level of wild horses, the feral descendants of escaped horses from explorers, ranchers, miners and others.

The bureau estimated that at the end of 2017, the number of wild horses on public lands across 10 western states, including Nevada, had reached 83,000 — more than three times the appropriate management level.

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Information from: Las Vegas Sun, http://www.lasvegassun.com