Chris Culcasi went from offender to successful farrier following his participation at the Wild Horse Training Program at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (RCCC).
According to The Sacramento Bee, Culcasi originally opted to participate in the program because inmate trainers get two lunches instead of one. Instead of just getting him extra lunch, the program changed his life.
As part of the Wild Horse Training Program, inmate trainers work on a ranch near RCCC and work with wild mustangs captured and provided by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The inmates’ task is to make the wild horses adoptable.
The horses are clean slates, given that they have no experience with people. According to Joe Misner, the program’s designer, this clean slate can be just what the participants need.
“The horses have an effect on the inmates in the aspect that they allow the inmate to learn about themselves,” says Misner.
“The horse doesn’t look at the inmate as a convicted criminal, he just looks at him as a human being.”
Through this experience, Culcasi began to dream of attending farrier school after his release. In the way was an obstacle — lack of funds. But, following The Sacramento Bee’s reporting on Culcasi’s dream, a former FBI agent George Vinson donated money so that he could attend Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School (PCHS).
“If you dream it and you’re willing to work for it, there’s people out there who will help you and support you,” says Culcasi. He graduated third in his class.
Now, Culcasi lives in Sierra County, Calif., where he shoes horses and gives guided horseback tours at a ranch.
As a result of Culcasi’s success story, other readers donated money and sponsored farrier school tuition for another former inmate, John Blackwell. Current program participant, Doug Slabbekorn, has a GoFundMe account set up to raise money for tuition to attend the next session at PCHS.