About 15 of the clients from the workshop for development disabled residents of this area visited the Okaw Saddle Club northwest of Vandalia.
There, they got to see, and interact with, horses that are part of a new program at Vandalia Correctional Center.
Jessie Maske, instructor for the new equine management education program at the prison, and Kathleen Mattingly, state vocational coordinator for the Illinois Department of Corrections, brought the horses to the saddle club for the outing.
Kim Taylor, executive director for FAYCO, said the idea for the outing came from a member of the 377 Board at the workshop.
John Daniels Jr. approached her about something like this, and his wife, Brenda, contacted Maske about getting the equine program at the prison involved.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this,” Taylor said.
“We are trying to expose them to what’s in the community, and we really just want them to interact with the community,” she said.
“We want them to learn about stuff that they have never been exposed to,” Taylor said.
“This past week, they have been learning about horses, so they would understand them a little bit better and know more about them before they actually saw them,” she said.
Taylor is hoping that this outing leads to others.
“We’re hoping that others see this and come forward with some things that we can do for and with our clients, that it makes them think, ‘I’ve never thought of doing something like that,’” she said.
Mattingly said the IDOC staff was more than willing to be a part of the outing.
“They’re able to pet the horses and feed them, and just have some interaction with them,” Mattingly said.
Getting the retired thoroughbreds away from the prison grounds, she said, “is a way of us giving something back to the community.”
Currently, the equine management education program at VCC has 18 inmates working with horses.
Through the Second Chance Ranch at VCC, which was set up with the help of R.A.C.E. Inc. and Fairmount Park, inmates at the prison can learn skills that they can use once they are released back into society.