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Sept. 12, 2016


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The South Carolina Equestrian team is accustomed to taking care of the horses on which they compete, but the Gamecocks paid it forward recently by providing a little tender loving care to retired thoroughbreds housed at the Wateree River Correctional Institution with some serious grooming and bathing of the animals. South Carolina head coach Boo Major called Saturday’s event an “Equine makeover.”

“A lot of these horses haven’t had a whole lot of TLC as far as grooming them is concerned,” Major said. “They had long, scraggly manes, and some knots in their tails and things like that. So their manes were trimmed so they’re the right length, and we clipped them where needed and gave them baths. It’s kind of like a spa day for horses.

“We wanted to get involved, but we didn’t want the girls to be riding these horses or do anything that could potentially cause them to be hurt. This second chances program is a wonderful program. This was a volunteer activity, and to get over half of our team out there is a lot of fun.”

“We do a lot of different community service as a team, but none of it has been horse-centered,” said sophomore Hanna Powers. “Anything we can do with our knowledge of horses, it’s very exciting.”

The Wateree facility is the home to 40 retired thoroughbreds, several of which are being professionally retrained and offered for adoption. The South Carolina Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation oversees the project and is the local chapter of a national organization which rescues thoroughbred horses that have finished racing or are no longer able to compete.

“We place them at prison farms or private farms around the country so they don’t end up in the slaughter houses and that sort of thing,” said William Cox from the South Carolina Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, who is also a long-time friend of Major. “What we’re trying to do is place these horses with adoptive homes so they can be reused or retrained for school horses, fox hunters, show horses or things like that. What they’re doing is making these horses look like the thoroughbreds that they really are.”

“We want these horses to have a great life,” Major said.

I just wanted to help. I didn’t think it would be this much fun, but it’s been great.

Bailey Tims, freshman

Cox said prison farms are often used not only because of the available labor force to tend to the horses with their daily needs, but it also offers a behavior modification and educational opportunity for those incarcerated who are participating in the program.

“We teach them, through a nationally certified course, how to be employed as grooms so that when they get out, they can be employed on farms or a racetrack or high end show barns anywhere in the country,” Cox said. “Those that hire them can trust them with their horses because they know they will be well taken care of.”

“It’s a great opportunity for them to learn and get some hands on experience,” said sophomore Meredith Milton. “It’s really rewarding to see these horses and to see the inmates learn how to do all of these tasks that they are going to need.”

At the end of the day, the horses were looking sharp and ready to be shown.

“I just wanted to help,” said Freshman Bailey Tims. “I didn’t think it would be this much fun, but it’s been great.”

“We’re going to come back,” said freshman Katie Mack who groomed a horse named Duck. “We’re going to track Duck and take care of him forever. I want to call my mom and adopt him.”

“Now we can take new pictures of the horses for our web site and Facebook page and try to get more of these horses adopted out,” Cox said. “That’s where they need to be as opposed to being permanently in an institution like this. The men here take care of them, but they don’t know how to make them look how they’re supposed to look. It’s a huge help to us.”

For more information about the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in South Carolina, visit or search for South Carolina Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation on Facebook.