Thursday, March 31, 2011

Colorado prison inmates tame, train wild horses for border patrol and other work

The Bureau of Land Management, which has been criticized for its wild-horse roundup policy, has for 25 years "been quietly shipping thousands of wild mustangs it rounds up each year to the East Canon Correctional Complex near Canon City, Colo," Jenny Deem reports for the Los Angeles Times. There, inmates train horses for possible border patrol duty. (Denver Post photo by Andy Cross)

"The horses come from herds across the West, the majority from Nevada, Wyoming and California," Deem writes. "Once they arrive at the prison's vast acreage they are checked over and their fates determined: They are trained as pets or working ranch horses to be offered for adoption, or they are set loose in long-term pastures scattered across the country." Only about 10 of the approximately 2,000 horses at the prison in a given month are selected for training. "It takes three to four months to take a horse from feral to friendly," Deem writes.

Four years ago Lee Pinkerton, a retired U.S. Border Patrol supervisor, decided the horses' compact bodies and heavy feet would be ideal for border patrol work. "Each trained horse costs the Border Patrol $1,025 — less than half what it had been paying for its horses previously," Deem writes. Border Patrol has bought 84 Canon City horses to date and is expected to buy almost 90 more by year's end. "There are 55 inmates who work in the program each day," Deem writes, noting there has been just one escape attempt and it was on foot, not on horseback. (Read more)

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