Program helps inmates, wild horses

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Inmate Curtis Lange has a hard time putting into words the feeling he gets from gentling horses in the prison's new wild horse training program.

After 18 hard years behind bars, perhaps words aren't necessary when he hugs his horse, Jellybean, around the neck and brushes her shiny coat, readying her for Saturday's adoption.

"The value of this can't be measured," he said from a corral in the yard of Warm Springs Correctional Center. "I'm out here shoveling horse manure, and I'm smiling because I'm happy."

Lange, a Reno native, declined to say what he is serving time for, but he has plenty of time to work with the horses. He is serving one life sentence, followed by two 15-year sentences. His first parole hearing is in January.

The Department of Agriculture introduced the Comstock Wild Horse Training Program on Thursday to a crowd of newspaper and television reporters. Eight captured estray horses were broken in the last month and a half, giving inmates a reprieve from the pressures of lockdown and the horses a chance to live healthy lives in captivity.

"Our goal is to keep these estray horses and the range land where they roam healthy," said Paul Iverson, director of the state's agriculture program. "With this new training program in place we expect 100 percent of these horses to be adopted."

The first adoptions will be Saturday at the Warm Springs Correctional Center at the corner of Edmonds Drive and Fifth Street. The department gathers 200 horses annually and hopes that the training program will provide relief to overcrowded holding facilities in Palomino Valley and at Northern Nevada Correctional Center.

Inmates in the program learn horse handling from program trainers. Most work Monday through Friday for six hours a day, with stall cleanings on the weekends.

"If I could I would come out here 16 hours a day, seven days a week," Lange said. "There's a lot of love that goes into taking care of these horses, and there's a lot of love that they give back."

Michael Williams, 41, a habitual burglar from Las Vegas, said his nine years in several Nevada prisons has hardened him, driven him to keep to himself. You wouldn't know it from the way he handles his mare, Lady.

"This is good for guys who are down for a long time," he said. "We all work together as a team, and we are all happy to be here."

While he grew up riding horses, he didn't learn how to break them until he came into the program in October. When he gets out, he says, he might try to pursue a career handling horses.

"This is my relief point," he said, pointing toward the barbed wire that surrounds Nevada State Prison. "It's a relief from all the stress on the other side."


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