Helping inmates travel down a straight path
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Hank Curry jogs back to his place in the middle of the corral after rushing to shut the gate. A rider tries to slow a horse that has started to gallop. Curry smiles.
The Northern Nevada Correctional Center inmates he trains to break wild horses for adoption should learn as much as they can on their own, Curry says.
He tries to give them advice, step back and let them work on the training.
But the inmates have to work on problems with the horses until they’re fixed, he said. The men can’t quit, he said.
“They have to toughen up,” Curry said. “It’s a different kind of tough. It’s not just fighting or anything like that. You have to have enough fortitude to finish what you start.”
Curry, 59, worked with the inmates Wednesday as they prepared the horses for adoption today. The inmates take the wild horses, caught by the Bureau of Land Management, through Curry’s four-month training program.
Curry, in black jeans and a black cowboy hat, kept his arms folded and spoke quietly whenever inmates asked a question.
Curry has been working as trainer for six of the nine years the corrections department has had the program in Carson City. He said he loves his job.
“I’m basically easy,” he said. “The job’s straightforward. You come out, put in a day and do your job and everything is going to work out.”
He said he can train anyone who doesn’t pretend to know more than they do.
“They either get along with me or I get along without them,” he said.
Gilbert Strain said he’s learned more in the training program than he’s learned at any job in his life.
The trainer says little, but he always means what he says, Strain said.
Curry has taught him that he can’t rush something that has to take time, Strain said.
“It’s like meeting someone’s old-fashioned, old-country dad,” he said.
Curry worked as a carpet layer for 30 years before he got the job at the prison. Training horses and competing in rodeos had been only a hobby since he grew up in Southern California.
He said he likes working with the animals because they’re dedicated, hard-working and honest.
“They’re dead honest,” he said.
The job lets him work with the horses he loves, said his wife, Paula Curry. It has also let him help inmates that she said have become “kind of an extended family” for him.
“He’s excited when they get out and do something good with their lives,” she said.
Even an injury couldn’t take him away from the job, she said. About four years ago, one of the wild horses reared up, fell backwards onto Curry and “popped his head open pretty good.”
“That was pretty scary,” she said.
But she said she can’t imagine Curry living without horses. The couple keep nine horses at their house outside Gardnerville. Two of them were wild.
“That’s his life,” she said.
Curry is good at his job because he understands both the horses and the inmates, said Tim Bryant, prison ranch supervisor.
“I think he’s one of the best things that has happened to our program,” he said.
The slow economy has hurt horse adoption sales, but almost every horse up for adoption had been sold in the past five years, he said.
“I just try to deal honestly with everybody, always have,” Curry said. “I think the inmates appreciate that.”
Curry doesn’t tell many jokes and stays focused on work, said Chris Terry, an inmate who’s been in the program about four years.
But he’s a good trainer and is honest with inmates, Terry said.
“I’ve never met no one like Hank until I got here,” he said.
– Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
WHAT: Auction of 17 saddled-trained wild horses
WHERE: Northern Nevada Correctional Center, 1721 Snyder Ave.
WHEN: Today. Preview of the horses starts at 9 a.m. and bidding starts at 10 a.m. Bids start at $150.
RESTRICTION: No blue clothing, blue jeans, tank tops or shorts allowed.