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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
November 28, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Juvenile Justice Commission
- Howard L. Beyer, Executive Director

 

Sharon Lauchaire
609-292-2288

 

Attorney General Harvey Announces New Equestrian Program for Juveniles - JJC Adopts Retired Racehorses

MONROE TOWNSHIP - New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced a new partnership between the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC), the Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF), and Rutgers - The State University at the JJC’s New Jersey Training School (NJTS). The new equestrian program will teach social skills and horsemanship to the juvenile residents and is expected to be a nationwide model seeking to protect retired racehorses from slaughter, while instructing youth in equestrian related careers.

“The racing and equine industry in New Jersey is a thriving and vital employment sector. The partnership announced today between the JJC, SRF, and Rutgers opens many doors for juveniles returning home from the justice system,” said Attorney General Harvey. “By empowering these young men with the skills they need to gain access to careers in the equine industry, we help them change the direction of their lives and succeed as productive adults. This unique program also gives these young men the opportunity to experience the incredible bond that can exist between an animal and person - an experience that many have not had before - and the lasting impact it can have on one’s life.”

In early November, a week prior to start the program, the SRF trailered two of its adoptees to the Training School in preparation for classes. While SRF retains actual ownership of the horses, Franco Nomad N, a 7-year-old gelding and Dr. Jo Plumstead, an 11-year-old mare, have found a new home at the juvenile facility and will receive daily care from residents and staff.

“The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission has spent more than a year preparing for this endeavour,” said Howard L. Beyer, Executive Director, Juvenile Justice Commission. “Through the JJC’s equestion program residents receive expert training allowing them to pursue various careers in the equine industry, while developing a therapeutic bond with the animals, which is beneficial to their rehabilitation. We are very excited about this partnership and believe that it has great potential to change the futures of troubled youth people.”

The goal of the JJC's equestrian program is to prepare students to become grooms, an entry point to a career in the standardbred industry. The education program will cover various equine and industry related areas, including: how to take care of a horse, anatomy of a horse, barn management, proper grooming techniques, and appropriate use of equine equipment and supplies. JJC students receive vocational credits in animal husbandry for their participation, and those who complete the program will receive Groom’s Certifications awarded by the United States Trotting Association (USTA) which will help them located jobs in the equine industry when they return home from NJTS.

SRF provides supplies and equipment for the program, as well as veterinary services as needed. Through a contract with Rutgers, Cook College, their staff provide coverage on weekends and holidays, as well as program supplies and guest speakers from the equine industry.

The JJC has hired an Equine Instructor, who is a teacher of animal husbandry, with more than 20 years of experience in the equine industry, including racing and training standardbreds and maintaining stables. Ken Lyons, a USTA licensed trainer and driver, works with the residents in two daily sessions.

“The arrival of the horses was a huge event for everyone here,” said Lyons. “The first day was the best—just to see the amazement in the kids’ eyes. Some of them had never seen a horse before, and you could tell they were very excited.”

So far, students have volunteered to participate in the program. Four have been selected, with several others already on a waiting list for the next cycle. Participants begin with the basics, including stall mucking, feeding and general horse care. It is hoped that by the end of the six month pilot program, students will learn to drive - that is, handling a horse from a cart or sulky.

Judith Bokman, founder of SRF, and Howard L. Beyer, Executive Director of the JJC, spearheaded the program in early 2004.

“It is a dream come true,” said Bokman, who founded SRF 16 years ago. “It really brings together two needs. There are so many unwanted horses out there, and these animals are wonderful for the students because they are non-judgemental, can give them unconditional love and give them back their self-esteem and self-respect. It is a program that can grow and grow.”

Franco Nomad N was bred in New Zealand and raced 82 times in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, winning 8 races before retiring in May. Dr. Jo Plumstead is a pacer, who although was trained to race, did not. She became a broodmare, having two foals.

The Standardbred Retirement Foundation is an award-winning non-profit organization which finds homes for Standardbreds who are finished racing. Based in Freehold, NJ, the SRF currently fosters over 100 horses and has completed over 2000 adoptions.

The JJC operates five secure facilities. NJTS, its largest secure facility, houses approximately 300 male juveniles who have been committed to the JJC by the family court system. Sixteen JJC residential community programs and six day programs are also located throughout the state for young people serving terms of commitment or probation. The JJC also funds local prevention programs aimed at keeping young people on the right track, as well provides statewide juvenile parole services.

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