Project Detail: Tamed - the wild horses teaching jailbirds how to tame themselves


Reportage and Documentary 2019




Matt Hussey


Project Info

Tamed - the wild horses teaching jailbirds how to tame themselves

In Arizona state penitentiary, a radical experiment is being carried out. Wild horses are being brought in from the American West and assigned to prisoners who are to tame the horses, and hopefully tame themselves.

Arizona state prison has adopted a radical program of prisoner rehabilitation using wild horses. The horses, rounded up from the American West are transferred to the prison. From there, inmates are assigned three horses each. They have just six months to turn a horse from a wild animal into a tame pet.

Prisoners are taught the art of gentling - a relatively new type of horse-taming that uses collaborative techniques to convince a horse to give up its wild ways instead of 'breaking' a horse's spirit. There are then free to work with horses in the prison's horse training yard. Prisoners have sentences including murder, kidnapping, and drug abuse. But while on the yard, all of that slips away.

In a prison system where the recidivism rate (reoffending rate) is 76.6%, according to a recent study, the rate of re-offending of those who passed through the horse gentling program fell to just 20%.

It's a remarkable story of redemption and second chances, at a time when the United States locks up more people than ever before.