"Ninety-nine percent of the guys have never touched a horse in their life," R3C Wild Horse Program Ranch Manager Joe Misner said. "Quite frankly, out of 2,000 inmates, 10 of them out here are stepping out and saying, 'I'll go out there and dig that ditch and ride that wild horse.' That's taking some nerve."
The R3C Wild Horse program has inmates work with wild mustangs rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management. The horses are then auctioned off.
"So once you've established a leadership with a horse, you have that horse's trust," inmate Chris Glassel said. "He's going to let you get closer, touch, put saddles on, and slowly start riding and picking up their feet. It's just a slow process, but it's also an amazing process."
The aim of the program is to avoid overpopulation on federal lands and get the wild horses adopted out to loving owners.
And the program actually saves taxpayers millions of dollars by taking thousands of mustangs off the federal government's hands.
"When we get the horses adopted, we save the taxpayers $46,000 for every horse," Misner said.
But in the process of teaching these horses how to trust people, the inmates end up learning a lot about themselves too.
"If you come in there with a bad attitude and a bad day, that horse is going to give you a bad day. If you come in there with a good mind and a good mindset, clear mind, that horse is going to be joining up with you, curious, and you're going to have a good day," Glassel said.
The program also has a proven track record. Only 27 percent of the men who participate in this program return to prison.
That compares to about 70 percent of inmates in other programs nationwide.
"I can never take away the fact that they're the first one to touch that horse, first one to ride it," Misner told FOX40.
And the horses move on to big things, too.
"Two downtown right now serving Sac PD that they adopted from us and they ride them daily on patrol," Misner said. "Two horses in Yosemite National Park with park rangers."
Glassel, who gets out of jail next week, says the program has given him a newfound purpose.
"Now, this right here has set me in a direction. I want to pursue and continue being around horses," he said. "It's very soothing. It's relaxing. It's calming. And if you do something you love, you won't work a day in your life."