SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Three horses that were once wild will be up for adoption after graduating from a unique program in Sacramento County.

J.P. Dyal is the ranch manager at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, and he’s one of the lucky ones whose job is also his passion.

“I don’t work an hour a day because I do what I love. If I’m not on the back of a horse working with these guys, I’m kind of miserable,” Dyal said.

 Dyal trains horses, and he teaches inmates how to train them as well.

“The first thing they have to do is work on connection and then build a relationship. Then, it’s trust, then the respect, and then they become the leader,” Dyal told FOX40. 

The program is a unique partnership between the Bureau of Land Management and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. It involves wild horses corralled from federal lands in western states to prevent overpopulation.

“They are wild, unhandled, untouched when we get them,” Dyal explained. “But these guys do a really great job of getting them gentle and started under saddle.”

Dyal gets to see the transformation of the horses and the inmates as each gets closer to a new life outside the gates of the correctional center.

“I’m not the one doing it. I’m not a therapist. I’m here to guide these guys in how to train these horses. The magic happens with the relationship between them and the horse. And it’s just the neatest thing in the world to see,” Dyal said.

“I got to be honest. The horses changed my, not my whole life, but my mind,” inmate Jose Toledo said.

Toledo said working with the horse has taught him to be more patient, and that’ll make a big difference when he’s a free man again.

“I got two kids, so I’m happy for that because when I get out I’m going to be better for my kids,” Toledo said.

“A horse is going to see right through you. A horse is all about energy. They’ll see right through you, like a mirror to your soul. So, as the guys change, you start to see the magic happen,” Dyal said. “They’ve got to learn to work together to save each other. And they both don’t understand how they ended up where they are now.”

The bond becomes so strong adoption day can be bitter-sweet.

“They’re the reason why they get out here every day. They become their reason why. They’re their best friends,” Dyal said.

After many months of training, this is the evening before the online auction for these three horses.

“You know, you’ll see tears,” Dyal said.

“She’s going to be OK. New home. New friends. New family. I’m happy for that, but I’m a little bit sad,” Toledo said.

The program proves everyone is capable of change, and the man in charge is no exception. 

Dyal worked in the home mortgage business until the big crash of 2008.

“A senior executive. And then that whole thing blew up. Lost everything I had. Lost the wife, the house, the money, lots of money. And a horse saved my life,” Dyal said. “A friend got me out riding, and it was my reason to get up. I would just sit on the couch all day depressed.”

Up on a saddle, he found his calling and learned how to be a professional horse trainer.

“It changed my life. Now, I get to watch the mustang change these guys’ lives,” Dyal said.

For the inmates, the horses and their trainer, the pasture is where the past gets left behind.

“I never would have guessed that growing up in the Florida Keyes, on the water in boats and fishing that this is where I would be,” Dyal said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Anyone interested in learning about adopting a horse can visit the Bureau of Land Management’s website.