ONTARIO — Despite the chilly weather on Wednesday, a little more than 100 inmates at Snake River Correctional Institution headed out to one of the prison yards to watch a wild horse breaking demonstration interwoven with a message of hope.
Riding High Ministries, a team of Christians, visited the prison to share a gospel presentation named Born Wild, Created to Be Free. It was led by Todd Pierce, a preacher and cowboy with the ministry.
To share the message of hope, a wild horse from a horse range in Nyssa was brought to the prison and placed in a round pen.
The horse had never been removed from its environment until it was brought to the prison on Wednesday, said Tom Armstrong, a chaplain at the prison.
While delivering a sermon to the men, Pierce, as he has done many times before, tamed the wild horse — but not before spending nearly an hour with it.
As the crowd of inmates settled around the round pen, Pierce began his sermon.
“This horse is as wild as can be. He’s here but doesn’t really want to be here. In fact, he’s pissed off and doesn’t know who to blame,” Pierce said as he entered the pen with the horse.
Up until the horse was brought to the prison, Pierce said the animal had freedom, much like the freedom God gave to man. The horse’s freedom can be a reflection of man’s in that its choices are made based solely on following its instincts.
Throughout the presentation, Pierce used metaphors such as the one mentioned, to illustrate God’s love and a human’s desire to be free.
The overall message, Pierce said, is one of hope.
“Hopelessness is probably the biggest plague among inmates,” Pierce said before his presentation. “The hopeless are around the hopeless and that’s the culture often found inside prisons.”
To combat hopelessness, Pierce said, it usually takes someone from outside the prison to remind inmates that God still loves them and life doesn’t need to be wasted.
Since his time spent ministering to prisons, Pierce said inmates often believe they are dead to the world.
“I had one guy tell me that who said, ‘but I’m still alive while I’m in here,’” he recalled.
With faith, the ministry desires to share the message of God’s love.
At the end of the presentation, Pierce had tamed the unbroken horse.
“You can either be broken down or broken gently,” he said at one point.
One inmate, Oelke Curtis, said the presentation was inspirational.
“I was impressed how he was able to speak the word and at the same time tame a wild horse in a short period of time,” Curtis said.
Presentations will continue at Snake River Correctional Institution today and tomorrow at other complex yards. By the end of the last presentation on Friday, the sermon will have reached at least 350 inmates.
Armstrong said the breaking of the horse is a powerful moment and calls the visit from the ministry a gift.