By Emily Cales for StreamhorseTV
James Peters began taking meth when he was 21 years old after a friend introduced him to the drug.
“From 21 on, it was a race,” Peters recalled.
Unfortunately, his addiction became entrenched in his day to day life. He began to sell meth as well.
“I lived pretty rough for a while…. I’d work during the day and (at) night time I’d go over the hill and stir a bucket of anhydrous dope.”
One day, while James was driving with his friend Mike Bailey, they were spotted by police. They panicked. James gunned it, and a chase ensued.
“I don’t let up. I’m talking about 120 miles an hour…”
The chase ultimately ended in a serious crash.
“(My car did a) barrel roll I’d say about five or six times… was about beat to death.”
It seems the inevitable finally happened, “The law (caught) up to me.”
James was in police custody when he heard the devastating news.
“I’m in the sheriff’s office. They come to (see) me. They got me chained to a chair laying on the floor. He said your buddy didn’t make it.”
That wasn’t the only bad news James would hear.
“They charged me with murder.”
James subsequently went through a multi-year legal battle to lighten the sentence. The Kentucky courts eventually settled on secondary manslaughter. James was sent to Blackburn Correctional Facility.
The Chance of a Lifetime
Fortunately for James, this was nowhere near the end of his story. Despite his difficult past, James decided that he wanted to better himself while serving his time. He began applying to various work programs for convicts.
After just five days spent in Blackburn, James was offered a spot at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Second Chances— one he readily accepted.
Upon arriving at TRF, James got right to work! He was assigned to work in the stables with the horses. James would groom then, spend time with them.
Being able to take care of horses was just what James needed.
Being with “the horses… it’s like therapy… That’s what I like to do.”
Working at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation also means being part of a larger community. James even became a sort of mentor for other convicts looking for a second shot at life.
“I help the new guys because some of these guys have never touched a horse,” James recalled with a smile.
James learned the names of all the horses at TRF, but there was one in particular that he favored.
“It was a thoroughbred… Big white horse.”
James was told that he should keep his distance from that horse, but James was charmed despite the thoroughbred’s infamy.
“He was just (a little) hot blooded.”
A Long Road to Recovery
Addiction had a hold on James for a long time.
“You gotta want to quit… And I didn’t want to quit for several years.”
Things got bad for James before things got better.
“Everybody gave up on me… If everybody gives up on (you), you give up on yourself.”
But after seven years and a rough legal battle, James was ready to change. He wanted to be there for his kids.
“You can’t make it getting high and stuff.”
Looking back, James saw that beating addiction and turning a new leaf came down to this:
“If your mind (is) right, and you do right, everything will be right.”
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
James’ story is just one of many. THE TRF’s Second Chances Program “pairs inmate caretakers with retired Thoroughbreds across the country. Saving horses, saving lives. Every day.”
James had nothing but good things to say about his experience with TRF.
“I hope they keep it going; I highly recommend TRF if you get in trouble.”
James Peters’ story shows the transformative power of horses, and it also shows that sometimes all a person needs is a second chance.
Check out the full interview with James here.
This project was created and produced by Corrie McCroskey for JOU 498: Multimedia Storytelling, a capstone course for journalism students at the University of Kentucky taught by Professor David Stephenson. Corrie graduated in May of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and currently works full time for BloodHorse in Lexington, Ky. as an assistant editor and photographer.