Brighter Futures in St. Croix Corrections




March 15, 2020

St Croix. The US Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections has partnered with the Virgin Islands Equestrian Equine Therapy Project, Inc. (VIEETP), to provide The Elite Program, a training course in horse care and horse training, to eligible inmates at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility.  The goal of the program is to provide job skills and equine assisted therapy to incarcerated men and women, thereby lowering the rate of recidivism and increasing wage-earning opportunities for the inmates upon release. 

Horse behavior, anatomy and physiology, first aid, ground training, and stable management are part of the basic curriculum preparing successful program participants to work in many positions in the equine business including as racetrack grooms, farriers, vet techs, and barn managers.  All horses in the program will be retired Thoroughbred racehorses.

“This is a unique and exciting set of circumstances,” said C. Reid McLellan, Executive Director of The Elite Program that teaches Groom Elite certification courses to backstretch workers in racing jurisdictions across the mainland United States, as well as to inmates in a number of Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation prison-based programs. “We will be able to nurture the strong passion for horses that already exists on the island.” 

Carolyn Smith, founder of the VIEETP has been involved with horses in the Virgin Islands her entire life and is thrilled that the program has support from Governor Albert Bryan Jr., his administration, in particular the Bureau of Corrections, and the horsemen in the Virgin Islands.

“We have plans to create a sustainable, thriving equine centered economy where horses are part of competitive riding programs, training programs for jockeys and backstretch workers, equine therapy programs for disabled people, and equine learning programs in our schools and for at-risk youth,” said Smith. “Thoroughbreds are already beloved on the island and these programs will help turn that passion towards economic progress for the island.”

The program will begin in the near future on the grounds of the correctional facility where board fencing, a teaching area and shelter will be erected.  Not only will the inmate participants be involved in horsemanship training, they will also launch a unique sustainable agricultural project growing peanut hay on the grounds of the correctional facility.  

“This program could not have come at a better time,” said Wynnie Testamark, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections. “We are in the process of reviewing the strengths and challenges of each of our inmates and this program will provide an effective avenue for success in our increasing concentration on reentry and rehabilitation. I am impressed with the success that the program has had in other U.S. facilities.”

In addition to providing vocational training to incarcerated islanders, The Elite Program will be able to offer programs that will also give local citizens advanced and highly marketable horse care and training skills. 

“As the island of St. Croix prepares for horse racing at a recognized level, training for its citizens to work at the track and provide for the horses when their racing careers are over will be necessary,” said Smith.  “This program will pave the way for success.”

A public-private partnership has been formed to enhance the success of the community-based program for the Corrections Bureau and community residents. The programs are being organized by the The Virgin Islands Equestrian Equine Therapy Project, Yepsen and PIkulski, LLC, and in cooperation with the VI Bureau of Corrections. The organizers will be seeking partnerships with foundations, businesses and private individuals who wish to be of assistance. To support this program and for more information, contact Carolyn Smith at 340-998-3860, Diana Pikulski of Yepsen & Pikulski at 802-233-5377, or the VI Bureau of Corrections at https://boc.vi.gov. The Virgin Islands Equestrian Equine Therapy Project, Inc is a nonprofit founded and located in the United States Virgin Island. The Elite Program (www.groomelite.com), Yepsen & Pikulski (www.yepsenandpikulski.com), and the VI Bureau of Corrections (www.boc.vi.gov), have entered into this public-private partnership to bring The Elite Program to the US Virgin Islands.

Thank you, Assemblywoman Rosenthal

Meeting with Linda Rosenthal and Libby Post

We had a productive meeting on legislation that will bolster and aid in the enforcement of the Humane Education law in New York State. We met with Libby Post, our collaborator on this issue, in the assemblywoman’s office on the upper west side in NYC.

Yepsen and Pikulski partner to advance humane causes and impact investing


Saratoga Springs, NY. Joanne Dittes Yepsen, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, New York; and Diana Pikulski, former executive director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, have partnered to launch Yepsen & Pikulski, LLC, a new endeavor assisting organizations, individuals, and businesses advance humane agendas and complex policy issues on a federal, state, and local level.  The new company will apply mission-based marketing, legislative and educational solutions, strategic impact investing, and public affairs campaigns to accomplish results.  Their mission, to create strategic partnerships for a more humane America, will be achieved through collaborations with government, business, and individuals. 

The first two major issues on which the company will focus are implementation of the New York State Law requiring New York Public Schools to teach humane education as part of its regular curriculum and banning the slaughter of horses and transportation of horses for slaughter in the U.S.  Other potential areas of focus for the Yepsen & Pikulski team will be support of people of diverse abilities in New York State, and advocating for national equal rights.

Together Yepsen and Pikulski bring a combined 70+ years in elected public service, executive strategic planning and fundraising for national
charitable causes, as well as local, state and federal governmental relations experience. Yepsen served 12 consecutive years in elected public office
including two-terms as Mayor of Saratoga Springs, home of the historic Saratoga Race Course and an international resort destination, and served as Senior VP in an international public affairs firm.  Pikulski is a former trial attorney and past director and executive of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Both have proven track records in collaborating with multiple parties to create successful programs to advance the needs of people and animals.

 “With our combined experience and successes, there is no limit to the impact we can have,” said Pikulski. “I am looking forward to putting my experience towards changing our world for the better.”

 “As a former mayor, I know that government is not the only entity to care about helping those in need– businesses and individuals care deeply about helping society and people in their communities and beyond, “ said Yepsen. “Our campaigns will make this a win-win for constituents, corporate clients and government alike. We are excited to continue this strategic partnering on a wider scope to create significant change.”

“Consumers and corporations are becoming much more socially conscious about how they spend their money,” said Pikulski. “We can help drive growth through investment in positive social and environmental change.”