Adding Horse Power to Vacant Park Space on Detroit’s East Side
Detroit Horse Power, founded by David Silver, teaches urban youth valuable life lessons through riding and caring for horses. In 2017, Detroit Horse Power will bring 150 youth from the city to partnering horse barns outside Detroit for horseback riding summer camps. Our long-term goal is to repurpose some of the city's vacant land for a new urban riding center that is home to year-round programs for kids and supports a stronger community.
Why Horses? Isn’t that Just For Privileged People?
Detroit Horse Power’s mission is to break down barriers that keep low-income, minority, urban youth from accessing the benefits that horses have to offer. Furthermore, horses are uniquely suited to address two persistent problems in Detroit: youth empowerment and vacant land transformation. Research has proven horses’ therapeutic effects for at-risk youth, among other populations in need. And horses have a large space requirement, which fits Detroit’s need for creative new purposes for its open space assets.
Horses are certainly expensive, which is why we have developed a social enterprise model to give DHP long-term financial sustainability. Our future facility will offer private horse boarding and equestrian competitions that fill a market need for regional horse lovers, connect Detroiters and suburbanites, and generate earned revenue to cover our operating expenses.
Are You Sure Horses Belong in a City?
Simple best practices will ensure that our horses have a healthy quality of life and we do not cause a nuisance to our neighbors. We have put together a research report on urban horse care best practices that addresses odor, pests, manure removal, composting, soil contamination, traffic, noise, and other considerations.
Urban riding programs already exist in other cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and others. But Detroit’s vacant land assets give us the opportunity to think on a scale that other cities cannot entertain.
Finding a Site
We are working with partners in city government and communities across the city to identify the right site for our permanent home in Detroit. Through this process, we have focused on a vacant portion of Chandler Park, a recreational destination on the east side of Detroit. An 18-acre portion of this regional anchor has been vacant for years while it was considered for more housing and then a school. Neither development proposal is going to bear fruit and all the while this space has been cut off from public use.
We have focused on Chandler Park because of the support we have received from our elected officials, the city’s Recreation Department, and many leaders in the community.
Support from these community leaders has made us excited to move forward with a plan for our urban riding center at the site and use the voices of residents to guide our design process as we move toward making the site to be a hub of community life.
We are planning to re-activate this vacant space for pop-up horseback riding events. This project will allow residents to directly engage with both our proposal and the animals that could soon be their neighbors. We will hold riding demonstrations, get residents in the saddle, and hold informational workshops that make sure all residents’ questions get answered. Feedback from community members will go directly into improving our plans to move horses into the city. It will also allow students from our summer camp programs to demonstrate their talents and knowledge in their own neighborhood.
We have developed partnerships both within the city and with the broader southeast Michigan horse community that will allow us to secure the necessary approvals and have an ample supply of appropriate horses and equipment to make this a successful event. Currently, we have only been able to bring kids to where the horses are. We look forward to bringing the horses and the equestrian community into Detroit to be a part of the lives of our kids and community members. Supporting this project will allow us to take a big step forward to bring the power of horses to Detroit all throughout the year.