Bringing Horse Power to Hope Village
Detroit Horse Power, founded by David Silver, teaches urban youth valuable life lessons through riding and caring for horses. In 2019, Detroit Horse Power will bring over 100 youth from the city to a partnering horse barn outside Detroit for horseback riding summer camps. As we enter our fifth season of bringing Detroit's youth to where the horses are, we are excited to be closer than ever to our goal of repurposing 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. We are working with the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, which has helped us convene a task force of residents, city officials, and equine experts.
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 have been 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 demolished school site in Detroit's Hope Village neighborhood, located on the city's near west side. This 18-acre parcel has been vacant for years since Paul Robeson Academy burned and was demolished. The site is owned by Detroit Public Schools Community District, which supports our reuse of the property to serve the growth of public school students.
Besides the endorsement of the property's owner, we have focused on the Robeson School site because of the strong support for Detroit Horse Power's proposal among anchor institutions like Focus: HOPE and residents within Hope Village.
Support from 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 would become 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.