Adding Horse Power to an Abandoned Detroit Golf Course

Detroit Horse Power teaches urban youth valuable life lessons through riding and caring for horses. 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. The site will be home to private horse boarding and local competitions, which will address a market need for metro-Detroit horse lovers, increase our financial sustainability, and foster greater cross-community engagement.

We are currently working with city government to amend its animal code to allow horses to be a part of vibrant public spaces in Detroit's future. In the meantime, we have launched a series of pilot programs that bring youth to existing horse barns outside Detroit for five-day summer camps. This year our programs will impact nearly 100 Detroit youth as we continue to refine our program model and demonstrate the powerful effects horses can have in the lives of our young people.

But transportation remains as a consistent challenge that limits our reach. Our goal is to make this unique youth development opportunity accessible in the city by repurposing some of the Detroit's 23 square miles of vacant land for a new urban riding center.

An ideal site we are considering is the former New Rogell Golf Course. This historic course on Detroit's northwest side closed in 2013 after years of losing money. After golfing operations ceased, Greater Grace Temple - the site's current owner - has had difficulty paying to maintain the 120-acre area. Concerned neighbors from the adjacent Malvern Hill and Greater Sandhill block clubs have been raising their voices about the resulting eyesore in their community. Grass grows high across the site, where pests take up residence and people dump their trash. The church's solution has been to fence off the site and mow the boundary while the interior remains unmaintained. This blight and loss of public space has left residents looking for community-based solutions that turn this burden back into a community asset.

Through engagement with the church and community leaders, we have been building support for this vacant eye-sore to be repurposed as a youth-focused riding center. We have also received support for our proposal from a majority of City Councilmembers. To build momentum for the new urban livestock ordinance and raise awareness for our unique revitalization proposal, Detroit Horse Power would like to implement a horseback riding event to activate this underutilized space in fall 2016.

Under current law, horses are allowed in the city as long as they are removed within 48 hours. With the proper permitting and site preparation, our event will connect city residents to horses and advance our long-term vision. Youth who have participated in our summer programs will benefit by demonstrating their newly acquired skills right in their own community. Metro-Detroit equestrians will have a new opportunity to pursue their passion for horses and enjoy the city that they so often feel disconnected from. Partnerships with regional horse barns will allow us to have an ample supply of appropriate horses for Detroit residents, regardless of riding experience, to get up in the saddle. Preparing for the event will involve paying residents to mow trails throughout the property for all to enjoy. And community members will ultimately benefit from our investment in returning this abandoned golf course to a new, productive use. 

This represents a unique opportunity for our disparate communities to come together around a shared passion for horses and Detroit. We look forward to making productive use of this open space asset in pursuit of our long-term goal of a permanent public facility that fosters youth opportunity, strong communities, and regional integration.

Second Pilot Summer Camp Success!

Detroit Horse Power’s second pilot summer camp took place during the week of August 17-21 at Equinox Farm in Highland, MI. We were able to teach 11 children from Burns Elementary/Middle School (ages 8-13) how to ride and care for horses over our five-day camp. Participants learned from guest speakers from various equine professions, representing the fields of equine massage, horse shoeing, and veterinary medicine. Each participant made tremendous progress both in riding and in their knowledge about horses. But the most important lessons that the children learned were about themselves: the self-confidence, responsibility, determination, patience, and much more that our experiences with horses can bring. On the final day, parents were invited to celebrate the growth and learning of our wonderful week together. It was very hard to say good-bye, but each child left with keepsakes, important skills, and lifelong memories that will serve them well into the future.

Second Pilot Horse Camp Announced!

We are thrilled to announce that our second pilot program will take place during the week of August 17! Thanks to the support of Detroit SOUPEquinox Farm LLC, and many other generous people, we will be able to give a new group of children positive and enriching experiences with horses.

We are excited to build off the successes of our first program and give more children from Detroit the opportunity to learn and grow through working with horses this summer.

Look forward to more updates as we get closer!