Detroit Horse Power: A name like that, in years past, may have conjured up thoughts of diesel engines and Henry Ford. When one thinks of Detroit’s inner city, it hardly elicits images of cowboys or equestrians. But David Silver is taking steps to change that.
Detroit Horse Power’s creator, motivator, and heart, Silver was introduced to the Detroit lifestyle through the “Teach for America” program. Raised in Westchester, New York, and schooled at Dartmouth, Silver far from fits the profile of a typical elementary school teacher in the struggling Motor City. But his fresh outlook may be just the thing causing him to see new possibilities in a battered economy.
“In my childhood, horses taught me so many valuable lessons about confidence, responsibility, empathy, determination and much more.”
Silver noticed that the lives of inner city kids were fraught with troubles that interfered with their learning process. He thought he could do more good from the outside of the system. Once he finished his obligatory two years as a school teacher, he rolled up his sleeves and put his considerable energy into making a plan.
Launched as a 501c3 in 2015, Detroit Horse Power seeks to empower inner city kids by teaching them to ride and care for horses. According to Silver, the program uniquely addresses two persistent problems facing the Motor City: the shortage of opportunities for metro Detroit’s vulnerable populations (especially children) and the abundance of vacant land.
The program launched with two summer horse camps, which included guest speakers and a riding program. The program served 18 youths.
The goal is to set participants up for success by teaching them new skills in a space that is safe and enriching. The facility, built on repurposed vacant land, will contribute to the city’s renewal and be a center for community events and equestrian services.
Lauren Abdel-Razzaq from The Detroit News explains.
“One of the key skills Silver hopes to impart through the program is self-confidence. For Tariq Morrison’s mother, watching her 11-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum, be confident enough to control such a large animal brought tears to her eyes.”
“His behavior affects how the horse reacts. He has to listen and follow multistep directions so this is great, therapeutically, for him,” she said. “It’s a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him.”
Silver has hopes for further pilot programming in 2016. He is working with Detroit’s city government to gain approval for a permanent horse facility within the city. He told the Inquisitr of his plans.
“I am working with the city on an Urban Livestock Ordinance draft that will be presented later this month. It will address other animals too, and will be set up to approve horses on a case by case basis.”
He hopes to make use of some of the vacant land that is currently considered a burden to the community.
Funding has been an issue. The program has been run on donations, including one from Sporthorse Saddlery which selected Detroit Horse Power as a beneficiary of their year-end giving campaign. They gave $2,752 to the program. Other funds were raised through the group’s CrowdRise campaign, which so far has raised a sum total of $1,230.
With this pittance, one wonders how, after a year, the program is still running. Yet, Silver soldiers on. This month, on February 20, the group will host a seminar on equine emergencies. Michigan State veterinarian Dr. Judy Marteniuk is the key speaker. Participants, with a reservation, will pay a $5 donation.
“This summer,” he told the Inquisitr, “we will expand our program to include 75 youths.”
One wonders at this point where he is keeping the horses, and who is feeding them all. The answer is: He doesn’t have any staff.
So far Detroit Horse Power has run on a strictly volunteer basis.
“I am so grateful to the generous horse folks who have helped us out.”
He said that one of the events was held in Highland last year, hosted by Liz Snowden of Equinox Farm. He plans to return there for the 2016 Youth Program.
So, Detroit Horse Power is headed by one man who has no land, no sponsors, and no horses. And yet, he has somehow managed to wrangle the help of a herd of volunteers, and garner the attention of a city council who sees the benefits in what he is doing.
With the abandoned property and sprawling acreage that is currently Detroit, it’s not difficult to imagine room for a good-sized barn, a pasture, a spacious riding arena. Within the imagination, the picture begins to emerge. With someone like David Silver taking the reins, there is no doubt that it will soon be off and running.
For more information, visit the Detroit Horse Power website.
To make a donation, visit their CrowdRise site.
[All photos courtesy of David Silver. Used with permission.]