by American Stalls February 15, 2021
According to research, it's known that there are over 9.2 million horses and 2.1 million horse owners in the United States. Aside from the equestrian lifestyle, fellow horse owners can attest to the magic associated with our beloved horses. From a young age, many equestrians learn intangibles and ethics that horses indirectly teach. These ethics include discipline, self-control, confidence, and more.
In today’s small community spotlight, we’d like to feature a non-profit organization that strives to teach children these very ethics through involvement in horses. This organization is Detroit Horse Power.
"In 2015, Detroit Horse Power incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and launched two pilot summer camps serving 18 youth. Since then, Detroit Horse Power has brought over 400 at-risk urban youth to partner horse barns outside Detroit for free summer horse camps and an after-school program.
We recently had a chance to sit down with DHP's Founder and Executive Director: David Silver. He has a background in urban education after teaching at Burns Elementary & Middle School and earning his Masters in Teaching in 2014. He launched Detroit Horse Power and has overseen the program’s growth in the last five years while pursuing the long-term vision of bringing horses to the city. He has a competitive riding background in Three-Day Eventing and has received the highest horse management certification from the United States Pony Club.
In this interview, Silver shared more about his journey, more background regarding DHP, and their future plans.
American Stalls: What is your background relating to horses?
David: I grew up in the suburbs of New York City and am really lucky that my mom grew up with horses. She passed that love on to me and my younger sister. We started in hunter and jumpers. We then transitioned to Three Day Eventing where I had amazing experiences traveling and competing from Montreal to Ocala where I eventually worked for Olympic rider Boyd Martin. I took a step back from competitive riding during college at Dartmouth and joined Teach For America after I graduated. That brought me to Detroit to be an elementary school teacher in 2012. After two years, I decided to leave the classroom after reflecting on the life lessons horses taught me and seeing how those opportunities could open doors for young Detroiters like my students.
American Stalls: Can you describe Detroit Horse Power (DHP) and its short term and intermediate term vision?
David: Detroit Horse Power provides free summer horse camps and an after-school program. These programs teache Detroit youth how to ride and care for horses as a way to develop valuable skills. Everything we do focuses on research-based social-emotional skills that we all learn from horses: Perseverance, Empathy, Responsible risk-taking, Confidence, and Self-control (PERCS). This currently takes place through partnerships with existing horse barns outside the city that donate the use of their space and horses for us to implement our program.
As we look to the future, we are currently on a three-year timeline to construct a new urban equestrian center on a 14-acre demolished Detroit school site. This transformational vision will allow us to scale the number of youth we can serve, the depth of their experience, and strengthen the communities they grow up in by turning vacant land into a community asset.
American Stalls: What is a particular story that touched you at DHP and drives your team?
David: Our staff, board of directors and volunteers are constantly inspired as our students move through our program, learn the PERCS traits, and translate those lessons we learn from horses into their successful journeys. We have one outstanding young lady who has moved through the DHP program, recently graduated early from her high school program, received scholarships to three different colleges she is selecting between, landed a job related to animals while waiting for college to begin this fall, and has been a tremendous asset to our DHP family and motivation for what we do!
American Stalls: What do you enjoy most about DHP?
David: I have great memories from my competitive riding career, but I get far more satisfaction from seeing our students learn and grow through working with horses. I am always overjoyed to see our students in the horse setting and getting to watch the amazing community that has grown between our students and the adults who guide our program. Most of my energy these days goes into our progress toward the long-term vision of constructing a new urban equestrian center for our youth impact opportunities to scale. I can’t wait for our program to reach its full potential in that transformational future state.
"I have great memories from my competitive riding career, but I get far more satisfaction from seeing our students learn and grow through working with horses."
American Stalls: How has COVID-19 affected DHP?
David: Detroit Horse Power has used the “pandemic pivot” to continue to wrap our students in a network of support during these trying Covid-19 times. Since the pandemic began, we’ve held after-school sessions every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday via Zoom. This is where we focus on applying the PERCS traits in our everyday lives. We were all thrilled to be able to hold two limited weeks of in-person summer horse camps for the advanced students in our year-round cohort. Our season of fall barn trips for our after-school program was put on pause after new public health guidance. That being said, depending on developing conditions, we look forward to resuming barn trips again soon. In the summer months, our plan is to be back near as full capacity as we can, with plans for eight weeks of summer horse camps for the summer of 2021.
American Stalls: Thinking ahead, what does DHP look like in 2025 in an ideal world?
David: In our current model, access to horses is fairly limited based on our partner barns’ capacity and the long distances we have to travel. We are on track to open our future urban equestrian center on a 14-acre demolished Detroit school site by 2023. We know that reaching this milestone will contribute to Detroit’s renewal by turning vacant land into a community asset and be a game-changer for the students we currently serve and many more who will be able to participate. This is a truly unmatched opportunity to weave horses into an urban context at a scale other cities can only dream of. We can’t wait to make the skill-building power of horses available right within our city.
American Stalls: Is there anything that our followers can do to help? Can you tell us more about the capital fundraising plan?
David: We completed conceptual design for our future urban equestrian center during 2020 through the assistance of a steering committee composed of neighborhood residents, city government officials, and equine experts. We will be developing construction documents and going through municipal approvals in 2021 as we prepare for a ground-breaking in 2022. As our capital campaign ramps up this year, we expect that individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors will be the key champions to provide the resources to turn this vision into reality. We thank supporters like American Stalls not only for voicing our mission, but also for the eagerness to partner with us in the future.
To learn more about and contribute to Detroit Horse Power, follow the below links:
Website: Detroit Horse Power - Home
Facebook: Detroit Horse Power
Youtube: DHP Successful Journeys - YouTube