Urban Riding Spotlight October 2020: Detroit Horse Power

State Line Tack® is proud to bring you the inside scoop on riding programs that are working hard to bring access to horses to kids of all ages. This month's spotlight is on Detroit Horse Power.

What is Detroit Horse Power?

Offering summer camps since 2015, Detroit Horse Power is working hard to empower the next generation of Detroit's youth with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce, and in life. DHP teaches social-emotional skills to at-risk urban children through riding and caring for horses. Their five core competencies — Perseverance, Empathy, Responsible Risk-Taking, Confidence, and Self-Control — rely on the horse's ability to mirror the emotions of their riders and handlers, creating unique opportunities for self-awareness, personal growth, and goal setting.

Q&A with The Face of DHP - Managing Director Nicole Byrd

Nicole Byrd is a new addition to the DHP program, having started in June 2020, however, she spent 21 years working for another youth non-profit program. Nicole's daughter has been taking horseback riding lessons for nearly 8 years and is a member of 4-H®, so she is well acquainted with what horses can do for kids.

We had the opportunity to sit down with her and chat about DHP, the program attendees, and the power of the horse. Read on to learn about DHP's goals, what drives Nicole and the program, and what DHP needs to further their work.

Q: What niche does the DHP fill, or what problem does it solve?

A: The main premise is to fill the gap with what kids aren't getting at school. 56% of Detroit's children grow up in poverty. Only 1.6% of 11th graders are actually college ready. Poverty-stricken kids need grounding, and we are trying to provide them with character traits to make them better people and successful beyond school, whether they're going into careers, trade school or traditional college programs.

Q: How does the program work?

A: We use a model of riding and caring for horses to help develop a certain set of perks — character competencies. All students possess strengths, and horses can be used to give them tools to deal with challenges in life through development of social skills. The power of horses is our vehicle to bridge gaps for these kids.

Q: What can you tell us about Detroit and the area you serve?

A: Detroit is 149 square miles. Within that area, there are more than 23 square miles of vacant space littering the occupiable landscape. People started leaving city limits in the 1960s during the racial dissent riots, creating hundreds of vacant or condemned properties. The new mayor is doing an amazing job removing these blighted properties, but what do you do with the newly created space? Which is where our plan to build our barn comes in - there hasn't been an urban barn in decades. New is really rare in Detroit, so it's exciting, and a sort of a renewal. It's been a breath of fresh air.

Detroit Public School gifted vacant land to DHP where a burned down school once stood. We've been partnered with them for several years — doing field trips, after school programs, and the like — but we're limited by not having our own facility. Now, we are hoping to offer more regular programming as well as an equestrian team, increasing the access to horses for our city's youth.

Q: What attracted you to this organization?

A: My daughter has been in a lesson program since she was 8, and she's now 15. I have seen firsthand what horses can do for kids. The bond between a child and horse gives them confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline. DHP was looking for someone to launch their future programs, and with my past professional history, it was an amazing match for my prior skills as well as my personal experience with horse programs. I was ready for the next step in my professional career, and it's been hugely rewarding — and it's brought my daughter and I closer, as well.

Q: Can you tell me about a specific child who has thrived in the program? How did it help or change them?

A: We have a few! One of my favorites is a high school student that received an equestrian scholarship to college. Our program is only 5 years old, yet that opportunity wouldn't have been available to her without our program. As you know, a scholarship has the power to really change a kid's life — especially an inner-city kid.

Other students have made remarkable transformations coming from challenging situations. School expects them to be ready to learn, but poverty is traumatic. The weight of it is difficult for a child to bear, and it can be impossible for them to shoulder it, they can't shake it off and just be ready to learn. The horses teach them to persevere — grades improve, behaviors change, they go from being afraid of horses to becoming accomplished riders. That is a useful life skill, perseverance, and they also have the bonus of being exposed to different potential careers that they were previously unaware of, like vet tech, farrier, or barn manager.

Q: What is the biggest challenge DHP is currently facing?

A: Fundraising and launching our capital campaign with the goal of acquiring the resources we need to build our facility. Then, a sustainable growth plan after the facility's grand opening. We hope to be opening phase one in 2023 — that will have the capability to house 8-10 horses. The final phase will house 24. Then we can offer more programs, with more frequent access — an 8-week summer program, equestrian team, and more.

Q: How have you been tackling that challenge?

A: We are in the midst of launching our Capital Campaign Readiness Committee, which is comprised of the private and public sector, plus equestrian professionals. We are soliciting individual donations, and corporate sponsors that align with our mission of youth development and equine world.

We have enlisted the assistance of the community throughout the planning process of our barn and facility. Local voices were involved in our design, they were actively engaged in the process, which makes the property friendly, inviting, and open for all, which is especially important because we want to eventually have therapeutic riding, veterans' programs, special needs programs and senior citizen initiatives in our future. By allowing the neighbors to have input and opinions, we are making sure the facility will suit our needs as well as theirs, while also giving them a sense of ownership of the future and its possibilities.

Be sure to stay tuned to Facebook, Instagram and https://www.detroithorsepower.org/ for updates on DHP and their next steps on their way to serving Detroit's youth.

  • Published:
  • Updated: 10/23/2020: 1:33:12 PM ET
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