Philly equestrian program for low-income youth nears renovations goal
Work to Ride, a nonprofit that runs an equestrian program geared toward helping low-income youth, is close to raising enough money to renovate its center in Fairmount Park.
Why it matters: It's one of the few programs in the country that attempts to make equine sports more accessible to youth who might not otherwise be able to afford lessons.
- "A lot of people don't think horse-riding is attainable, but we're doing this to show you can," said Molly Johnson, the program's operations and communications director.
Driving the news: Since November, Work to Ride has raised $6.2 million of the $8 million needed to update the Chamounix Equestrian Center's outdoor riding arena and to create an indoor facility.
Flashback: Lezlie Hiner, the nonprofit's founder, took over the lease for the center in 1994. It had been abandoned for several years prior and needed repairs.
- The organization has funded small fixes over the last three decades, but budget limitations have prevented bigger projects.
State of play: The center's most urgent needs are a new roof and renovated windows.
- Renovating the current facility and creating an endowment for the program would each cost $1 million.
- Building an indoor facility is expected to cost $6 million.
How it works: All of the nonprofit's programming is free for students. It's funded primarily by paid lessons, offered from April to December, and through donations from the public.
- Students enrolled in the program work to maintain the stables and care for the horses in exchange for lessons in equine sports.
- Most students tend to navigate toward polo, but the program also offers English riding lessons with show jumping and fox hunting, as well as amateur steeplechase and pony racing.
Of note: The program has 15 students enrolled, and most participants stay for eight to 10 years on average.
Between the lines: Equine sports are expensive. Buying a horse can set you back a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands — and the price soars when trying to purchase a highly competitive horse.
- Additional costs like transportation, general maintenance and boarding drives the price even more.
- The average member of the United States Equestrian Federation owns four horses and has an annual income of $185,000 and a net worth of $955,000.
What they're saying: Kareem Rosser, an alum who participated in the program from 2000-2011, said Work to Ride gave him a "second chance at life."
- "We don't shy away from the fact that people may think this is a sport for white folks or the rich," he said. "We have an open-door policy at the stable. We let families know they are welcome."
Rosser's success playing polo led to a scholarship at Valley Forge Military Academy. He later went on to play at Colorado State University.
- He was also part of the first all-Black team to win the U.S. Polo Association's National Interscholastic Championship in 2011.
What to watch: If the nonprofit reaches its fundraising goal, the arena could be built by 2023.
What you can do: Work to Ride is encouraging online donations.
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