Every Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today, we’re recognizing Work to Ride, an equine program for at-risk youth in Philadelphia.
In the center of Philadelphia’s iconic Fairmount Park lies Chamounix Equestrian Center, originally the home for the city’s growing mounted police force. When the property became available in 1994, a small non-profit program called Work to Ride moved in, seeking to offer at-risk youth a healthy outlet for time and energy while building relationships and bonds with horses that are such an integral part of the riding experience.
Since 1994, Work to Ride has grown — a registered non-profit, the program offers several disciplines for its riders, but the polo team has become the best-known. In 1999, Work to Ride made headlines with the first African-American polo team in the nation (competing in interscholastic divisions). In 2011, the Work to Ride team (combined with the Cowtown team) became the first African-American team to win the National Interscholastic Polo Championship — a feat they repeated in back-to-back years by winning again in 2012.
Work to Ride isn’t just a lesson program — as the name implies, the students work around the barn, learning to care for the horses and appreciate all of the physical labor that horses require to be happy and healthy. Most of us as equestrians are familiar with the interpersonal benefits of working with horses: leadership, responsibility, discipline, confidence and self-esteeem; Work to Ride participants reap all of these benefits in a friendly, team-building environment which gives them the sense of a second family.
This video sums up the Work to Ride experience beautifully:
To learn more about Work to Ride or make a donation, please visit the organization’s website.
If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.