A new Detroiter gives back by starting an equine program for city youth.
Barbara Lewis I Contributing Writer
avid Silver isn't horsing around
when it comes to improving
life for Detroit children. He's
determined to build an equestrian center
in Detroit that will provide year-round
programming for children and youth and
serve as a community resource.
Silver, 25, grew up with horses in
Westchester County, N.Y. His family
owned horses, and he and his sister rode
After graduating from Dartmouth in
2012 with a degree in government and edu-
cational policy, he was accepted into Teach
for America and sent to Detroit, a city he
knew little about but has come to love.
During his two-year assignment teach-
ing fourth- and fifth-grade students at
Burns Elementary and Middle School on
Detroit's west side, he learned about the
challenges facing children. He saw a need
for more kid-friendly open spaces in the
city, especially somewhere children could
develop a relationship with horses.
After Silver's teaching gig ended, he
devoted himself to building a nonprofit
organization he named Detroit Horse
Power. It was incorporated last February.
"Detroit has great organizations working
with youth and organizations developing
innovative uses for vacant land:' he said.
"This is a good way to combine the two"
Last summer, Detroit Horse Power held
two five-day horse camps for 18 children
ages 8-13. Many of the participants were
Silver's former students at Burns school.
Others came from Alternatives for Girls, a
group that assists homeless and high-risk
The first camp was held at the Buffalo
Soldiers Heritage Center in Rouge Park,
the only stable in Detroit besides the one
for mounted police in Palmer Park.
The second group was larger so Silver
moved it to Equinox Farms in Highland
Township, quite a hike from Detroit.
Summer in the City, a Jewish-founded
volunteer program in Detroit, donated its
vans to transport the children.
Both stables donated the use of their
horses and facilities, enabling Silver to run
the program at minimal cost.
His camps bore out research showing
the benefits of close contact with horses
for at-risk youth, Silver said. Working
with horses builds confidence and helps
10 November 12 • 2015
David Silver leads ShalmaTorres, 11, around the corral.
Mya Harling, 10, braids a horse's mane
Xavier Lawson, 12, grooms a horse.
children experience problem solving and
conflict resolution. In addition to caring
for the horses, participants heard speak-
ers who work with horses, including a
blacksmith, a veterinarian and a mounted
"We saw wonderful impact; Silver said.
"We had kids who were very nervous
and afraid on the first day go to feeling
totally confident riding and controlling a
thousand-pound animal at the end of the
Nicole Williams said her children,
Destiny, 8, and Dorian, 12, had a great
time at horse camp.
Destiny was so scared of the horses she
was in tears on the first day.
"On day two, they took time with her and
got her comfortable Williams said. "By the
third day, she was up on the horse!"
Both children hope to return to the
horse camp next summer, she said.
SEEKING LAND, FUNDS
Silver and his three-member board are
looking for 15-20 acres in Detroit where
Detroit Horse Power can build a perma-
nent stable. The property needs to be in
an area where there are lots of children,
where the neighbors are supportive and
where there are no environmental prob-
They're also working with Detroit City
Council members and other city officials,
who need to approve an ordinance that
will allow horses to be kept in the city.
Currently, horses are considered livestock
and are prohibited.
Silver expects such an ordinance to be
passed in 2016. "Then we'll hit the ground
running:' he said.
He hopes Detroit Horse Power will
become self-sustaining by providing
boarding services. He knows of some
Detroit residents who own horses and
travel up to an hour each way to care for
them because there are no stables in the
city. Other horse owners may want to
move to Detroit, but hesitate because they
want to remain close to their horses. And
some Detroiters may consider buying a
horse if there's a place in the city where
they can board it.
Ideally, he would have five horses for
programming and 15 boarders.
The center would also host equestrian
events as well as year-round classes for
people of all ages. It would be a safe place
for neighborhood children to come after
school, he said.
Meanwhile, he plans to expand the
camp next summer with additional weeks
His $6,000 initial budget, which covered
incorporation fees and last summer's pro-
grams, is growing. Detroit Horse Power
has received grants from a student group
at Eastern Michigan University, from
Healthy Environments Partnerships at
the University of Michigan, from Wayne
State University's Warrior Fund and from
In the summer, Silver works full time
for Detroit Horse Power. The rest of the
year he supports himself with part-time
jobs for a contractor specializing in house
restoration and a property management
company. He lives in Detroit's New Center
area and participates in programs run
by Repair the World and the Isaac Agree
Although he's been in Detroit only
three years, Silver has become a Motown
booster. His attachment to the city was
so strong that his sister, Amanda, 22,
moved here a few months ago to work
for Venture for America, a program that
places recent graduates with startup com-
panies in much the same way that Teach
for America places them in inner-city
"Detroit is home for me now:' he said.
"I feel a very strong connection to the
To learn more about Detroit Horse
Power or make a tax-deductible dona-
tion, email David Silver at dsilver@
detroithorsepower.org or call him at
(313) 899-0075. You can also visit the
organization's Facebook page at www.