Saddle Up with City Ranch: bringing value to the city and children

It is not every day you see a horseback riding class in the middle of the city.

In downtown Baltimore, a unique partnership between the University of Maryland and City Ranch is creating a new learning opportunity for young people. City Ranch founder, Ahesahmahk Dahn provides the horses and the instructions.

According to Dahn, “City Ranch is an introductory riding program, and also an opportunity to do something with a purpose that’s not just riding. It’s about getting the children engaged in something, having them be exposed to STEM, they don’t even know they are being exposed to STEM, developing confidence, they don’t even know they are doing that, working with others.”

He grew up in Baltimore and learned about horses working at a local recreation center. Now, he is using those skills to give back to the community.

“It’s important to me because I grew up here and the town doesn’t have the best reputation in the world. And so, in order to change that you’ve got to bring something to the occasion--it’s not going to come to you. The things that will come to you none of us want: the crime, the poverty, the injustices, and all that. None of us want that. So, we have to bring something of value, and this is of value,” Dahn explains.

Funded by a grant from Under Armor, the ten-week program takes place at the University of Maryland-Baltimore’s Biopark.

“It surprises a lot of people to think that a program like this can happen in the city, but as you can see there’s an awesome green space here in the city community,” he explains. “So, we thought why not use it to bring out the horses and let the kids ride and have a good time.”

Sarah Turner, a program specialist with the UMB Community Engagement Center says that it is a great learning opportunity for the kids.

“The kids all come from local surrounding neighborhoods in Baltimore city and they’ve been having a great time every day learning new skills, building their confidence, and learning how to ride a horse and take care of a horse, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Turner says.

We caught up with 10-year-old Cameron Cross and 12-year-old Marcus Johnson to learn what they love about the class.

Cameron: “We get to trot and then set up our horses, so we get to have our own experience... they teach you discipline and they, most importantly, teach you how to take care of the horses.”

Marcus: “My favorite things about riding horses is the fun of doing everything: the grooming and learning about the different types of horses...”

And, of course, they are learning a skill every good horseman has to learn-- determination when things get tough.

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