Malik Divers runs a small stable in southwest Philadelphia where he recruits local teens to care for horses. In addition to cleaning the stables and grooming the animals, the teens get involved with the community by offering $5 pony rides in the park, pocketing half the proceeds with the other half financing the horses’ hay. And of course, the biggest perk: Mr. Divers lets the boys take the horses out to ride.
“What I like is the rush. I feel like a different person when I ride,” said rider Shahir Drayton, 17.
Another rider, Abdurrahman Early, 16, said that caring for the horses is a therapeutic escape from everyday stress: “Being around horses takes the trouble off my shoulders. Like when I’m having trouble around the house, this is where I come to think about things.”
About a quarter of Philadelphia’s population lives below the federal poverty line, and the city faces rampant violence that affects youths, particularly African-American children.Mr. Divers’s goal in recruiting the teens is to give them the type of experience he had growing up, while keeping them busy, out of trouble, and accountable for the horses’ well-being.
“[Horseback riding] is the best feeling in the world, cause you’re in control of everything,” said Abdurrahman. “Nothing else around you matters but you and your horse.”