Don’t Fence Me In

In Partnership with VERSE, Bombay Flying ClubCNA and The Atlantic.

Horses change lives. They give young people confidence and self-esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls. They give hope.

Especially in a neighbourhood like North Philadelphia where the pull of the streets is so strong horses have become a blessing. Here a minority of African American low income people created a safe harbor thought keeping horses in the high-crime neighbourhood of North Philadelphia.

Philadelphia´s Urban Riding culture and it goes back to a long tradition. During the turn of the century the automobilizing replaced the horse-drawn carriages in major cities and finally supplanted the horse cart by the 1920´s. The people who worked with the horses tended to be African Americans and a lot of these people had a love for their horses so they kept their animals even though they could not use them as working animals anymore.

In the 50´s, 60´s and 70´s Westerns dominated television in the United States and it was cool to be a cowboy what lead to the popularity of owning a horse.

The economics and development of Philadelphia made it possible for low income people to afford a horse. In the 70 ́s industries such as textile and brewery ́s left the inner-city borders to profit from a taxes release and left behind empty warehouses. These abandoned warehouses were perfect for keeping horses because most of them already had a stable area. Horse owners begun squatting these warehouses and stables and it has developed a community that has been passed on from generation to generation.

Times changed and so did the Urban Horsemen Community. What was once a traditional horse community mixed up with influences of modern times. But the horses still keep the Community together, give the people an outlet and an opportunity to anchor themselves.

Due to gentrification the Urban Horsemen Community now is a world in danger of disappearing.