Living

Playing polo in Philly

Published 2:24 PM ET, Wed March 7, 2012
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Leshaun Walker, Sihgerra Myers and Sydney Rutledge exercise horses in a paddock at the Chamounix Equestrian Center in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, home to the Work To Ride long-term prevention program for middle- to high-school-aged youth. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Sihgerra Myers, 14, takes a break from stable duties on a recent Friday night. Myers is a member of the Work To Ride women's polo team. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Brandon Rease, 16, checks the saddle on his horse Billy. Rease said he never imagined he'd be riding horses or playing polo -- a sport usually reserved for royalty and the super rich. "I guess in other people's eyes it's weird. But to us it's just normal habit that we do every day -- ride, play polo and travel," he said. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Kenshaun Walker grabs a saddle to put on a horse before heading out ride. "This is my second home, and I need to be here if I want to be something in life," said Walker, 15, who plays on the men's team and is in his sixth year with the program. "This is my top way to get me out of Philadelphia, out of all the people who's making bad decisions." Sarah Hoye/CNN
Sydney Rutledge walks a horse barn to the stables before going out to ride. Rutledge, 15, once afraid of horses, now plays on the Work To Ride women's polo team. Last year, while Hiner was dropping her off at home, she heard gunshots. "The worst thing I ever saw was (that) man get shot in front of me," she said. "That's why I don't like being around where I live." Sarah Hoye/CNN
Kenshaun Walker, 15, tacks up a horse inside the barn at Work To Ride. Tucked away in the heart of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, the stable has become an urban oasis for at-risk youth, like Walker, who hail from the city's most dangerous neighborhoods. "I don't care if I'm not rich. I don't care if my mother's single. I don't care what I don't have. I'm willing to do anything in life to make it to the pros in polo," he said. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Rhyheem Cauley works out his horse on a recent blustery Saturday afternoon. Cauley, 19, used to visit the Chamounix Equestrian Center to watch the horses when he was younger. He spent five years in the program. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Brian Ferrell makes his way through the stable wearing his polo helmet and towing his horse's saddle. Ferrell, 13, joined Work To Ride five years ago. Ferrell, alongside his fellow riders, gets to ride horses in exchange for cleaning out stalls and brushing down horses. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Saddiq Myers, 13, rides one of the stable ponies around the paddock at the Chamounix Equestrian Center in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. Myers is entering his fourth year with Work To Ride. His sisters, Sihgerra, 14, and Sudayaah, 9, also participate in the program. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Sixteen-year-old Brandon Rease checks his cell phone while waiting for the others to finish tacking their horses. Rease, had to walk several blocks in the rain from the bus stop to reach the stable. "In my neighborhood and all of our neighborhoods, there's normal day-to-day violence, drug dealing and kids around a bunch of negativity. When you come to the barn or travel, all of that is washed away and you can be a kid." Sarah Hoye/CNN
Work To Ride includes nearly 30 horses and 20 kids who all qualify as low income. Last March, Work To Ride's men's high school polo team was the first all-black team to win the National Interscholastic Polo Championship. They defend the title later this month in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Sudayaah Myers, 9, finishes her Saturday chores, including cleaning out horse stalls and dumping manure, alongside fellow rider, Aniyah Foreman, 9. "I like coming here, we have a lot of fun," she said. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Nine-year-olds Sudayaah Myers and Aniyah Foreman head toward the Work To Ride paddock to watch the horses before having to wrangle up their ponies for an afternoon exercise session. Sarah Hoye/CNN
Sudayaah Myers, 9, dangles from the paddock fencepost. Lezlie Hiner, who opened the barn doors in 1994, founded Work To Ride. In addition to working with the horses, staff and volunteers provide after school tutoring and require students maintain passing grades. "I fell off a pony before, but I got back on it," she said. "We all have our favorites." Sarah Hoye/CNN
Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program, the nation's largest mural program, erected a mural in West Philadelphia in honor of Work To Ride. The players' success led to them being featured on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," ESPN's "E: 60" and even in "Sports Illustrated." "We're doing beyond what kids would do in the city. So, it's special." Sarah Hoye/CNN