Dec 21, 2015

Christmas Miracles Do Exist--Just Look at the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club

By Maggie Junkin

Several years ago my grandmother gave me the book “Fletcher Street” by Martha Camarillo for Christmas.  As I paged through glossy photos I saw a side of Philadelphia I didn’t know.  Not the center city I have come to cherish from taking the train into town to see the Christmas light show or having lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. 

From the train windows I would always see glimpses of North Philadelphia.  Boarded-up city neighborhoods crippled with poverty, crime, and drug problems.  But Fletcher Street, in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, is different.  Horses are the focus and the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club has been around for decades, giving kids my age a chance to escape the life of drugs and violence; kids that share the same love of horses I have.  

When my grandmother gave me that book, Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club was strong--a safe place for kids to escape to and where they could learn responsibility through hard work and horsemanship.  It also gave many horses a second chance at life and escape from the slaughterhouses. 

However, since that book was published the club has hit hard times.  In 2008, the City’s Redevelopment Authority ordered the club off the land nicknamed  “Fletcher Field."  They bulldozed all the barns and corrals.  Ever since, the club has struggled to exist.

 Ellis Ferrell, Jr., is the club’s president. He has dreamed of land to call his own.  Land that he could build his own stables on and provide a positive future for the club.  In the last year a glimmer of hope came in the form of a vacant lot, donated by real estate investor Adam Ehrlich.  Now that Ellis finally had his vacant lot, it unfortunately was not empty. Unoccupied for years, people had used the lot as a dumping ground. It was filled with mountains of trash.

This is when local horse enthusiasts learned of the club’s need for help.  With the help of social media, donations of barn supplies and tack were collected at a local horse show.  Karen Raach, of Rock Solid Stables in Limerick, Penn. organized efforts to help the club.  When the time came to clear the lot, Dominique Damico, of Ramble on Farm in Berwyn, Penn. enlisted the help of her boyfriend, Dan Aquilante, of Aquilante Construction, who immediately organized a crew to clear the land the day after Thanksgiving.  John Mastriano of Tustin Farm in Hainesport, NJ and his wife, Audrey Winzinger, of Winzinger, Inc. were watching the story unfold on Facebook and were thinking of ways to help beyond donating blankets or feed.  When Dan stepped into the story, Audrey knew immediately how they could help.  Dan had cleared the lot by then, and he and Audrey got together to figure out what material was needed to stabilize the ground.  The Winzinger Company donated and delivered 125 tons of recycled concrete.

The lot ground is now flat, ready, and stable for building.  With the magic of Facebook this small horse community stepped in and helped carry the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club one step closer to their dream.

They are now in need of help for their final phase.  The club is raising money for building their stables.  I invite you to go to their Facebook page, Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, where you will find their Rally Fundraiser page.  

Learn more about their journey to turn dreams into reality to give kids and horses a better life together.  In this season of giving please consider a donation to support this inner city safe haven.

Maggie Junkin is a 13 year-old who competes in the large pony division.  She is committed to animal rescue.  Her favorite rescue to support is Danny and Ron’s Rescue.  She lives with her family, 6 dogs and 3 cats in Jenkintown, Penn.

Dec 16, 2015

The 16 Things Riders on the Circuit Really Want for Christmas

By Kim Ablon Whitney

1. Real bathrooms somewhere other than WEF.  Or at least a porta-potty that hasn't been sitting in the baking sun for hours on end.

2. A month where the vet bill comes and there's a $0.00 balance.  Or at least a bill that doesn't make you feel faint.

3. To feel certain that it doesn't matter what trainer is standing at the in-gate.  Excuse me, Andre, could you just stand at the in-gate while I'm in the ring and look like you're my trainer for a few minutes?

4. A washable show coat that doesn't need a once-over with the steamer.  Of course we should just be happy they're washable now.

5. A husband or father who says, "You really need another horse."  Then he'll add, "Get another saddle and a few more dogs while you're at it."

6. White breeches that actually stay white.  Or at least a year's supply of Tide Boost pods.

7For everyone at the shows to be friendly and courteous.  No one cutting anyone off in the schooling ring, taking your spot in the order, or yelling at you for riding too close.  Everyone smiling and saying 'hello' and 'how's your day going?'  Oh yeah, and a horse show manager that asks what he can be doing better.

8. A horse that stays healthy.  No soft-tissue injuries.  No abscesses.  No colic surgeries.  No Lyme's Disease.  No kissing-spine.  No nothing.  A hearty, sound horse.

9. A bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich that is calorie free.  Or at least a moratorium on the amazing smell of this quintessential horse show breakfast wafting out over the show grounds.  Seriously, how is anyone supposed to fight that urge?

10. A quality hunter that could win at big shows for a reasonable price.  Okay, it's not like we're asking for a horse that can win at Devon to cost $10,000, but under $100,000 would be nice.

11. For styles to stay the same for at least a year.  What?  I need a new $600 helmet and $300 breeches?  My brands are already out of vogue?

12. Flights back and forth from WEF that aren't delayed.  Never, ever say this one to anyone who is stuck in the Northeast for the winter!

13. To be treated as well as your horse.  Massage, acupuncture, supplements, new clothes, daily exercise, tons of treats.  Ah, to live your horse's life!

14. For every show to end before five o'clock.  No late days where you're competing when the sun is going down and the judge can barely see straight.  Instead, you'll be done in plenty of time to shower and go out for a nice dinner with your horse show friends. 

15. To get the perfect photo.  You know, the one where your horse's knees are perfect, his ears are up, his eyes are open, your leg isn't slipping back, you're not ducking, and you're not making that weird face you tend to make.

16. For horse show people to realize there's life outside of the circuit.  It's really okay to talk about something other than horses.  There's a whole wide world out there with a lot of wonderful, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking things going on.  Let's keep our perspective, people.... 

Wait, does that mean flights that aren't delayed are off the list?!

Kim Ablon Whitney's 40-page prequel, Hannah & Chris: Before the Circuit, will be free on Amazon for Kindle on December 19th.