LUCK Feature: COTH – Untacked

LUCK is incredibly grateful to have been featured in Chronicle of the Horse’s Untacked magazine. We hope that this glimpse into our organization helps our community to realize that our mission is not only necessary for long-overdue diversity in the equestrian world; it’s also creating lasting memories and skills in our students that can help them wherever their future may take them.

Copyright to Chronicle of the Horse.


In Response to Equestrian Privilege

Andrea Gale & Laura Hammel

Last week, the article, “Breaking the Silence Surrounding White Privilege in The Horse World,” stirred heated dialog about the sport on COTH’s social media platforms. Likewise, images of mounted police horses engaged in protests have triggered emotions.  But, have we thought about what horses symbolize to many urban kids of color? Suppression, entitlement, privilege, and the unattainable social stratosphere. In her famous poem, Alice Walker said, “Horses make a landscape look more beautiful.” How many urban kids get to see those landscapes, much less positively interact with those horses?  Most urban kids are spectators of a sport we engage in. They ask, “How could I ever do that?” Leg Up for Cleveland’s Kids (LUCK) was founded to answer that question.

LUCK is a four-year-old program in Cleveland, Ohio. It is replicated, in part, on the very few urban equestrian programs that exist in the U.S.—Compton Jr. Posse, Work to Ride, Detroit Horse Power, to name a few. Founded on the following premises, LUCK first provides urban youth access to equestrian sports as a mitigation for trauma. Second, LUCK provides social capital by enabling urban teens to meet and forge relationships with influential people in the city. In fact, LUCK participants have been hired by trainers, apprenticed in trades of the equestrian industry, explored interests in becoming mounted police, been trained to handle horses on the ground, and shown successfully in A-rated horse shows. Third, LUCK allows urban teens and mounted police officers to interact using horses as a bridge to communication.

 LUCK is not a therapeutic riding program. Most traditional therapeutic riding programs are conducted in ways that define the population served as “less than.” In other words, “you” have a deficiency and that is why “you” get to work with horses and be healed, but “you” need us (the agency) to do that for “you.” Additionally, urban students in traditional programs are bused to facilities in the suburbs or the country, intimating that they are allowed access because there is a determination of need. This need is often based on deficiency or if “we” allow it. This method suggests that a participant’s access can be taken away for a variety of reasons: loss of transportation, changing schools, or being “diagnosed” as not “needing” the therapy.  LUCK’s philosophy flips this premise on its head.

LUCK’s monthly programs are free of charge.  No preteen or teen is turned away. To increase access to our program, we are in the process of building a stable in downtown Cleveland. This setting will prove that our program belongs to the children in the City of Cleveland. In this environment, if they choose, they can learn about horses, help train horses, and participate in riding programs. Thus, LUCK’s message is one of empowerment for the 10 – 18-year-old, able-bodied, at-risk students attracted to our programs. LUCK lets them know, loudly and clearly, that we need them as much as they need us.  The horses are the ambassadors to a world of challenges to be met and mastered. Through interacting with them, our participants’ social and emotional needs are met.

Despite the benefits our program provides, LUCK struggles for funding. The program is unique, necessary, and builds capacity in a sport that needs young people of many cultures and classes in the saddle. In-kind donations have been generous and plentiful. We have received riding clothes, tack, the use of horses, and riding facilities. Unfortunately, monetary donations have not allowed us to move forward to match supply with demand. LUCK looks to create a legacy that makes horse sports accessible to individuals who will pass the torch to others once they have acquired the means to do so. Once we have secured the necessary funding, we can build the barn and continue to answer the question of, “How can I ever do that?” with the response of “Come meet the horses of LUCK.”

Other ways to benefit children In your area are to support existing urban equestrian programs or create one of your own. If you are interested, LUCK is happy to help you develop a strategic plan. Please don’t hesitate to reach out at info@luck4kids.org.

Andrea is an English teacher at Cleveland Metropolitan School District, LUCK board member, and lifelong horsewoman. Laura is a professor at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, OH, founding member of LUCK, and mother of a lifelong horsewoman.


LUCK Year End Report

Below is our year-end report in both PDF and text formats. LUCK thanks all our supporters and looks forward to another successful year serving Cleveland’s youth.

LUCK Year End Report PDF Version

Harnessing Horsepower to Transform the Lives of Cleveland’s Youth

Thanks to a little help from some friends, Leg Up for Cleveland’s Kids (LUCK) was granted an expedited nonprofit 501c3 confirmation in June 2017. Since then, LUCK has strived to use available funding to serve youth in the urban Cleveland area. From 2016-2018, LUCK touched the lives of over 166 Cleveland youth despite not having a “home base.” Currently, community demand far exceeds the capacity to serve. In 2019, LUCK hopes to improve capacity by increasing financial resources and participant base.

Funding support comes from a variety of areas. Foremost, our donors. Grant funding has come from the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation and Edwin D. Northrup II Fund. We have also received generous donations from individuals both inside and outside of the equestrian community. In addition, LUCK hosted two fundraising events, including a joint fundraiser with the Cleveland Mounted Police Unit as well as a “Friendraising” event with the generous support of Topline Stables in Aurora. Without in-kind donations from trainers and facility owners, our programming would not be possible. At the end of this article, there is a comprehensive list of stables and organizations for whom we are grateful.

Since its inception, LUCK has held 30 horsemanship and riding programs, providing youth with a respite from life in the city, a chance to interact with Cleveland Mounted Unit police officers, and confidence-building, hands-on interplay with horses. In addition to these  programs, private lessons, skills workshops, career networking meetings, and several overnight/weekends at Red Hawk Stables have summed up the organization’s touchpoints with Cleveland kids.

Youth at LUCK are exposed to real-life skills and career options. The students learn basic horse care and how to ride the horses. They are exposed to real careers within the equestrian industry; as a result, one student shadowed a braider and another had the opportunity to ride along with a large animal veterinarian. The programs provide education in the following areas: math, science, sociology, and physical fitness.

LUCK established an advisory and exploration committee for the construction of a state-of-the-art urban stable to be built in a public/private partnership arrangement with the City of Cleveland. LUCK also successfully created organizational infrastructure, including website and social media presence. The board and committee members responsible for all organizational progress are entirely unpaid and work to grow and develop LUCK in addition to their chosen careers.

Stables who have graciously donated time, space and expertise include but are not limited to:

BlueIris Stables; Blue Ribbon Braids; Elan Equine; Graystone Hunters & Jumpers; Kate Poulin Dressage; New Beginnings Residential Treatment Center; Peridot Equine Sanctuary; Red Hawk Stables; River Road Horse Farm; Topline Stables; Trumpeter Stables

Organizations who have collaborated with us for operational support include but are not limited to:

Chagrin Saddlery; Cleveland City Councilwoman Dona Brady; Cleveland Metropolitan School District teachers & administrators; Cleveland Police Mounted Unit; Friends of Kirtland Park; John Carroll University; Notre Dame College; St. Clair Superior Development Corporation


2018 Benefit

Please join us November 3rd to meet our students and horses!

4pm-5:30pm: Topline Stables at Walden
1109 Aurora-Hudson Road
Aurora, OH 44202
Join us to meet the students and horses!

5:30pm-7pm: Bertram Inn
600 North Aurora Road
Aurora, OH 44202
Enjoy Happy Hour and raffles!

This is a free event. Please RSVP by October 13th!

Come along as we harness the power of horses to transform lives. Our partnership with the Cleveland Mounted Police Unit allows us to offer inner city kids unique equestrian experiences that build character and self-confidence while teaching responsibility, compassion, and trust. We are LUCK, and we want to show you what happens when a kid meets a horse. It’s who we are and what we do.

Please RSVP by October 13th: info@luck4kids.org