A new initiative between Missy Clark and John Brennan’s North Run and the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy, called Concrete To Show Jumping, was announced June 19.
PURA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was established in 2019 to continue the legacy of the urban black cowboy by providing hands-on equine experiences.
“The main program is for inner city youth who wander into the barn and become a part of the stable family,” said PURA Executive Director Erin Brown. “They learn responsibility and horsemanship.”
The organization, which has 10 horses, is likely moving to a new location soon, which is also in the heart of Philadelphia.
Brown said there are several goals for the partnership.
“We want to raise awareness with social injustices and discrimination or racism within the horse community,” she said. “We want to bring two different worlds together and become one, even though they’re so different. I have the two girls that ride hunt seat; I’m hoping maybe Missy can take them for a summer as an intern and learn what it really is this big hunter or jumper circuit, which I’m sure she’s willing to do. She has been a total gem.”
North Run’s trainers and students want to actively participate in fundraising and sponsorship efforts for PURA and make trips from the farm’s bases in Warren, Vermont, and Wellington, Florida.
Brown grew up riding in downtown Philadelphia, schooling on football fields with her uncle, Al Lynch, when she didn’t have a riding ring and showing hunters in the mid-Atlantic. She said she used to beg her uncle to park their spray-painted stock trailer in the back, so people wouldn’t see it was hers.
Brown also experienced racism in the horse world firsthand.
“I remember girls that didn’t look like me telling me that I’d never be able to do it,” she said. “I’d hear comments like, ‘Black people are here.’ It was alarming to me—I was like, ‘Did that just happen?’
“I didn’t have that many options growing up, but we made the best of it,” she continued. “Today in 2020 I’m not ashamed of where I come from and how hard I worked and the people that inspired me and taught me and pushed me. Now I believe it’s time to offer the same opportunities to someone else that were given to me.”
She’s enthusiastic about the possibilities that this partnership can bring, and she’s not alone.
“Missy is so excited about all of this, and she texts me all the time with different ideas,” said Brown. “Her brain is constantly tumbling with things I haven’t even thought about doing. She’s always trying to figure out how we can bridge these two worlds.”