By Howard Monroe

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia’s horseback riding community is getting a boost. The Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy was just awarded a half-million dollars to help with its capital fundraising campaign.

“I thought it was a dream,” Erin Brown, executive director of the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy, said.

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A dream coming true. Erin Brown goes by “The Concrete Cowgirl.” She’s also the executive director of the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy. Their goal is to bring horseback riding back to West Philly. It’s a community she says has been dwindling.

Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy Hopes To Bring Horseback Riding Back To West Philly

“It was extremely large 20 years ago but there haven’t been horses in West Philly in a long time, so we’re hoping to bring that back,” Brown said.

Philly’s history of horseback riding was chronicled in the movie “Concrete Cowboy.” Eyewitness News cameras captured exclusive video of Idris Elba filming the movie in Strawberry Mansion in the summer of 2019.

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“With the gun violence surging in this city, kids, youth, they need recreation. They need something to do, a safe haven, and we all had it growing up and I know what it’s done for our lives,” Brown said.

The Nicholas Pucciarelli Bocce Ball court in Cobbs Creek Park will be renovated into the academy’s stables. The lawn outside will be its riding arena, and they’ll also have access to the park’s trails. The hope is to have the location at Daggett and Vine Streets up and running within 18 months.

“The history of Black riders in Philly is they haven’t owned the real estate that they’re utilizing,” Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy board member Ryan Spak said. “Their culture keeps getting erased in some shape or form. So having a home here gives them that stability, ensures their culture.”

“Horses heal and I find myself saying this often, ‘Not every child wants to play basketball, not every child wants to play football. Some kids want to ride horses,'” Brown said.

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In order to receive the state grant, they must match it through fundraising. For more information on the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy, click here.