Educating the Future of Charm City

By Katherine O. Rizzo Ahesahmahk Dahn is moving towards transi-

tions: transitions at Te City Ranch, which he founded in 2007, transitions through the Mary- land Horse Council where he serves as Trea- surer and member of the Executive Commit- tee, and transitions within the country’s equine industry where people of color are scarcely seen in leadership roles. As the 73-year-old Dahn begins to slowly plan his retirement, being part of these transitions is at the top of his list.

Becoming a Leader

Dahn was born in South Carolina but has spent the majority of his life in Baltimore City. His parents split up in the 1950s and Dahn moved to Baltimore with his mother. “My mother comes from a very large family that was spread around the country. She had a sister in Baltimore so that’s where we went,” he stated. “I was around 10 years old and the schools had just become desegregated.” Dahn attended an integrated elementary

school before moving on to an integrated mid- dle school, but said “It just did not work out well.” He transferred to Douglas High School where he found his niche as a star athlete. Dahn earned a basketball scholarship to Morgan State University in Baltimore where he also played on the school’s 1965 championship football team. While in college, Dahn advanced through the

ROTC program and enlisted in the U.S. Army, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, during the Vietnam War. He graduated

from Mor-

gan State in 1970 with a degree in accounting, and said “I was blessed that I was never called up [for Vietnam].” After the Army, Dahn went to work for Union Carbide, traveling the country learning every part of the vast company. “I realized that accounting was not my schtick and moved into

industrial sales

which met my personal- ity better,” he said. He spent some time

in New York and New England where he sold welding equipment and specialty gasses, but then the “economy went south and my position was considered excess,” he ex- plained. Dahn, who gravitates towards leader- ship roles, started his own specialty advertising business but shortly after, decided corporate America was just not for him. | 800-244-9580

“I come from a family of educators and at the time, teaching became a more valuable idea,” he said. Dahn had re- cently gone through a divorce and his son, Moshe, would spend the school year with his mother and the summers with him. “Teaching allowed me to be home when he was home, which was important for me,” he added. Dahn taught elementary school for a few years but felt the leadership at the school was “lacking.” From there he

Ahesahmahk Dahn combines his love of horses with his commitment to Baltimore City through The City Ranch youth program.

became the Director of Facilities at Florence Crittenton Services of Baltimore, Inc., a resi- dential program for single women with chil- dren, and stayed there for 10 years before the program shut down. Dahn was also a sailing instructor for the Downtown Sailing Center, a Baltimore non-profit that introduces inner city kids to the sport of sailing. He also once ran a paper route for Te Baltimore Sun and through it all, had an interest in horses.

Let Them Run

Ahesahmahk heading out for a ride at City Ranch in Windsor Mill

It was a cold day in western Wisconsin when Dahn went for a ride with one of his brothers. “We went to ride some horses this guy was sell- ing and were moving on at a pretty good clip and so I said to my brother, ‘we better ease up so we don’t hurt these horses,’” he explained. “Well the guy who owned the hors- es said ‘no let them run!’ and man did we run! It was like a dream.” Dahn was first introduced to horses as a child at his uncles’ sharecrop farms where mules were used to plow fields, and in his teens held a summer job at Nixon’s farm just out- side of Baltimore City. He always wanted

to have a horse of his own and bought one of the horses from that Wisconsin ride. Next, he made arrangements to borrow a trailer to drive the horse from Wisconsin to New Hampshire where he was working at the time. “Well, the

horse never made it,” he said with a chuckle. “You see, I was driving out there in a snow storm and the trailer flipped over. Tere was no horse inside at that point but after getting the trailer fixed, I just decided it was best to leave the horse out there!” Dahn has no regrets, as his brother and nephew ended up enjoying riding the horse for years afterwards. It was not until much later that Dahn at- tempted horse ownership again. He was back in Baltimore City, married to Vivian Jean B. Dahn and the father of two, son Moshe and daughter Julia. “I kept talking about wanting a horse and one day my wife just said ‘then go get a horse,’” he said. So he did. A yearling named Libby that Dahn spent a lot of time working in hand be- fore admitting to himself that he needed some professional help with the young horse. “So I sent him off to a trainer for a few months

and you know what? I get the horse back and on that first ride he bucks me off and I ended up in the hospital,” Dahn said with a laugh. Dahn ended up with “not too serious” injuries but never gave up on that horse or his love of horses.

The City Ranch Te idea for Te City Ranch stems from a

family tragedy in which one of Dahn’s neph- ews, who was involved at a very low level in the City’s drug trade, was killed. “I started asking myself, what am I doing here? How can I help get kids out of gangs, out of drugs and move them towards a more positive life?” he said. Tus, City Ranch was born. According to City Ranch’s website, the pro-

gram’s mission became to “develop positive character in children through the joys and re- sponsibilities of horsemanship, and to bring horseback riding to the urban environment.” City Ranch started by bringing horses to inner city Baltimore schools. “We kept our horses at continued...


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