Live

Watch CBSN Live

New Blood Shakes Up 'Horsey Set'

In a world where change is a constant, polo is all about tradition.

It remains, reports Tracy Smith on The Early Show, mostly a game where wealthy men ride horses they own. The only place for ghetto kids - if they're there at all - is the stables.

But that may be changing.

At 13, Jabbar Rosser is already a top polo player. The only horses he grooms are the ones he rides himself. And when other players talk to him, it's all about strategy.

His rise to stardom in the "horsey set" has been as fast as it is unusual.

The Philadelphia streets he called home are meaner than most. For kids his age, violence is common, and gang recruitment is constant.

But three years ago Jabbar, then only 10, joined a program called Ride to Work, founded by veteran horsewoman Leslie Hiner.

Using money from a small grant, Hiner gave inner-city kids a chance to ride, in exchange for doing chores.

Before long, even Jabbar's mom saw a change in him. " He's not as bad as he used to be, not at all. He's changed a whole lot," says Lazette Rosser.

And when the kids got bored with riding and jumping, Hiner introduced them to polo, one of the scariest sports on horseback, or anywhere else. "I think every player probably has been injured" at one time or another, says Hiner.

But, "The kids … they're like rubber. Thank goodness they're young. For the most part, they all bounce really freakin' well!" Hiner says.

In early matches, Hiner's fledgling team was beaten badly and often.

But since then, the Work to Ride kids have turned doubters into believers.

At first, they were looked at, by some at least, as a joke. But now, when they take the field, they're regarded as serious challengers. And when someone like Jabbar Rosser takes the field, he's seen as a threat. In fact, he even has a nickname - Killer B.

Jabbar says at first he was scared of riding, and polo. But that fear has been replaced by confidence, says Smith, and a fierce will to win.

Jabbar's team won a match last month, 13-5, with Jabbar scoring nine of the goals.

He readily admits his world would be very different without Work to Ride: "I'd be in trouble now, like, locked up or something."

Hiner says other players used to resent going up against a young prodigy from the ghetto, but now they're getting used to it: "Even if they're not supportive about it, they do have to accept it because we're here. We're here to stay and if you're not careful, the little kid is going to steal the ball away from ya."

The program doesn't work for every kid, but it's given Jabbar Rosser a dream, and hope for a future he might never have imagined.

He has a lot to look forward to: professional riders can make as much as $100,000 a year.

View CBS News In