Everyone thought her love of horses and riding was odd for a young African American girl in Hartford, Connecticut. Nine-year-old Patricia Kelly didn’t care. She learned to ride on her neighbor’s horse – every day for two years. It lit a fire within her that she would carry with her through the Marine Corps and college. It eventually led her back home where her love of horses and desire to help the community came together for a truly unique experience.
Located on 693 acres in Hartford, Ebony Horsewomen, Inc. was originally founded by Kelly in 1984 for the social and cultural enrichment of black women. But Kelly quickly realized that it was the kids who needed her and her horses the most. “When young people are trapped in a negative environment, they quickly experience that negativity and it can kill their souls. We are about healing them and making them whole again,” Kelly said.
The former Marine continued, “What makes us grow as humans are our experiences.” Serving upwards of 300 kids each year, Kelly’s goal is to give kids an experience outside of their urban and often volatile surroundings. She uses horseback riding as a way to teach the kids that they can control their lives, and that their environment doesn’t define who they are or what they can do.
“The first thing that our kids learn when they get on a horse is that they are not in control. A horse has one primary instinct, and that is to be safe at all costs. If a kid is angry at the world and gets up on a horse, that horse knows and will behave accordingly. Once the kids realize that when their emotions change so does the horse, they develop mutual cooperation. It’s a beautiful thing. Only then can they begin to recognize that in their lives outside of the farm,” Kelly said.
That mindset goes for school in particular. Kelly’s kids have a 100% graduation rate from high school and an 82% acceptance rate into college – kids who many had given up on. “We teach them to have higher expectations for themselves; higher than what anyone else has for them because success comes from within, and the horses help them unlock that potential,” she said.
To learn more, visit ebonyhorsewomen.us.
Champion for change:
Ebony Horsewomen, Inc.
Kelly’s kids have a 100% graduation rate from high school and an 82% acceptance rate into college.