Patricia Kelly is founder/president/CEO/ head riding instructor of Ebony Horsewomen, Inc., located in Hartford, Conn. Ebony Horsewomen is an organization “to empower youth toward successful lives through the use of equine-assisted-growth learning." The CEO of the organization for the past 30 years, Mrs. Kelly is also a former United States Marine.
This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Kelly shares about the difference perspective makes, how your childhood can shape your dreams and how to know if you are pursuing the right dream.
Sam's Dream Blog: In the Hartford Courant, you were quoted as saying, “Urban children are denied so much. What we are trying to do is unlock the genius, the brilliance in children to live their best life. We want to unlock the caged heart so that they will dream, and dream big." What difference does it make to get someone out of his or her environment for a little while so that they can experience something like Ebony Horsewomen offers?
Patricia Kelly: The answer to that is perspective. When your perspective, based upon experiences and resources, is limited, your perspective of the world is limited. You tend to think that all that there is what you have been able to experience. Often, youth in the inner city are not afforded experiences and resources to grow their perspective. It’s important to broaden a child’s perspective so that they can get a more global picture of the world, rather than only what’s in their limited neighborhood.
SDB: You mentioned children. What age group does Ebony Horsewomen serve?
Patricia Kelly: Five to 19, although we have one program that goes up to 28. That’s the mounted patrol, our park rangers. We have our own park rangers in Keeney Park, where we are located. Keeney Park is 693 acres. We do it as a courtesy.
What is it about Ebony Horsewomen that is able to unlock people in a unique way?
Patricia Kelly: There are a number of things. We are in the middle of a metropolitan area that has the largest city park in New England. Keeney Park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the same guy who designed Central Park.
Within this park, we have the ability to introduce country life and settings, agriculture on several levels. We have farm land here that we grow crops on. Not only do we grow the crops, but once the crops have been harvested, we teach the kids how to prepare the food. They cook the food, and they learn the nutrition. That’s one aspect.
The second thing is we use equine-assisted therapy. Many of our children have difficulties in school, and some in the community. Many of them are suffering despair and depression. The equine-assisted therapy allows them to receive therapy without the stigma. We use horses to bring them to some answers in their situation.
Then, of course, the experience of learning how to ride a horse is another level that has a couple of different benefits to it. It’s the physical benefit, the emotional benefit, and the benefit of focused concentration and the ability to execute instructions that you are given as you are being taught how to ride. Those kinds of things are transferable to schoolwork.
SDB: Is there a success story that comes to mind?
Patricia Kelly: We have been doing this for 31 years. There are hundreds of success stories [from alumni.] We have one young lady who is a civil rights attorney for the federal government in Washington, D.C. We have teachers. We have one young woman who is at Harvard University right now on a full scholarship. We have nurses and teachers and principals and business owners.
SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?
SDB: What about your passion? How did Ebony Horsewomen come about?
Patricia Kelly: It’s a complicated story, but it started in childhood when I was introduced to my first horse from a Jewish neighbor. It stuck. It became an obsession for me, a passion for me. When I got out of the Marine Corps, I settled in my spirit that this was something I was going to pursue. I was going to flush it out a little bit more, if you will. Upon my attempt to do that, it became crystal clear to me that this in fact was my passion to do.