Founder and CEO - Ebony Horsewomen, Inc. and Healing Horses Therapeutic Center, Hartford, CT
Everyone thought it odd for a young African American girl in Hartford, CT, to love horses and riding. Nine-year-old Patricia Kelly didn't care. She learned to ride on her neighbor's horse - practicing every day for two years. It lit a fire within her that she would carry through the Marine Corps and college. it eventually led her back home where her love of horses and desire to help her community came together to create a truly unique experience.
Located on 693 acres in historic Keney Park 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 their negativity and it can kill their souls. We are healing them and making them whole again. What makes us grow as humans are our experiences."
Serving of upwards of 300 kids each year, Kelly's goal continues to be to give the urban youth an experience outside of their often stressful and volatile environments. She has been using horseback riding as a way to teach the children 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 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 someone is angry at the world and gets up on a horse, that horse knows and will behave accordingly. Once the kids realize that their emotions change so does the horse, and they develop mutual cooperation. It's a beautiful thing. Only then can they begin to recognize that in their lives outside of our programs."
This mindset led Kelly to explore the practice of equine assisted therapy, forming the Healing Horses EAT program in 2010, serving both adults and children who did not benefit from traditional forms of psychotherapy. As the Healing Horses practice continued to grow, Kelly soon realized that a key component in a successful therapeutic relationship was the ability for the therapist to relate to the client in a culturally competent manner - awareness of the cultural subtleties that bond the client and their therapist.
Thus was born CCEAP - Culturally Competent Equine Assisted Psychotherapy - a critical and additional layer on proven EAT techniques to deepen the therapeutic bond.