With over 37 years of experience as a trained equestrian, Patricia E. Kelly has been the founder, president (CEO), and head riding instructor of Ebony Horsewomen, Inc. Ebony Horsewomen, Inc was founded by Patricia in 1984 as a cultural enrichment organization made up of African-American female equestrians who managed community programs and participated in rodeos. For the past 30 years their mission has been to empower youth and guide them toward successful lives through the use of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning. They use equine assisted therapy and therapeutic riding, along with educational programs, to cultivate leaders, prevent risky behaviors, and encourage academic achievement.
Patricia started riding horses in the late 1950’s in Connecticut. Her introduction to a horse was through a Jewish grocer, Mr. Fisher who had a horse and lived next door to her. This Jewish grocer recognized that a horse would be important in her life so he took her under his wing and taught all that he knew including how to ride. This also was during a time where the only attraction to the Western Lifestyle was the Saturday TV Westerns. “When I wasn’t with Mr. Fisher, I was in front of a TV. I lived to watch the Saturday westerns for hours to see Roy Rogers and Trigger, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Dale Evans and Buttermilk, Gene Autrey, Hop-A-Long Cassidy, Poncho and the Cisco Kids, Gabby Hayes, Audie Murphy. This was my life.” she said. “My parents had a green Queen Ann Chair in the living room. The arm of this chair was my horse and one of my father’s neckties was my reins. I rode many a dusty trails on that chair which always ended up with getting a spanking after being told to stop sitting on the arm of my Mom’s beloved Queen Ann Chair. Spankings? A small price to pay to ride with the best.”
Not only is Patricia a certified Urban Riding Instructor, Master Urban Riding Instructor, and a certified Equine Husbandry Instructor, she is also certified in Equine Assisted Growth, Learning and Therapy as a Horse Specialist by EGALA as well as in horse safety, CPR, and First Aid. Patricia is also a Vietnam veteran of the United States Marine Corp and has been recognized as CNN’s Top 10 Heros of 2014 and as an Aetna Champion for Change.
WesternWomen.com sat down with Patricia to ask her a couple of questions.
How do you define your style?
Patricia: I am an urban cowgirl who believes in and identifies with the eternal courage, resilience and independence that has been the legacy of a cowgirl.
What do you count as your greatest achievement?
Patricia: There is no one great achievement and no one time. However, when we use horses to bring children out from despair and hopelessness; When they can find self-worth astride a horse and develop the connection and empathy for that horse – This is an achievement. When these children, some of whom have difficult lives and others whose lives are less , learn from being with horses that external conditions are overcome by internal understanding and strength and they apply these equine practices and change their lives, this is an achievement that lives on forever.
Moment you’ll remember forever?
Patricia: Because of my love for Trigger, I found my Trigger and purchased him in 1987. Rising Star was his name, a beautiful half Arab palomino, platinum mane and tail, chiseled like a ballerina and extremely athletic. He was however “spooky”. We could ride in a “hellisish” parade, kids screaming, bands playing, balloons everywhere, kids trying to spook the horses, with no problem and then ride a quite country trail and a squirrel would send him in a spasms; but he was my beautiful star. He gave me confidence when many women my age was having it stripped away from them. He made me into a rider. He taught a great many children how to ride, but more importantly he gave them a confidence that they lived on to build successful lives. I began losing him when he turned 30. First he lost site in one eye, he slowed down greatly. Then one day he couldn’t get off the stall floor. The Vet and along with my husband worked for 6 hours trying to get him up on his feet. We got a hoist and cut a hole in the ceiling to affix it to try to get him up. His barn buddy Rusty screamed constantly, I’m sure, yelling “get up Star” and he tried hard to get up. My Vet approached me and said “ I’ll stay and work with you as long as you want, but he’s not going to get up. The most humane thing is to let me put him down” “What – No!, why would say something like that to me” That statement hit me like a blow to my stomach. I immediately rejected it. I knelt down at his side and begged him to get up – and he tried, I mean he fought to get up. His willingness for me to try to get up, finally made me realize that if he could, he would. I laid next to him and thanked him for everything he did for me and the barn kids. I told him this is not good-bye – but see you later. I kissed him and walked away so the Vet could do what she had to do. Star and I were together for 18 years.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Patricia: Be who you are even when people don’t understand. Be true to yourself, unapologetic.
What is your favorite meal?
Patricia: I’ve been a vegetarian for about 40 years. So, my favorite meal is spicy collard greens, sweet potatoes and cauliflower potato salad.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
Patricia: Barcelona Spain. My youngest daughter gave me a trip there some years back and it was a beautiful experience of seeing the beautiful countryside, the food and Spanish horses and silver tack.
What do you never travel without?
Patricia: Cell phone, external charger, and 1 pair of half-‐chaps.
What advice or words of encouragement would you give to other Western Women?
Patricia: Live your best life (aka Oprah). This is not a dress rehearsal. You get one shot and it, and don’t EVER let age be a factor in anything. Remember wearing all the western gear, attire, boots, hats and the rest doesn’t make you a cowgirl no more than sitting in a garage makes you a car. Understand what makes a cowgirl and keep it true to you and you alone. It’s not a competition.
By: Brianna Hupe