horses

Ebony Horsewomen: Empowering Hartford for Over 36 Years

Ebony Horsewomen, Incorporated is a non-profit equestrian facility in the North End of Hartford that has been empowering Hartford, Bloomfield, and Windsor residents through equine programs for over 36 years. Patricia “Pat” Kelly is the program founder and CEO. The programs offered by Ebony Horsewomen include youth development, mental health, and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.

An Oasis in Hartford’s North End

The driveway into the Ebony Horsewomen facility leads visitors to a calm oasis amidst the backdrop of Hartford, racial injustice, a global pandemic, and other stressors of everyday life. Keney Park is the largest municipal park in New England with 693-acres and miles of trails. Those trails are accessible via a short walk out of the barns and past the horse paddocks.

Chaz Carroll is giving us a tour of the property. He is the facilities manager and serves as the mentor and supervisor for the Junior Mounted Patrol Unit. “My dad was a Hartford policeman and I had a fascination with horses,” he says. “I started here as a youth with the Saturday Saddle Club. I was working full-time for the Hartford Community Court and came back to Ebony Horsewomen through an assignment with them. I’ve been here ever since.”

The main barn has a wing connected to it with a classroom, library, and staff offices. The classroom is currently set up with social distancing pods that youth use for remote schooling. An indoor riding ring and a second barn are short distances away. The second barn has offices for the saddles and equipment of the Ladies Dressage Team and Junior Mounted Patrol Unit, and there are offices and a conference room for the mental health staff.

Horses quietly relax in small groups in the paddocks behind the barns. A flock of chickens alerts us to their presence in a pen adjacent to the barn and gardens. Over in the indoor arena, War Paint, one of the horses, is hanging out by himself. He’s 28 and a senior member of the herd. Chaz remembers riding him as a boy in the program. War Paint has some health issues due to his advanced age and the softer footing of the indoor arena keeps him comfortable. He’s bright and perky as he walks over to the gate to greet us.

The horses receive exceptional care, as is evidenced by the health and well-being of War Paint and other senior equines. Ebony Horsewomen works with Beckett Veterinary Services for equine care and their farrier, a graduate of the Cornell University Farrier Program is an alumnus of their program who sees to their equine hoof care. Staff also receive training and continuous education through The Herd Institute, a NBCC approved continuing education provider that offers training and certifications in equine facilitated psychotherapy and learning and through the UConn Equine Extension program.

“I first met the Ebony Horsewomen staff when they came to the UConn Riding Camp Instructor Horsemanship Safety Camp Training,” says Dr. Jenifer Nadeau, the UConn Equine Extension Specialist. “They have also participated in the Connecticut Horse Symposium. It is fabulous what they are doing for the community, and how dedicated and hard-working they are. I can definitely see the impact they are having just by meeting their instructors and the youth at my programs.” A UConn 4-H program is also part of the programming offered by Ebony Horsewomen.

Empowerment Through an Equestrian Program

Ebony Horsewomen's Junior Mounted Patrol with founder Pat Kelly at the Connecticut Greenways Awards in October 2020
Photo: Stacey Stearns

Each of the youth programs has a classroom component. The Saturday Saddle Club starts their day with chores. Once the barn is taken care of, they head into the classroom. Then, it’s on to lunch and riding time. The Ladies Dressage Team meets three times per week, two classes are held virtually on weekdays due to the pandemic, and they ride during an in-person session.

Spending time with the horses helps the rest of the world disappear for a while. “When you ride through Keney Park none of the other stuff is there, the tough neighborhood of Hartford’s North End or the problems the students may be facing,” Chaz says. “The Junior Mounted Patrol Unit helps the young men acquire the drive and motivation to be something. We are also trying to show the community we are here when we ride the horses around the neighborhood.”

The Ladies Dressage Team learns life skills in addition to dressage and equitation. The young women often come to Ebony Horsewomen focused on their hair and body. The conversation changes when they begin working with the horses. It’s about how to sit the trot or another aspect of horsemanship. The level of importance shifts to the internal instead of the external that media and other influences push.

“It’s never about the ribbons when we go to a horse show,” Pat says. “Our youth have to understand three things, classism, racism, and business. Sometimes we go to a horse show and our students won’t place well, but the other riders are happy to have them there. That’s classism. Our students go to another show and get a lesson on dealing with racism from people that have negative reactions to our participation. And then we go to a third show where they get a lesson on business because the riders from that barn win all the classes. Our students need to understand the difference between classism, racism, and business and how to respond to it.”

Horse shows provide one avenue to learn, and the staff at Ebony Horsewomen ensure these lessons are always in a supportive environment. “We are healing kids and horses,” Pat continues. “They are learning to manage life’s challenges and understanding the life they were born into. When you’re born into a Black community that’s all you know. We are getting our students out to other places so that they meet some really nice people. They meet real and authentic people and they begin to understand how not to classify people. You have to give everyone a chance and get to know them.”

A Bright Future

The positive impact on participants and changes the program has facilitated in the community are creating a legacy for the program, and a bright future as it continues to expand. “Seeing the faces of our participants gets me here every morning,” Chaz says. “We are here to help someone’s life and let them forget they are in pain and trauma. Seeing the difference in a participant from when they arrive to when they head home at the end of a session is why we are here. All the staff feel the same way. Ebony Horsewomen leaves a lasting impact on the people that work here and the program participants.”

A girl on a bay horse smiling and holding up a blue first place ribbon at a horse show
Photo courtesy of Ebony Horsewomen, Inc.

Ebony Horsewomen wants to keep pushing themselves higher and do more to serve the community that they’ve been a part of for over 36-years. Funding and resources are always a challenge for any non-profit. The program needs monetary donations, volunteers, and community support through awareness building.

Younger horses are another need the team has identified. Most of the herd is over 20 years old. They are senior horses, and each can only have limited responsibilities with participants. Horses have a home for life and excellent care at Ebony Horsewomen, and a few younger horses would allow the program to continue growing and serving as that catalyst for change for more participants.

Private riding lessons and horse boarding are also available to those interested and provide a source of income to support programming. People come to Ebony Horsewomen to experience riding. Horseback riding lessons are different here, they provide music and therapeutic exercises. People love it, they connect with the music and it relaxes them. The team is discussing setting up a volunteer system for horse care when COVID-19 subsides.

“The proudest moments for me is always something the kids have elevated to – kids that would be dead if not for a horse,” Pat reflects. “The horses give the kids a place to come where they’re not treated differently because of their circumstances.”

Learn more about Ebony Horsewomen and how you can support their programs at https://www.ebonyhorsewomen.us/.

Article by Stacey Stearns

UConn Equine Extension Webinars with Dr. Jenifer Nadeau

Interested in learning more about trail etiquette, horse health, farm management practices, and even the history of the horse in North America?

Luckily, the UConn Equine Extension Webinar series with Dr. Jenifer Nadeau begins this Wednesday and we would love for you to join us!

To access meeting links please visit:

http://animalscience.uconn.edu/equine-extension-program.php

horse riders and UConn Equine Extension Webinar series information

Guidance for Equine Businesses

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Guidance for Horseback Riding Schools and Stables / Boarding Stables

Source: Connecticut Department of Agriculture

horses in early morning light at UConn
An early morning view of horses along Horse Barn Hill Road. Photo: UConn

HARTFORD, CT – In addition to implementing the Stay Home, Stay Safe protocols effective on March 23, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. through April 22, 2020; Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7H required the Department of Economic and Community Development to provide a guidance document to determine essential businesses.

The Essential Businesses or Nonprofits designated in the guidance are not subject to the in-person restriction set forth in Executive Order 7H. Item 7 Services Including contained: “Animal shelters or animal care or management, including boarding, grooming, pet walking and pet sitting” as an essential business.

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg), working in concert with the Connecticut Farm Bureau and the Connecticut Horse Council, recognizes that this is a challenging time for all – both equine boarding facilities and horse owners alike. It is our intent to ensure the health and welfare of animals is met, while mitigating the risk to the people engaged in those tasks. It is prudent for all of us to use common sense as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Every equine facility is unique with various capacities, services, and capabilities in providing the care essential to the wellbeing and health of the horses entrusted in their care.

Stables providing full-board services that meet all of the horses’ needs may set their own policies about restricting access by owners seeking to visit or ride horses. The Department supports limitations imposed by stable owners. Specific concerns regarding care should be addressed between the horse owner and stable owner/manager.

All stables should set up a schedule of access times to ensure that there are no more than five (5) people at the barn at one time. It is imperative that the principles of social distancing, proper disinfecting, and sanitary practices are maintained. Stables are free to enact additional measures and controls as needed to ensure the safety of all.

This guidance document cannot cover every single scenario. The following information is meant to clarify what equine activities may continue and which should be discontinued at this time.

Essential Equine Care

  • Providing food, water, proper handling, health care (veterinary and farrier services), and proper housing
  • Turnout and exercise necessary to an individual horse

Not Essential Equine Care

  • Riding lessons/programs/camps
  • Club/organization meetings
  • Visits to an equine facility by anyone other than an essential equine caregiver

Recommended Practices

  • Maintain the recommended social distancing protocols that include six (6) feet of separation between individuals
  • Limit gatherings to fewer than five (5) people
  • Ensure proper hand washing
  • Limit access to and disinfect common areas regularly
  • Avoid sharing equipment and supplies between people
    • Non-porous materials (leather bridles/saddles/halters, nylon halters/lead ropes, gate latches, door handles, spray nozzle) harbor the virus longer than porous materials (cotton lead ropes, saddle pads)
    • Clean communal leather tack daily with tack cleaner
    • Disinfect gate latches, spray nozzles, cross tie snaps, pitchforks, wheelbarrows, and other frequently used items regularly or after contact with personnel
    • Stall door latches, hose ends, light switches and feed scoops should be cleaned and disinfected frequently
  • Sporting events are prohibited

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CT DoAg) mission is to foster a healthy economic, environmental and social climate for agriculture by developing, promoting, and regulating agricultural businesses; protecting agricultural and aquacultural resources; enforcing laws pertaining to domestic animals; and promoting an understanding among the state’s citizens of the diversity of Connecticut agriculture, its cultural heritage, and its contribution to the state’s economy. For more information, visit www.CTGrown.gov.

Equine Business Guidelines

Connecticut Department of Agriculture: Equine COVID Guidance (download this post)

Essential Equine During a Pandemic – Frequently Asked Questions

Essential versus Nonessential Equine Care During a Pandemic

Personal Preparedness Plan for Equine Owners

Additional Resources

CT Horse Neighbors Facebook page, horse neighbors helping neighbors

CT Horse Council – can help you get the help you need

Other links for help from CT Statewide Animal Response Team

United Horse Coalition Resources for Horse Owners

Upcoming Equine Extension Programs

girl wearing a riding helmet sitting on a horse

The UConn Equine Extension program has two upcoming programs for horse owners, enthusiasts, and anyone else that wants to attend.

  • Latest Innovations and Research in Winter Horse Care – Join us on February 4th at 7 PM at the Eversource building in Newington for this presentation by Dr. Jenifer Nadeau. The event is free, and UConn ice cream will be served. Please RSVP so we can prepare. This event is sponsored by Connecticut Horse Council.
  • Connecticut Horse Symposium is Saturday, March 28th at the Horsebarn Hill Arena in Storrs. We have a full day of horses, friends, education, and fun planned. You can see the full schedule and register at: http://horsesymposium.uconn.edu/

Winter Riding Lessons at UConn Start January 8th

horse sticking its nose through the fence to greet a person
Photo: UConn

The Department of Animal Science is offering the Winter Riding Program beginning January 8th and registration is now open!  This would make a great gift for the equestrian on your list or yourself!  Space is limited so reserve your spot today! 

Please visit http://s.uconn.edu/uconnwinterriding for more information including registration forms.

Horsin’ In Stride

photo

On December 7th the UConn Extension State 4-H Horse program hosted the Horsin’ In Stride workshop at the Storrs Campus for 4-H members and adults. This is the eighth year the event has taken place. Dr. Jenifer Nadeau and Emily McCabe Alger worked with the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee to plan and implement the event.  Workshop teachers included undergraduate students from UConn’s Equine Science program, UConn’s Animal Science faculty, and 4-H staff.

 

Kristen Greenwood presented a workshop that keyed in on visual identification of horses through observation of colors and markings. Participants learned color and marking terminology as well as how to communicate visual identification to another person. Sarah Heitzman presented a critically valuable program teaching form-to-function evaluation when selecting an equine for purchase. She also reviewed important information and questions to ask as a prospective buyer.  Stephanie Watko presented a workout video designed to teach riders how to increase their balance and fitness level with a concentration on the core muscle groups. A disease workshop was presented by Jen Solter, and taught participants about the signs and symptoms of equine diseases and treatment. Breed Bingo was a fun, family friendly, and inventive workshop presented by Rachel Perkins. The game tested participants’ breed knowledge and taught them fun facts about various breeds of horses. Jessica Barry did a session on horse judging, covering what judges are looking for in the show pen. She also gave participants tips on how to better critically evaluate your own horse and rider performance. Emily and Dr. Nadeau orchestrated the holiday ornament session, where participants learned to engineer a horse ornament that will withstand the test of multiple holidays. Participants also interacted with Dr. Nadeau who happily answered many questions about the UConn Equine Science program.

 

Participants from New London, Tolland, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex and New Haven Counties attended Horsin’ In Stride, and workshops were given in four time slots.  Thanks to all of those who attended and we commend the great job done by the undergraduate presenters. Bravo.

 

 

 

Emily McCabe Alger

 

4-H Program Coordinator