mental health

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 Extension Releases Evidence-Based Information Sheets on the Impacts of Trails

Meriden TrailUConn Extension and the National Park Service are pleased to announce the publication of the Impacts of Trails info-sheet series. As communities throughout the U.S. and the world cope with the devastating toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has brought a renewed focus on the importance of local trails. 

These one-page color, downloadable resources provide evidencebased information on the impacts of trails on physical and mental health, building community, stimulating economies, and fostering climate resilience. Each includes key data points from existing literature, a case study and a short list of recommendations. Communities highlighted include Meriden, Connecticut, New Haven, Connecticut, Canton, Connecticut, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The health info-sheet includes six major benefits that trails have on promoting health. It recommends that communities animate trails with programs, increase public awareness about trails, and engage people not currently using trails. A case study on the Walk and Talk with a Doc initiative between Get Healthy CT and Yale Medicine in New Haven documents how trails have improved health outcomes for residents.

Trails drive economic development in communities through their positive impact on property values, expenditures at local businesses, and quality of life, among other attributes. The authors recommend that communities take a systems approach, connect their trails with downtown amenities, and engage and involve anchor institutions and local property owners in trail development. The Farmington Canal Trail in Canton provides further evidence of how the trail increased economic activity in the town.

Woman in Meriden“Our vision was a trail network that offered something for everyone in the community, from easy walks around Lake Mansfield to a rigorous hike along our piece of the Appalachian Trail,” says Christine Ward, Director of the Great Barrington Trails and Greenways in Massachusetts. Trails in any community are catalysts for increasing environmental awareness, creating connections, and strengthening community resilience. Steps to build community with trails include programming, analyzing trail use, and thinking community wide.

Climate change will bring many public health and safety threats to our communities and trails enhance resiliency through mitigation and by providing habitats for plants and wildlife. Trails also help decrease the carbon footprint of residents as more use the trails for travel. Communities enhance resiliency on their trails by making them feel safe and protected, encouraging residents to replace short vehicle trips, and connecting to transportation networks. A case study of Meriden shows how the trails and open space saved the downtown from flooding. 

 

View all the impact sheets with the full benefits of trails and recommendations for community leaders at https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/trail-impact-series/.

 

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Mental Health Resources / Recursos Para Su Salud Conductual

stress spelled out with scrabble piecesThe COVID-19 virus has struck the nation unexpectedly. We recognize that taking care of your behavioral health during a pandemic can be a challenge. Worrying about your health and the health of your loved ones can cause extreme stress, fear, and anxiety.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has provided many Mental Health Resources that include information and tips on how to take care of your behavioral health. Resources also include information and tips for caregivers, parents, and teachers on how to help children. 

For more resources visit:

https://store.samhsa.gov/

 

La pandemia de COVID-19 ha golpeado a la nación inesperadamente. Reconocemos que cuidar su salud conductual durante una pandemia puede ser un desafío. Preocuparse por su salud y la salud de sus seres queridos puede causar estrés, miedo, y ansiedad.

El Departamento de Salud Y Servicios Humanos de EE. UU. ha proporcionada muchos recursos que incluyen información y consejos en cómo cuidar su salud conductual. Los recursos también incluyen información y consejos para cuidadores, padres y maestros sobre cómo ayudar a los niños.

 Para más recursos visite:

https://store.samhsa.gov/

 

 

UConn Extension has Stress Management Resources for Ag Producers

UConn Extension has Stress Management Resources for Agricultural Producers

Article by MacKenzie White

 

graphic that says it is okay to ask for help and provides contact information for UConn Extension agricultural stress management resourcesWe understand many of our Connecticut farms and families have been dealing with stress long before this pandemic took place. May is National Mental Health Month, although it may seem like there is nothing to celebrate, reaching out to someone could really help them, and that’s worth celebrating.

Through a collaborative of UConn Extension faculty and staff along with some of our critical partners (Farm Credit East, ACA, Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Connecticut Farm Bureau, CT NOFA, Eggleston Equine, and Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services) we created a resource page to help agricultural producers mitigate some of the stressors they are facing. The page is located at:  http://ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu/agstress.php

We know caring for your crops and animals is hard enough but caring for your own health and wellness in this high-stress profession should be a priority as well for your farm business. Your mental health success is part of your agribusiness success.

It is hard to get the help you need when you don’t necessarily know where to begin. If you are experiencing symptoms of depressing or have suicidal thoughts, ask or reach out for help.

  • Reach out to a loved one
  • Talk to your friends or a medical provider
  • Are you at risk? Need help now? In Crisis call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 211 in CT, or Text “CT” to 741741.
  • In an emergency call or text 911

Making time for self-care can help you manage everyday stress and achieve more energy, have better focus and even reach new levels of productivity. Some self-care steps to take include the following:

  • Eat well
  • Get enough rest
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Exercise
  • Writing in a journal

We have also created a Private Facebook Group for Farmers and Agricultural Service Providers to communicate with one another through this challenging time for all of us. Join the group today at https://www.facebook.com/groups/361718224745725/

We at UConn Extension are working though unable to make farm visits at this time. We do offer assistance via email, phone and virtual meetings. Please let us know if we can help you. Please remember, if you see something, say something!

Agricultural Stress Management

stress spelled out with scrabble piecesWe understand many of our Connecticut farms and families have been dealing with stress long before this pandemic took place. Through a collaborative of UConn Extension faculty and staff along with some of our critical partners (Farm Credit East, ACA, Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Connecticut Farm Bureau, CT NOFA, Eggleston Equine, and Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services) we have created a resource page to help you mitigate some of the stressors you are facing. http://ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu/agstress.php

We also have created a Private Facebook Group for Farmers and Agricultural Service Providers to communicate with one another through this challenging time for all of us. Join the group today! https://www.facebook.com/groups/361718224745725/

We at UConn Extension are working though unable to make farm visits at this. Please let us know if we can help you.

Managing Stress – You and Your Families

stress spelled out with scrabble piecesIn this challenging time, we need to take care of each other and especially ourselves. Self-care is important to our physical and mental health. We all deserve self-care, especially now. Please consider these resources.

The first is a video on managing stress during a pandemic. It was worth the 17 minutes to hear tips on how to care for ourselves and our children. Maybe you are guiding co-workers or elderly parents. We hope this helps:

https://mediasite.video.ufl.edu/Mediasite/Play/bf0a42f96e874778bf47a8517125f1591d

Related Reading Resources: 

English:

How to Cope with Stress https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4894.pdf

Talking to Your Children https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/pep20-01-01-006_508_0.pdf

Español:

Cómo lidiar con el estrés https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4885spanish.pdf

Cómo hablar con los niños https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4886spanish.pdf

Other Mental Health Resources:

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a list of five things you should know about stress and you can find that valuable information here:https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml.

Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line have trained counselors who are ready to listen.  If you would like to talk to someone related to COVID-19, call the National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255, or text the word SHARE to 741741.  Website links can be found here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org | https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Please take care of yourselves and remember that we are here to help.

Sincerely,

The Connecticut Sea Grant staff

Attend the CT Ag Wellness Summit

Ag Wellness Save the Date postcardStress has many causes and is a serious problem for those involved in agriculture. Unfortunately many folks try to deal with this quietly, showing a stiff upper lip, and by themselves – not the healthiest route to take. Join us in learning more about how to identify stressors,  understanding ways to help yourself, and equally important, how to identify signs so you may be able to help your friends and colleagues.

This FREE one day “CT Ag Wellness Summit: Helping You to Help Others” is for farmers, producers, and ag service providers. Download the flyer and registration information. This important summit is a collaboration between the UConn Dept. of Extension and Dept. of Plant Science & LA, CT Department of Agriculture, CT Farm Bureau, Farm Credit East, CT Veterinary Medical Association, Tufts Veterinary Medical Center, CT NOFA, USDA-Risk Management Agency and CT Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services.

Date:     Thursday, December 5, 2019

Time:    8:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where: Maneeley’s Conference Center, South Windsor

Cost:     FREE

Mental Health & Farm Stress

red barn with fence around it
Photo: Pexels

Farming is both a risky and dangerous business. From the hazardous nature of the seemingly regular day-to-day tasks to the volatile and unforgiving markets on which many farms rely for income, farmers have no shortage of stress. Add in unpredictable weather and crop yields and you have the makings of what the USDA, OSHA, and other organizations call one of the most hazardous professions in the U.S. (UA Extension, 2016). And yet we fail to see farming make it to CNBC’s list of the most stressful jobs in America. Why is that? In recent years, there has been a push to make mental health and stress management on farms more of a priority. Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach has published their 2019 Farm Stress Resource Packet, which is filled with information on the stressful nature of farming, management strategies, and resources to help during difficult times. The below article by Larry Tranel is taken from ISU’s publication and offers farmer’s ways to deal with farm and family stress.

 

A “PRIMER” of Farm Stress Resiliency

Farming is dangerous and stressful, no doubt. Farmers have varying degrees of resiliency to deal with the physical and mental dangers of farming, leading to varying stress levels. The integrated blend of family, farming and nature can cause unique situations of stress in farm families. Stress is normal and can be healthy as it might push us to do things that can promote growth in us. But too much acute stress or piled up chronic stress can make it difficult to:

•   Concentrate, remember and process information.

•   Organize, calculate and make decisions

•   Sleep, relax and breathe properly

•   Communicate, share and bond as a family.

Stress can become a source of conflict but can also help families grow together as many farm families are strong because they had gone through a tough time together. Too much stress can lead to anxiety, doubt, depression and hopelessness. Overcoming stress overload by developing skills can help families have more resiliency to farm stress.

Resiliency can be a learned, life skill. It is a person’s ability to deal with stress, using skills, to better cope and possibly even overcome the root causes or maybe just its effects. Since stress reduction techniques are a learned skill, the aim of this paper is to assist farmers and those working with them with a “PRIMER” acronym tool to better deal with farm stress. The tool is a six-step process outlined below. The “PRIMER” Tool will then be detailed along with skills and goals that pertain to each step.

Perception – Our Thoughts under Stress

Reality – Our Environment in Stress

Identify – Our Emotions with Stress

Manage – Our Reaction to Stress

Extend – Our Communication of Stress

Resources – Our Support for Stress

“Chronic farm stress can weaken a person’s spirit, appetite, physical stamina, focus, relationships, decision-making ability and dampen happiness and satisfaction in time. Life skills can help deal with it.”

Perception is heavily related to the image or picture we have in our minds of whatever situation, coupled with any meaning or attitude attached to that image or picture. An occurrence might happen to two people and one might very positively perceive it and the other very negatively with a wide range of other “perceptions” in between.

Reality is a sum of a person’s internal capacity and external environment to understand the situation surrounding stress or a crisis event. Some situations take families by surprise or are beyond their control. If life events come too soon, are delayed or fail to materialize, the health, happiness, and well-being may be affected (Schlossberg, et. al., 1996). Intensified emotionality and/or behavioral disorganization in families and their members are likely to occur as a result (Toberto, 1991). Another crucial variable in dealing with the unexpected is family development and environmental fit (Eccles et. al., 1993).

Identify emotions of stress related circumstances. Emotions are often so intertwined and often mangled that identifying the underlying causes or emotion is not easy. For instance, an exhibit of anger, a secondary emotion, often is expressed due to another emotion. Anxiety and depression often have a root cause. Once we realize our perception and the reality of the situation, we look inward to identify causes so as not to transfer negative emotions to or onto others.

Manage through stress knowing all situations have some hope, alternatives or options. Identify what can be controlled and accept what is beyond control without blaming oneself. Understand that lack of clarity of future can induce stress as it brings worry, confusion, conflict and even shame (Boss). Assess stress symptoms–heart rate, shallow breathing, headaches, anxiety, outbursts, lack of focus and hope to name a few—to know stress levels.

Extend oneself to others as social isolation and loneliness can further add to stress. Those in family environments are best helped by family members, but introverted males often do not extend their thoughts and feelings readily to allow for healthy family support. Guilt, shame and social stigma often inhibit extending to others for help, as well.

Resources are important in life. Families that are able to make positive meaning of their stressors and use effective coping strategies as well as internal and external resources are more likely to adapt as well (Xu, 2007). This applies to individuals, too! Internal resources and coping strategies were shared in previous sections. External resource needs tend to focus on things that help develop skills in:

1) Interpersonal Communication—everyone has their own beliefs, feelings, needs and agenda to be shared. Knowing healthy/ideal versus unhealthy/common behaviors can separate success and failure in overcoming stress/conflict.

2) Family and Community Support—immediate and intergenerational families, and intertwined communities can be a source of both stress and strength—attend to self- help and other resources, and other people’s needs as family and community support is a two-way street.

3) Problem Solving Techniques—use processes to: define the problem/stress; consider pros and cons to alternatives; select a plan; take action steps; identify resources; and use group/family meetings. Be “proactive” in problem solving.

4) Goal Setting—Make them SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based.

 

For more information on farm stress and management please visit the following links or contact your local extension office.

•   Helping Farmers Cope with Stress

•   Farming: America’s Most Stressful Job?

•   Agricultural Producers and Stress: When Do You Need a Counselor

Farm and Ranch Family Stress and Depression: A Checklist and Guide for Making Referrals