Patrece Wells had a bucket list. After her second consecutive diagnosis of breast cancer, and facing a brutal course of treatment she thought she’d never survive, she wanted to learn how to ride a horse.
She was familiar with horses. Growing up in Alabama, there was a plow horse on her family’s farm. His name was Dan, and he pulled the equipment on the land. Although he wasn’t bred for riding, there was always something about that horse that stuck with her.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she says of her prognosis ten years ago. She had multiple major surgeries and several grueling rounds of chemotherapy. “When I was done and I was alive, I wrote the list. It was just like the movie.”
As a congratulatory gift, her son, Antonio, bought her a package of three half-hour riding lessons at Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville. She had her very first lesson at the age of 42 on a horse called Hershey. Wells was hooked. She had, she says, discovered her life’s passion and an environment where she could completely escape from the outside world.
A stable relationship
Any horse lover will attest that “barn life” can be a bubble where real life, and its stresses and identities, fades away. And for someone like Wells, who works as a New York City police officer focusing on domestic violence and human trafficking, barn life was a much-needed distraction.
Wells, now 52, competes in the jumper division – a competition based on speed and faults (points are given for knocking down a rail, going over the allowed time, falling off, etc. – the lowest score wins). She keeps her horse, El Paso, at a barn called Five Peaks in Bedford, located at Coker Farm. El Paso is an imposing 17.1 hand (in layman’s terms that means huge) Warmblood with a black coat and a white flash across his face. He was, in his youth, a seasoned competitor at the higher levels.
Jumping on horseback – indeed riding at all – is a risky and dangerous sport. A 2021 study that analyzed data from the National Trauma Data Bank found it to be more dangerous than football, skiing and motorbiking. While not impossible, it’s unusual for a rider to start in their 40s and go on to compete. But Wells’ trainer, Missy Wright, wasn’t completely surprised. She describes Wells as a “whirlwind” who “wants to learn more and more all the time.”
“People are drawn to her,” says Wright. “She brings a ton of energy, and she’s a very positive person.”
Over the past seven years, Wells has become a well-known fixture in Westchester showing circles.