10 May 2011

Horses Coming Back to Central Park

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Riding to the Park from the old Claremont Stables

Before the Claremont Riding Academy closed in 2007, you mounted your horse at the stables located between Amsterdam & Columbus on West 89th Street, then rode on city streets, crossing major traffic on both Columbus Avenue and Central Park West in order to arrive at the trails in Central Park.

The rental horses were typically plugs, and left the stable reluctant to move faster than a slow walk, but coming back they would often (in the manner of horses) completely change character, and the rider would be glad that Claremont always supplied them with a double-bit.

Horseback riding in Central Park diminished over the final decades of the last century. The city cut back on maintaining the riding trails, and opened the equestrian trails (sigh!) to pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists, leading to a ban on cantering.

What do you know? Civilization actually survives in New York City. Some of the people in authority recognized that a major city park lacking horseback riding was missing something important, and they remembered that the Park had been originally designed to incorporate riding trails.

The New York Post reports that the city fathers will be making an effort to restore the availability of horse rentals in Central Park.

Since the closure of Manhattan’s last stable, Claremont Riding Academy, in 2007, it’s been next to impossible to ride off into the sunset without riding the subway to another borough first.

The 4.2 miles of bucolic bridle paths winding through Central Park, around the reservoir and under bridges, are now mostly used by joggers and dog walkers, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told The Post.

“People will keep walking and running there, but we also want riding — which has been done in the park for most of the past 150 years — to be restored,” he said. “The bridle paths are an essential part of the park’s design and riding is one of its oldest forms of recreation.”

After Claremont closed, the city did sign a deal with the Riverdale Equestrian Centre, to offer trail rides by appointment, but those were infrequent and only done on weekends, Benepe said.

The city now wants a more permanent riding concession.

Each day, horses will be brought to the North Meadow Recreation Center, located in the center of the park near 97th Street, from one of the outer-borough stables.

Prices and hours will be determined by a bidding process and regulated by the city, Benepe said. Proposals are due next month.

City stable owners say it’s a shame the bridle paths have gone to waste.

“These parks were designed to be seen from horseback,” said Walker Blankinship, 40, president of Kensington Stables in Brooklyn.

I used to work in the city, years ago, and some week days I would rise very early, put on my boots and breeches, and ride the subway up to Claremont on the Upper West Side.

The first time I did it, I did not bother bringing a riding crop, and I found my rental horse, appropriately named “Drifter,” unwilling to to do anything. He also (very impolitely) kept trying to run me into low overhanging branches and to scrape me off on the trees. So I finally took advantage of the proximity of those branches. I broke one off, and began employing it as a crop. Drifter bounced around a bit and tried sunfishing, but when he found that didn’t work for him, he settled down to doing his job, and actually began changing gaits. I even managed to get one nice jump out of him.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

One Feedback on "Horses Coming Back to Central Park"


I always believed they will……..

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