Urban Cowboy: NYC Horseback Riding
Riding in Manhattan is a totally urban experience. At no point is it possible to forget you're in the middle of a big city. Though the street isn't visible from all parts of the Central Park bridle path, the traffic sounds and diesel fumes from buses penetrate the park. On the plus side, the skyline is visible at all times, and the effusively friendly reaction a rider provokes from passers-by might be more typical of the Midwest than the Upper West Side.
However, that friendliness wasn't immediately evident when I went to pick up the horse. It's not unusual for a trail rider to answer a few questions before having a mount assigned. But before riding in Central Park, the woman in charge at the stable asked for year-by-year specifics of how much saddle-time I had, in the ring and on the trail, English and Western. Her attitude seemed a bit strange, but hey, Manhattan is all about attitude.
It all became clear when she pulled out a map of the neighborhood and gave me detailed instructions about finding my way to Central Park. She reminded me to obey all traffic regulations on the way. "Can't I just follow the guide?" I asked, dumbfounded. That's when I found out that the park trail rides are "unescorted," as she put it. I'd be out on my ownand in (gulp!) Memorial Day weekend, Friday-afternoon traffic, no less.
Apparently I convinced her I could handle it. I was assigned Bach, a handsome bay gelding, and told to wait at the bottom of a ramp in the two-car-garage-size training ring, and the horse would come down from his stall upstairs. He did, all by himself. Once he arrived, one of the children hanging out at the barn helped me adjust the girth and stirrups, then I was off, clutching my map in one hand, reins in the other.
As instructed, we turned right on 89th, waited for the light to change on Amsterdam Avenue, then headed down 90th Street to the park. Bach was comfortable amidst the traffic, double-parked cars, and street construction. He picked up the pace as we approached an intersection where the "Don't walk" signal was just beginning to flash. Can this street-savvy horse read, too?
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication