Urban Cowboy: NYC Horseback Riding

Manhattan: In Central Park
  |  Gorp.com

Once in Central Park, Bach needed no urging. He broke into a quick posting trot, as rhythmic and charged with leisurely tension as one of John Lee Hooker's endless guitar boogies. We cruised around the reservoir. The city's concrete canyons looked remarkably beautiful, silhouetted against a bright, late-spring sky, with the sun reflecting off the reservoir's water.

There is a lot of construction and rehabing going on in the park; some of the paths were rough and potholed. But for the most part, the ground was level and the riding smooth. And there was ample evidence of the work already completed: The filigreed bridges crossing above the path were handsome with their fresh paint, and the landscaping looked luscious.

I'm used to being practically invisible in the city. But that's not possible on horseback, especially on a big red horse with show-off tendencies. Virtually everyone we passed acknowledged us—dog-walkers smiled and nodded, construction workers waved, joggers said they'd rather be riding, adults reverted to baby talk: "Oooh, look! A horsie!" Bach lifted his feet higher, prancing, knowing he was the center of attention.

We approached 90th Street again, our first park loop completed, with plenty of time left in our hour. That was the only time Bach showed any reluctance—he recognized the park exit and wanted to go home. He stopped, unwilling to turn around or go forward. I took a few deep breaths, stroked his neck, and used hands and feet to gently urge him forward. He showed his displeasure by trudging ahead slowly. But he was too sweet-tempered and spirited to keep that up. Before long, he had opened up with a rocking canter as we headed past the baseball diamond in the North Meadow.

One more loop around the reservoir, then it really was time to head for the stable—the hour had flown by. Back into traffic, south on Central Park West to 89th Street, past the moving vans and cabs, stopping behind the school bus with flashing lights, much to the delight of the children, most of whom smiled, waved, and heaped more flattery upon Bach.

When we reached our destination, I dismounted, fed Bach a treat, loosened his girth, put up his stirrups, and sent him on his solo trip back up the ramp to his stall. It was an unusual riding experience, but one that I'm looking forward to repeating.

Essentials

Claremont Riding Academy, 175 W. 89th St.; (212) 724-5100. Take the 1 or 9 subway train to 96th St., walk east to Amsterdam Avenue, then south to 89th Street. English only; helmets mandatory, loaners are available. Unescorted park rides cost $40 per hour. Escorted rides cost more than twice that—arrangements have to be made on a case-by-case basis. Unescorted riders must have walking, trotting, and cantering experience, and must be able to sustain a posting trot. Riders may be asked to demonstrate their ability in the indoor ring.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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