Urban Cowboy: NYC Horseback Riding
This was one trail ride that was all about riding. There was little sightseeing, little conversation, very little of anything except the sheer pleasure of riding a decently trained and highly willing horse, feeling the wind on my face, and getting a good workout.
The steeds in New York's northernmost borough must have gotten the word that they live in the "boogie down" Bronx. As soon as our guided party of three crossed the road and reached the bridle path, the horses took off at a brisk canter. They needed no urging and never wanted to stop; they showed a remarkable amount of energy for a trio of average-looking rental animals.
From time to time, our guide disappeared, letting us ride on ahead. But the trails were easy to follow and there was no danger of us getting lost in the Bronx.
This bridle path is situated between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Thomas Pell Wildlife Refuge and Sanctuary. At certain points, the trail is parallel to the road, and passes within sight of it. But for the most part, the highway is not visible, and it was easy to forget about it on this quiet Sunday afternoon.
We rode through a densely wooded area, deeply shaded by trees. The paths were lined with several kinds of wild grass, some sporting tall, elegant plumes. The sanctuary's wetlands were alive with birds and small mammalsraccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, and the like. If the refuge contains more exotic wildlife, those creatures stayed out of sight, alerted to our approach by our horses' thundering hooves.
Due to a wet spring, there was no need to worry about dust on the trails. But the heavy seasonal rains had left their marks in less pleasant ways, too. Each dip in the trail held a pool of water, some of it rather deep. The horses' hooves threw mud as they charged along. And those puddles attracted plenty of mosquitoes. They were so vicious that my gray horse's neck was flecked with a few spots of blood by the time our hour jaunt was over.
If it weren't for the mosquitoes, I would have been sorry when our time was up. As much as I enjoyed those lively horses, I would have been more comfortable wearing long sleeves and doused with an ample supply of DEET.
Pelham Bit Stables, 100 Center St.; (718) 885-0551. From Westchester County, take Hutchinson River Parkway south to City Island exit, make the first right into Pelham Bit Grounds. From Manhattan, take Route 95 north to exit 8 (Pelham Parkway); take Pelham Parkway north to Center Street, make a left on Center into the stable grounds. Trail rides with guide cost $25 per hour, Western only, helmets optional. Let them know how experienced you are, they'll assign horses accordingly.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication