Urban Cowboy: NYC Horseback Riding
After a few rides in the city, it was almost beginning to feel routine: leave the stable, pass construction crews and equipment, and head for the trails.
In this case, the stable we left is part of a historic site, with manicured grounds occupied by more than a dozen peacocks. And the trails started on the beach at Staten Island's Seguine Point.
After a beach trot, we walked into the water, wading horse-knee-deep into Prince's Bay. The water was remarkably pristine, considering how littered portions of the beach were. There wasn't much of a view on this foggy morning, but we could see a few fishermen nearby and hear boats in the distance.
We headed inland, into Wolf's Pond Park, passing the picnic and playground areas, and pausing by the pond to watch the ducks and swans. We followed a nicely maintained trail into the woods, where the path narrowed and eventually disappeared in places.
I was glad I was wearing my helmet as we got into the adventurous part of the ride, and I began to feel that "getting away from it all" sensation. There's a wonderful relaxed but focused feeling I sometimes get when I'm riding, when I'm not thinking about anything except what I'm doing at the moment. This was one of those occasions.
I was on a nice Morgan horse named Justin, after the founder of the Morgan breed. He had a lot of heart and didn't mind creating a trail where none existed. More than once, I bent forward over his neck to avoid low-hanging branches. The trees were full of water from a heavy rain earlier in the day, and as we rode the leaves and branches brushed against us, soaking me to the skin.
We crossed a stream and rode up and down some steep hills, sometimes on the path, sometimes crashing through the thick growth. We did a lot of walking, but from time to time the horses broke into a trot with no urging. The air was sweet with the smell of honeysuckle and pine, and we saw plenty of birds and little critters like squirrels, raccoons, and chipmunks.
Eventually, we wended our way back to the pond. We had made a big loop through the woods and reached the far side of the pond, not far from where we'd entered the park. But the rough terrain we covered was an interesting contrast to the carefully landscaped park grounds.
Staten Island offers the most varied riding conditions in New York City, from city streets to beach to park to woods. However, it's BYOH: Bring your own horse. The city and local riding associations intend to clear the overgrown trails we rode on, but they're a lot of fun the way they are now.
Seguine Equestrian Center, 440 Seguine Ave., Staten Island; (718) 317-1121. From the New Jersey Turnpike: Take the Goethals Bridge to the West Shore Expressway to the Korean War Veterans Parkway; take the first exit, McGuire Avenue; turn right on Foster, which becomes Seguine Avenue; take a right on Hank Place to the equestrian center entrance. Seguine offers lessons for all levels of riders, boarding, and information about trail riding on Staten Island. The center also has riding clinics from time to time.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication