Urban Cowboy: NYC Horseback Riding

Brooklyn: Beaches, Birds & Bays
  |  Gorp.com

There's a lot to recommend riding in Brooklyn. The scenery is varied: level trails, shady woods, wetlands, beaches, urban skylines. There are riding opportunities for all levels of equestrians, from first-timers to old-timers. And the price is right: At $25 per hour, it's the most reasonably priced ride in the city.

With all that in its favor, I still needed a little something extra to make trail riding in New York's most populous borough stand out for me. I know there's some cliché about seeing things through the eyes of a child, but sometimes things get to be clichés because they're true. Riding with a 14-year-old horse enthusiast elevated my Brooklyn trail ride from the mundane to the memorable.

At the start of our ride, on our way to the beach, we passed ponds full of ducks and geese, peppered with a few black ibises and white herons. The sandy path narrowed as we moved into a lightly wooded wetland. We walked, single-file, talking a little, enjoying the shade on this sultry day. As we approached the beach, we had a good view of Jamaica Bay and the South Brooklyn skyline.

Our party of seven was a mix of intermediate and first-time riders. Two guides went out with us, one picking up the pace wherever possible, and the other sticking with those preferring a more leisurely tempo. Once we were on the beach, one of the guides urged his horse ahead, and a couple of us did our best to race after him. Like many rental horses, mine had his own way of doing things, and he had decided this would be a good day for a hard, fast trot. He covered ground very efficiently, but I probably could have found a more comfortable mount if I'd chosen a coin-operated one in front of a grocery store.

As we headed back into the shade, our teenage guides began discussing which was the best horse on the trail with us. "Oreo, definitely," they eventually agreed. My young pal, Oreo's rider, straightened in the saddle. The discussion continued as we approached the second beach, our second chance to see what our steeds could do.

Once again, in spite of my urging, I couldn't get my horse into a canter. His best effort was that back-breaking trot. My riding partner, however, had greater success. She managed to get Oreo to shift gears into a canter, no mean feat on a contrary rental horse.

We headed back to the barn, cooling off our horses in the woodlands on the way. As we walked along, my young companion confided it was the first time she'd cantered. Her accomplishment added a special glow to the day.

Essentials

Jamaica Bay Riding Academy, 7000 Shore Parkway; (718) 531-8949. From Manhattan: Take the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Route 278; stay on Route 278 to the Shore Parkway; the Shore Parkway eventually becomes the Belt Parkway; exits to the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy are prominently marked. Guided trail rides cost $25 per hour. Western only, helmets optional. The horses all seemed quite mellow, regardless of how much experience riders claimed.


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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