Urban Cowboy: Saddle Up in the City This Spring
by Theta Pavis
When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert B. Vaux designed Prospect Park in Brooklyn they had horses in mind. Not only are there nearly 600 acres of green space, the two landscape architects also made sure there were trails and bridle paths to explore—on foot or on horseback. What they envisioned, says Walker Blankinship, was a place where visitors could “ride or walk or take a carriage and it would be like being in upstate New York without ever having to leave the city.” The park contains Brooklyn’s “last remaining piece of native woodlands” and its only freshwater lake.
Blankinship knows how peaceful riding a horse through the many trails in the park can be: he owns Kensington Stables, which some 30 horses call home. The stables have been located here since the 1930s, when it was part of a private riding academy with nearly 80 horses. In the 1950s, Blankinship says there were huge horse shows held at the Grand Army Plaza (the entrance to the park). Kensington is the last remaining stable in the park.
Kensington offers lessons, beginner trail rides (one hour) and longer rides (up to two hours). “You don’t have to take a lesson, but it’s recommended,” says Blankinship, who adds that birthday parties at Kensington Stables are very popular. The regular season runs April to November. Lessons are $57 an hour; and hour’s ride is $37.
You can also go galloping in Central Park, with Chateau Stables. In 2007, the longtime Claremont Riding Academy in Central Park was forced to close but since July 2014, Chateau Stables has once again been offering horseback riding in the park. Prices are $125 for a ride lasting an hour and 15 minutes. Lessons and pony rides are also available. Guides will meet you in the park on the bridle path, which is 4.2 miles long.