Remember that classic Seinfeld episode where quintessential New Yorker Jerry announces that he hates anyone who had a pony growing up? (If you don’t remember that scene, watch it here, you won’t regret it.) The reason for Jerry’s animus probably has something to do with New York City not exactly being a haven for the horse-riding set. (Though, as an Upper West Sider in the 1990s, he at least still had The Claremont Riding Academy, one of the oldest continuously operating stables in the United States right in his neighborhood. It closed in 2007.)
Unlike Jerry, we believe horseback riding is a “do” for city dwellers. We’ve found six places kids can pony up and get their equestrian on right here in NYC. So get your riding boots ready and read on to find out where your kid can experience her first ride, improve saddle skills or show off her expert riding style.
Riverdale Equestrian Centre
Van Cortland Park
West 254th Street and Broadway
Trot: The youngest riders (kindergarten and up) are paired with the safest ponies, the gentlest horses and specially trained instructors. The goal is to make every child comfortable on horseback and to instill a lifelong love and respect for animals. Private lessons of either a half-hour or an hour are encouraged at the start. Once the youngsters’ skills and confidence have reached a certain level, they can then opt to join a group lesson.
Cantor: A 90-minute long Afterschool Program for the more serious rider offers pick-up from Manhattan’s Upper West and Upper East Sides as well as a door to door return home (score!). Children are grouped by ability and learn not just dressage, but also grooming, stable management and horse care.
Gallop: Got your very own horse that doesn’t quite fit into an NYC apartment? Riverdale Equestrian Centre will board your animal at their facility, feed it three meals a day, clean its blankets and even clip its hooves (You thought cutting a newborn’s nails was difficult? Try giving a horse a pedicure!).
NYC Riding Academy
One Wards Island (i.e. The Middle of the East River)
New York, Ny
Trot: Categories here include Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced or Competitive, and lessons are offered in both the Western and English riding styles. The Basic Curriculum features equine lectures, riding lessons, demonstrations, grooming, tacking, lunging, barn management, feeding and more. This academy has an official uniform that must be worn for all classes.
Cantor: Advanced classes available in dressage, jumping and cross-country training. Veterinarians and specialty trainers also give regular lectures and lessons.
Gallop: Birthday party packages are available!
Bronx Equestrian Center
9 Shore Road
Trot: Not quite ready to commit to formal lessons? Try a pony ride! Open seven days a week, no appointment necessary and at a cost of only $5 for three rides by the same child, this is one of NYC’s best hidden bargains!
Cantor: English and Western riding lessons are available for children ages 6 and up, and an evaluation is required to ensure your child gets placed in the right group.
Gallop: For the month of July, The Bronx Equestrian Center hosts a “horse orientated children’s program” (or what some might call a “camp”) from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm Monday through Friday for kids ages 6 to 17. Activities include grooming, stable safety lessons, riding lessons, trail rides, carriage rides and indoor activities on rainy days.
Lynn’s Riding School
88-03 70th Road
Forest Hills, Ny
Trot: $10 for three times around the ring may not quite be the Pony Ride bargain offered by Bronx Equestrian Center, but it’s still a pretty good deal for NYC.
Cantor: Children ages 6 to 9 start with a series of 15-minute private lessons in an English saddle at this Queens riding school. Only after they are deemed ready by their instructor can they choose to stick with English or move on to Western.
Gallop: Love the idea of horseback riding… just not for yourself? They’ve got gift certificates!
51 Caton Place
Trot: Take private, Western or English riding lessons in either an indoor arena or along the bridle path in Prospect Park, available to children ages 6 and up.
Gallop: Horseback riding lessons can get pricey. Kensington Stables offers a Barter Program where current students, their parents and even friends can volunteer to do hands-on electrical or construction work in exchange for discounts.
Jamaica Bay Riding Academy
7000 Shore Parkway
Trot: Pony rides are available for children up to the age of 8, while private lessons can be booked by any age group (though there’s different price levels for those under 12 and over 13).
Cantor: Summer Camp is for ages 5 to 15, runs from the end of June through August, and includes daily lessons, arts, crafts, animal care and rides along the beach! Extended day hours are also available.
Gallop: Ready to start training for a competition? Jamaica Bay Riding Academy has an Elementary School Team. Proper Show Horse Attire is required, but you do not need to own a horse in order to participate.
Where did you learn to ride your first horse?
Images courtesy of Jamaica Bay Riding Academy, Bronx Equestrian Center, Lynn’s Riding School