April is a wonderful time for many reasons. But for me, it’s also the yearly celebration of my birthday. And this year, when I was asked what I wanted to do, I quickly responded: “Dinner at 21 Club after a horseback ride in Central Park”, not even knowing if the latter was possible, but knowing I wanted a horse theme. So why not ask for a horse-level view of one of the world’s largest gardens? I wanted to experience one of the world’s most amazing landscaping parks from a different vantage point.
That said, a ride is possible, as I discovered on a perfect Spring day. My afternoon began by meeting George (who was to be my riding escort), his expert groom Harold, and my new horse friend GQ. GQ is a 15-year old male, who was gentle, strong and responsive to me as a rider. Together they would bring to life my birthday wish.
This magical hour-long, the semi-private ride would be a surreal experience that left me breathless and filled with sheer delight that I not only could embrace the beauty of Central Park (and from a completely new vantage point) but also put my retired equestrian skills to the test. I strongly recommend you try this when you are in New York.
Tempted yet? Rides are available by appointment only (see website listings below for contact information) through licensed operators only, who work in cooperation with the Central Park Conservancy. Rides are available for riders from beginner-level to advanced. You can opt for either English or Western style, and they even have all the equipment. (Not wanting to wear a bicycle helmet I, of course, brought my own riding helmet!) My friendly and helpful guide George made the experience both fun and challenging for me. I only wish I’d also worn the right shoes; my loafers, although fabulous-looking, did not only clash with my riding helmet, they also did not cover my ankles from the necessary rubbing against the stirrups throughout the ride. (Bringing your own boots is recommended, even ankle boots, as these cannot be provided by the Equestrian Center.)
So considering the need to be properly prepared, why bother? Because it was like stepping back in time as we alternately walked and cantered around the Park. I had a rare chance to something so traditional but in an environment as modern as New York City. The Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom, and passing beneath the canopy created by row on row of these blooms was magical. The view of the city, peeking through the trees, still seemed worlds away. The carpet of daffodils in yellow and white covering the park reminded me of why I love being a Spring baby. And the feel of the sun and breeze as we made our way through the trees and lanes was the perfect welcome to Spring. But something else unexpected happened: people — and I mean strangers — want to talk to you. In a city commonly defined by a feeling of personal isolation, I, in fact, felt very connected to my surroundings in a remarkable new way.
But any time of year would be a great experience. In fact, rides are available through most of the year. Thanks to humane protection laws that I support wholeheartedly, the horses are only out when the weather is between 30-90F, giving you months and months of enjoyment.
At the all-inclusive average price of $100 per hour for a private lesson, it can be the perfect splurge for a gift. It is a gift that is more memorable than many things you could buy for the same money. This also makes it the perfect “To me; for me; love, Me” gift. I’ll be back, and I do plan on introducing this MARvelous experience to others.
And there you have it.