When you think of Brooklyn, horseback riding is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.
I grew up fifty miles from the city in a small town on Long Island in an area zoned for horses; the lady down the street kept two on her property that I spent countless hours gazing at with awe and envy. I started riding lessons at the age of nine and kept at it through college, participating in my school’s IHSA team. But after graduation, I moved to Brooklyn and didn’t take a lesson for nearly ten years.
About three years ago, I made the decision to return to riding. Life without horses just wasn’t right for me and I had to find a way to make it work.
While there are plenty of options for horseback riding not far outside the five boroughs—on Long Island, in Westchester, and in New Jersey—there are, unsurprisingly, only a few choices within New York City. Like me, most residents do not own a car and must rely on public transportation. Two of the three remaining options (since the Central Park stables closed their doors in 2007 after nearly a century) are in the borough of Brooklyn.
51 Caton Place
Brooklyn, NY 11218
For those looking for an urban riding experience, Kensington Stables is the place to go. Kensington, one of the most diverse residential areas in Brooklyn, houses a barn that is the last remaining vestige of a riding academy that was built in 1917. Nestled on a corner among rising condos, the barn continues to be a historical holdout in a neighborhood that has undergone much development in recent years.
Walking over the pedestrian footbridge that spans Ocean Parkway, you begin to pick up the warm scent of horses. At first it’s quite incongruent, surrounded as you are by the cold concrete of the city. But once you enter the barn at Kensington Stables and feel the familiar presence of horses, it’s like the city drops away for a moment and you experience the cozy feeling of all barns, everywhere.
The barn offers trail rides that are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. You mount outside the barn and head out for a trail ride through Prospect Park—Brooklyn’s counterpart to Central Park, built in the 1860s by the same landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, who created Manhattan’s oasis. But before you can enter the leafy peace of the park, you must first ride through the Ocean Parkway traffic circle, a multi-lane intersection of several main thoroughfares that thrums with city traffic. Luckily, the horses are pros at handling all the hooplah; they barely twitch an ear at the sirens going by. There are also the helpful guides—on horseback and on foot—ready to step in and calm the horses if one of them becomes startled.