It was a different New York, back when the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden opened the fall social season, and the swells dressed in black tie to attend. As the New York Times once pointed out, the 1887 registry for the show listing attendees and directors formed the basis of the first Social Register. But all that ended in 1996, when the National moved to East Rutherford, NJ, of all places, and ”the white-tie balls at the Waldorf-Astoria gave way to parties at the local Sheraton.” (Today the National is held in Wellington, FL.)
Now, amazingly, a few of the world’s finest riders and horses are competing at Wollman Rink in Central Park. Beginning last night September 18th, with the $210,000 Central Park Grand Prix through the Central Park Dressage Challenge on Saturday, Sept. 20th, and closing on Sunday, Sept. 21st, with the Central Park Polo Challenge, the Central Park Horse Show is giving New Yorkers a fine taste of the old days. Nestled among trees and wandering paths in the southern section of the park, the oddly shaped Wollman Rink is on the small side for Grand Prix jumping, much less polo. But the organizers have done a magnificent job of making it work, with the enveloping skyline of Central Park South lighting up the horses and riders.
Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg who watched from the stands, won the Rolex-sponsored Grand Prix riding on Juvina. She beat out her friend Jessica Springsteen, whose parents Bruce Springsteen and Patty Scialfa were also in attendance, adding even more glitter to a spectacular evening.
Where to Ride in New York City
The Bronx Equestrian Center (9 Shore Road, Bronx NY; 718-885-0551), located in Pelham Bay Park, says it is a full-service equestrian facility offering both English and Western styles. Pelham Bay’s bridle paths wind through woods and marshlands. The Wall Street Journal called it “far and away the best deal.”
Jamaica Bay Riding Academy (7000 Shore Parkway, Brooklyn; 718-531-8949) is a family-owned stables located in the Gateway National Wildlife Preserve, 400 acres of “manicured wooded trails and three miles of beach front” just for riders.
Lynne’s Riding School (88-03 70th Road, Forest Hills; 718-261-7679; email:[email protected]), set in Forest Park and accessible by car and public transportation, offers regular lessons, trail riding, and boarding as well as special courses in the summer.
And of course the Central Park horse and carriage industry is still going strong despite attempts to ban them. You can take a look at the stables where the horses are housed in our behind-the-scenes article here.
Julia Vitullo-Martin is a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association. Get in touch with her @JuliaManhattan.