The pandemic has made it challenging to get back in the saddle. Many of us are still reluctant to pursue pleasures we once took for granted, such as eating indoors at restaurants and gathering at home with friends. But there’s one activity you don’t have to buck: horseback riding. For the most part, it’s something you do outdoors, and in general it’s fairly socially distanced. In our new world, it provides a welcome change of scenery. Check out our guide to a dozen local spots and get ready to giddyup.
For nearly 12 years, this stable has delighted clients of all ages with its equine offerings—currently six horses and three ponies. Lessons geared to all levels of ability are available, “but we specialize in adults who want to learn from the ground up,” says owner Leigh Heyward. Rates are reasonable: $40 for 30 minutes of instruction ($75 for an hour); $65 for 30 minutes of horsemanship followed by 30 minutes of riding. There are plenty of places to explore here, including trails and an arena. Experienced riders who either own or lease a horse from the stables can ride at nearby destinations such as Blue Mountain and Rockefeller State Park preservations. Outdoor boarding on the property is available.
Heyward and horses have always gone together. “I’ve been professionally involved with them since 1999, when I attended Johnson & Wales University for equine business management,” she shares. From there, she went straight into working with racehorses and became certified as a riding instructor. “I spent the next few years learning and enjoying barrel racing,” she says. In 2010 she finally achieved her mane dream: starting this now-thriving business.
670 Shenandoah Road, Hopewell Junction
Originally a concession serving the defunct Nevele resort in the Catskills, 21-acre Braden Brooks now operates as an independent business. Ten gentle, well-trained horses carry riders along miles of scenic mountain trails (think rushing brooks and stately forests), and the stable even offers free instruction for beginners. A bonus: you can rest assured the horses here are well treated. “They’re part of our family,” says co-owner Bob Klipper, who operates the business with his wife Linda. “We would never let anyone abuse or overwork them.”
Klipper’s fascination with horses began when he was eight years old and attended riding camp one summer. “That was my passion throughout my youth,” he shares. He thought he’d become a veterinarian, but ultimately changed course. “I loved the animals, but the blood and cutting wasn’t in my nature.” Today, he and his wife have day jobs as teaching assistants. As for the stables, “To be honest, it’s like an expensive hobby now,” Klipper confesses. “We enjoy sharing our passion and love for horses.”
19 Mountain Dale Road, Greenfield Park
About 35 horses call this property— more than 80 acres in all—their home. While some of these animals are privately owned, others are available for lessons. The center, which has operated for nearly 30 years, offers half-hour and hour-long lessons, both privately and in small groups (call for pricing). There are two outdoor sand rings and an indoor arena. If you are looking to board, lease, or even buy a horse, the center can facilitate these services as well.
Owner and head trainer Jan Golash aims to provide not only excellent instruction, but an appreciation for the spectacular landscape. “We have beautiful property that our boarders and more advanced riders get to experience and ride through,” he shares. “Beginner riders often go for walks around the property after their lessons.”
83 Big Elm Road, Brewster; 845.279.4953
This stable has both horses and ponies on its 150-acre property, and offers half-hour and hour-long hunter/jumper lessons. Fees vary by how frequently you want to learn. Riders are taught in a ring on the property. For those who progress to the point that they’d like access to a horse of their own, there are boarding and leasing services available.
Owner and head trainer Jodi Moraski has been teaching for nearly 40 years, and is proud of the many riders she’s instructed. ‘They’ve competed at all levels of competition,” she says. Part of this stems from her acumen as an equine yenta: “We take pride in matching riders and horses at the appropriate level,” she explains. Along with her five staffers, Moraski pursues an unwavering goal: “We are geared to those that want to ride and learn proper horsemanship.”
112 Ridgebury Road, New Hampton; 845.355.7433
When this not-for-profit organization says it accommodates riders of all abilities, it means it. Clients range from adult aspiring dressage competitors to children who have cerebral palsy or are on the autism spectrum. The animals are diverse as well. Visitors will find 13 kind and well-trained lesson horses and ponies, along with a mule, a donkey, and a zonkey (a zebra/donkey cross). Lessons range between 30 and 60 minutes (visit the website for current prices). For those who can’t afford instruction, help may be available. “Part of our mission is to make riding accessible to people from low-income families, so we have some scholarships,” says founder, owner, and Executive Director Nancy Rosen, LCSW-r. Riders usually stay within the 55-acre property, which features two indoor arenas and eight miles of wooded trails, but advanced students are often taken to nearby Mohonk Preserve or Wethersfield in Amenia. Horse half-leases are available.
570 Old Post Road, New Paltz
There’s a reason this 55-acre horse-riding mecca has managed to stay in business for 23 years: Owner and trainer Laura A. Parker emphasizes a holistic approach to riding and horse connection. “It’s learning and education, communication, and biomechanics,” she says. Most of the horses here are privately owned and the farm primarily caters to their owners’ training needs, but there are exceptions to that rule. “I sometimes have privately owned horses that we use for lessons outside of the clientele,” Parker says. “If a horse is in training at the farm, including a few of my own, I will—given the right circumstances— train a client on them [if they commit to] a partial or half lease.” Note: this isn’t a place for newbies to explore whether they have an unbridled passion for riding. “We don’t have any beginner horses or ponies,” Parker explains. But if you have some recent experience, expect an exceptional training program here.
When a horse is available, Parker tries to have clients ride at least twice a week. “It’s for continuity and improvement,” she says. Rates vary widely depending on the horse, length of instruction, and whether a client has lent the animal to defray part of its boarding costs. There are many lovely places to ride on the property, which boasts three arenas and two outdoor trails, with plenty of woods and some hills.
40 White Hawk Trail, Patterson; text (don’t call) Laura Parker at 914.879.8417 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You don’t need prior experience to enjoy riding in the fresh mountain air here. Take your choice of private or small-group lessons, available to ages 4 and up. Besides an extensive trail system on the property, there’s an obstacle course and sensory activity stations, such as ring toss or ball games, which are great for children who have issues such as sensitivity to certain sounds. JL’s famously popular Ponysitters Program provides extensive hands-on horse learning time.
Leah Struzzieri, the business’s CEO, is a consummate pro, having been a trainer, instructor, and a national-level competitor for more than 40 years. (She’s even excelled beyond American distinction, riding horses for the Olympics.) In addition, she’s a certified equine appraiser and a partner for a leading horse valuation firm. Her extensive credentials may sound intimidating, but “everyone is welcome here,” she insists. “It’s like going to Grandpa’s farm to run around, ride, and giggle. I’m here seven days a week and I have additional staff. It’s definitely a team effort.”
Wingdale Mountain Road, Poughquag
What do you get when you combine 117 acres, a variety of gentle horses, and more activities and programs than you could ever hope for? The answer is simple: This stable, which is nestled in a scenic area of Orange County and open year-round. The property is comprised of charming farmland and trails, and visitors can take a 45- or 75-minute trail ride ($75+ and $105, respectively). There’s also an after-school program through which kids can learn how to both ride and care for horses. For those seeking formal instruction, the stable has membership clubs that include weekly lessons and discounts on equipment (a store stocking everything horse-related is situated on the grounds).
While riding is often seen as an upper class, rarefied activity, co-owners Lori Maney-Lentini and her nephew, Brian Stevens, emphasize accessibility. “We are a Western barn, not an equestrian English kind of facility. We are a regular family. We are not the expensive option,” she says. Her love of horses is an inherited one: “The stables belonged to my stepmother,” Maney-Lentini explains. “She and my dad were two of the biggest horse people.”
1204 New York 302, Pine Bush
People seeking guided trail rides and Western riding lessons have galloped to this facility for the past 30 years. Up to 10 riders at a time can be led along the trails, and the stables also have two miniature ponies to provide rides to 3-and 4-year-old children. No experience is required to ride here—there are 60 scenic acres of woods and meadows. Trail adventures are mostly one hour long ($50), as are the Western riding lessons (which include grooming and tacking). Even the kiddie pony rides ($25) teach responsibility; the 30-minute experience includes brushing the pony and leading it, along with riding. The Krumkill staff is also happy to arrange birthday parties as well as group trail outings.
Owner Jean Bigaouette acquired a respect for horses thanks to her dad: “He taught my sister and me how to care for them as well as ride them,” she recalls. “I now have employees to help with the chores and volunteers to groom the horses. We are very kind to our horses, and in turn they are very kind to us.”
460 Krumkill Road, Albany
When other kids were learning how to draw a horse, Hilary Hunt, who manages this farm, was already riding one. “I started at age three and never stopped,” she says. “I’ve competed in many different events, such as hunter and jumpers, dressage, cattle sorting, barrel racing, and driving.” She also enjoys passing along her love of riding to others. “One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to give people who are visiting the area an experience they wouldn’t normally be able to have, as well as watching my students progress and achieve their goals,” she shares.
The 12-year-old business has a fluctuating number of horses on its 65 acres, but a group of eight reliable and proven horses and ponies is always present. Both English and Western lessons are available to riders of any level (contact the farm for further details and pricing). Kids two and up will adore the pony rides. Although trail riding is not offered here, there’s a large outdoor arena. If you’re lucky enough to already own a horse, or want partial use of one, the farm offers boarding, leasing, training, and medical rehabbing. Last of all, you can have a pony birthday party here to delight a child (or—admit it!—your inner one).
458 Schillings Crossing Road, East Chatham
Don’t let the name fool you: this 140-acre ranch actually specializes in guided trail rides, and has between six and 10 horses at the ready at any given time. Horseback riding lessons are $50 an hour, but owner Rich Lundy says his animals are so experienced that he can have even beginners hitting the trail in minutes. “The horses know what to do—you give them a little kick they go, and you tell them ‘Whoa’ and they stop,” he explains. Depending on how long a trail ride you choose ($60 per person for an hour, $120 for 3 hours, and $150 for a half day), you’ll ride to destinations such as a state-owned fire tower or a scenic lake where, come spring, you can set out a picnic lunch before returning. You’ll likely also venture into nearby Pittstown State Forest or Grafton State Park. And, oh yes: the ponies. There is one, along with small horses that are available for children’s birthday parties, church events, and more.
542 Kautz Hollow Road, Johnsonville
This 40-year-old facility is comprised of two seven-acre campuses, one of which boards horses, and the other of which houses 45 lesson horses and ponies. The latter campus is the only dedicated riding school in the county offering lessons seven days a week. “We start riders at six years old and have clients well into their seventies,” says Manager Scott Tarter, who along with his wife Elizabeth, the head trainer, owns the farm. Beginners take half-hour sessions, and then move up to group classes when they’re comfortable at walking and trotting. Adult-only lessons at 8 p.m. cater to those whose jobs prevent them from arriving earlier. Sixty dollars will get you a half-hour private lesson or an hour of group instruction. Because the farm is set within the 160-acre Twin Lakes Park, boarders and advanced riders use its trails. (Public trail rides are otherwise unavailable.) The farm also has indoor and outdoor rings for riding and lessons.
A native of Westchester, Scott got his start in the business as a groom and horse van driver, and studied equine management in college. He and Elizabeth met in the business and have worked together for more than 20 years. The horses are the stars of the show— literally. “In addition to the robust riding school and show barn, our farm has been the set for many movies and TV shows,” Scott says.
960 California Road, Bronxville
Sure, it sounds fun to be a horse owner, but it can be quite pricey. Brian Stevens of Juckas Stables recommends arranging a 30-day trial lease for a horse you’re seriously considering. He says it’s becoming a common practice, and for good reason. “That way, you know if you mesh,” he explains. “I can get along with a horse that’s a little grumpier than most. Other people want one that’s a little love bug. So it’s all in what you’re looking for.”
Stevens also strongly suggests that novices ask their trainer to help assess whether the horse is a good fit for not only your immediate needs, but your future ones as well. “As you get more experienced, you’re going to ride a different quality of horse,” he shares. Depending on the price range, you may also want a veterinarian check too.
And what might that price range be? “Buying a horse is a lot like buying a car,” Stevens says. “You can purchase a horse starting in the thousand-dollar range, and there are multiple reasons why they’re in that range. Perhaps it’s an older horse that is going to need a lot of maintenance, or maybe the horse has slowed down.” Even some younger horses fall into that bargain range. “They might not be as well trained as they need to be,” he shares. From there, the sky’s the limit. “I know a few guys who have spent a quarter-million dollars on a horse,” says Stevens.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend nearly that much. “Our average horse that we typically have for sale is in the three-to five-thousand dollar range,” Stevens shares. “They’re comfortably able for somebody to get on them and enjoy them. They’ll do what you want in a ring or on a trail. They’re kind of the mom’s minivan of horses.”
Whether you’re looking to ride along a paved and level surface, or navigate through woods that give way to sweeping vistas, these eight spots offer a range of options.
There are 3,350 acres here, and happily, horseback riders are welcome. Just remember that the trails are multi-use, so you may pass hikers and dog walkers.
Equestrian trails at this green haven, which sprawls over more than 1,400 acres in both Putnam and Dutchess counties, are open to the public during spring, summer, and fall.
Long ago there was the Rutland Railroad, which ran from Bennington, VT, to Chatham. Some portions of the rail beds are still in good shape, including this 2.5-mile trail, which crosses Columbia County into Rensselaer County. It’s open for most of the year, except in marked places for deer hunting season.
Beginning in Highland and ending in New Paltz, this 3.6-mile, gently sloped asphalt trail spans the distance between Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park and Tony Williams Park, which means it will lead you to a destination as scenic as the one from which you embarked.
Horseback riding is permitted on this 376-acre expanse along the Mahwah River. Willow, apple, and dogwood trees are a few of the many you may see, along with wildlife like wild turkeys, and red foxes.
There are a number of forested trails throughout this preserve that will keep you cool and comfortable as you ride. From open fields, you’ll see enthralling views of the valley.
This 6,700-acre public area offers more than 22 miles of trails for horseback riding. Except for several trails and a boardwalk, horses are allowed on all its public roads.
Looking for wide open spaces? Look no further. Here’s where you’ll find miles of blazed, unblazed, and unpaved roads. At 4,315 acres, this is the county’s largest park. Open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to dusk, year-round.