Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Freely" is the Key

A little off topic today, but still within the park.
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe announced yesterday, a plan to bring horseback riding back to Central Park.
Some Animal Rights groups might oppose this decision, but I mostly see it as something that will run into many hurdles, literally.
Since the Claremont Riding stables closed in 2007 and horses left the park, I personally have missed them.
Nothing is quite so exciting and lovely to see as an accomplished rider on a beautiful horse galloping freely through landscape, forest or field. 
In fact, one of the three very best experiences of my life was a day spent at an upstate  ranch, many years ago, riding a beautiful black horse named "Gypsy."  We rode like the wind through quiet woods on a gorgeous, cool April day.  When the horse went into a cantor, I felt we were flying.  The experience was like a beautiful, fantastic dream that I never wanted to end. --  I will never forget it.
But, trying to repeat a similar experience at Central Park a short time later, wasn't quite the same.
Probably because I was not an experienced rider and the horse knew it, he simply refused to enter the park when we finally got to it from the stables on West 89th Street.  Perhaps the crowds were too much.  Or, the horse simply knew the woman on his back was a klutz and he decided the place he wanted to go was back to the quiet stable.
No harm done.  I am not about forcing animals to do something they don't want or would not enjoy as much as I.
But, herein lie my concerns about potential horseback riding at Central Park as the park is now.
Since the horses left in 2007, the bridal path around Central Park as mostly become a jogging trail.   That might be OK were we talking about solitary runners or even those running in pairs.
But, increasingly, the bridal path has become a kind of training spot for those instructing groups of young people to run.
The groups can be as large as 15 to 20 running back and forth in a line.  I think of them as "posses" of runners and sometimes my two small dogs and I have to dodge.
How is that going to be for someone trying to ride a thousand pound horse and navigate through the large groups of joggers?
Forget about galloping or cantering (unless it is the middle of winter).  The horse and rider will be lucky to just get through the bridal path without being barked at by dogs, chased by unruly kids or having to dodge a running posse.
Even before the stables closed and the horses left the park, in 2007, this had become an increasing problem.  (In fact, that is why I thought horseback riding had ceased in the park.-- It was simply too stressful for horse and rider.)
Only the most accomplished riders and horses were able to get through the bridal path unstressed and unscathed.
It seems most pedestrians don't know enough to stay off of bridal paths when they are actually being used by horses and riders.  And I doubt that will change if and when the park brings horseback riding back, unfortunately.
In order for this to work at all, the park would have to put up warning signs advising groups of runners, dog owners and even people with active young children to stay off the bridal paths during times they are in use by horses and riders.
The idea may be noble, but the practicality does not seem to be there right now.
Instead of being like a "fantastic dream," horseback riding on the bridal paths of Central Park presently would likely be more of a nightmare.
The parks love to attract crowds and do all they can to encourage human use of our public parks.
But, sometimes there are "conflicts" as anyone reading this blog knows in terms of our "conflicts" with wildlife, specifically, Canada geese in our parks.
But, unless some understandings, preparations and concessions are reached and agreed to between human runners (and other bridal path users) and equestrians, this is a conflict waiting to happen.
Still, as said, there is nothing quite so lovely and exciting as seeing an accomplished rider on a beautiful, healthy horse galloping freely through the terrain.
But, the word, "freely" is key to whether this beautiful scene can ever actually happen again in Central Park --  or whether it will ultimately be just one more "conflict" between animal and human. -- PCA

No comments: