Sad Farewell To Manhattan Riding Stable After 115 years

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ClaremontRidingAcademy, said to be the oldest continuously operated stable in the United States closed its doors last April and faded into the pages of history.

The stable has been a fixture on the upper west side of Manhattan since it opened as a livery stable in 1892, six years before the automobile began to negotiate city streets. It has operated as a riding academy since the 1920s, giving lessons and renting horses for rides in Central Park.

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The ClaremontRidingAcademy was a little-known fixture of the Upper West Side. It was a place where anyone could hire a horse and take it for a trot in the middle of the world’s most famous park.

It was where off-duty NYPD officers could ride shoulder-to-shoulder with Wall Street executives.

It was a slice of nature in the middle of the most urban few square miles of the city.

The landmark building was sold to developers and will now be made into condominiums. 

The closing of a half-forgotten riding stables right next to Central Park should have been a cause for city-wide mourning. Instead it merited a few press mentions and then it was gone.

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“It’s a unique place and I don’t think there’ll be anything quite like it again, ever,” said Claremont Riding Academy employee, Judithe Martin. 

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Trainer Karen Feldgus, who has worked at Claremont for more than 18 years, was giving her last lesson at the stable to a group of 10 people who were riding to music.

Feldgus began to cry as the music began playing. ‘These (horses) are all my best friends. I’ve ridden all of them,’ she said.

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Only a few horses remained that final closing week. Many were being retired, others sold to their riders and most will move to the PotomacHorseCenter in Maryland.

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Riding instructor Sarah-Jane Casey crosses Central Park West Street for a last ride into Central Park with a horse from the Claremont Riding Academy.

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Scores of New Yorkers looked on as a dozen Claremont instructors on horseback made their way out of the building for a final ride through Central Park to mark the end of its 115 years as a stable and riding school. 

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Some watching the procession cheered; some wept; some snapped photographs.  One woman called out to the riders: “God bless y’all”.

After 115 continuous years of operation, a piece of New York City history rode off into the sunset.

Only the memories of yesterday now remain.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Just stumbled across your blog with the item about the Claremount Riding establishment in New York. I was just browsing and recognised the picture of the ramp and thought ‘hey, that’s the riding school in New York’ and it was. I was living in New York in 1970/71 and used this riding school nearly every weekend, taking a horse called Atticus out into Central Park for a dose of sanity. Thanks for the article, but I’m so sad the place has closed down, never did anywhere need a riding academy more than New York – a sad loss.

    • How wonderful to hear from someone who had the great experience of being a part of the Claremount Riding School. You are fortunate, indeed. It is a tragic loss.

  2. Back in my polo days 1970’s/80’s I had a lot of polo friends who lived and worked in Manhattan. When visiting the City my friends and I would often ride in Central Park using horses from the Claremont Riding Academy.

    I rode a horse named Drifter there who, I was told, was a favorite of Mick Jagger when he was in town. He was very calm and easy to ride the blocks to the park between taxi cabs and traffic.

    On one visit to Claremont I was greeted at the desk by a young man who was 20 something, the son of the owner I believe. He asked if I could ride, and I said yes. Then with mild attitude he asked how and with what frequency I rode. I said I played polo at least three times a week. His reply was, “That doesn’t mean you can ride”. Half insulted and half impatient with this boy, I said I can ride anything you’ve got. The young man smirked, and my friend said, “He can”.

    Down the wood ramp came a thin Saddlebred looking horse. I mounted him in the riding area, dodged a few columns and proceeded out the door, across the sidewalk and onto the Street. We bounced off a cab or two, horns honked, pedestrians ran. We made it to the park and onto the bridle paths. While the rule is only horses can be on the paths, mothers push strollers there, joggers jog, and mean looking gang types used to strut with boom boxes down the center. I was worried about the mothers and the joggers as this horse bolted off. My buddy stayed close behind as we discovered how fast this horse could run. We went under bridges, across the entire park and finally the horse decided that he must conform.

    We had a nice ride and returned on a relatively loose rein in traffic. Upon entering the stable my friend pointed to the sign that said DO NOT RETURN HORSES WET! My horse was wet.

    As luck would have it, the young man was out of his office and in the riding area as we wandered in. He looked surprised. I dismounted and handed him the reins. He didn’t mention the sweat dripping off the horse’s girth.

  3. As of this writing, it’s hard to believe that in a few months a full decade would have elapsed since Claremont closed forever. It was there where I really learned how to ride a horse, and despite my not really fitting into the class of most of their affluent clientele I manged to find a niche there for myself thanks to the kindness of the stable’s owners Irwin and his son Paul, and the horse named Drifter whom they hooked me up with and allowed me to be his friend for 17 years. Truly public horseback riding has continued to disappear around NYC since Claremont’s closing although public trail riding has in recent years returned to Central Park thanks to one of the carriage stables (and their existence had been threatened by a politically and realty industry enabled animal rights lobby). I will never be able to afford to own a horse in my lifetime, so I am grateful for at least the riding opportunities I had with Claremont.


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