Tucked away in a quiet corner of Van Cortlandt Park, shielded by miniature evergreen trees, is one of only two riding stables in the Bronx.
Riverdale Stables at 6394 Broadway has five outdoor rings and a single indoor ring — the only one in the borough. It provides a little piece of the countryside in an urban environment, using a barn originally built in 1946. And according to operations manager Scott Tarter — who took over the stables in 2014 with his wife — the 23-acre property has had a storied history.
The stables were condemned several times over the decades, especially in the 1980s and 1990s for not meeting building standards and being poorly maintained.
“Previous owners were not putting in capital investment,” Tarter said.
But all that has changed.
Today, Riverdale Stables offers after-school programs, and an interscholastic horse riding team for middle and high schoolers as well as programs for older residents and veterans with disabilities.
Ali, Leo, George, Chantal, Tex, Sterling, Dazzy, Monty are just some of the four-legged, horse-shoed stars who make up Tarter’s fleet of hard workers.
Riding classes are available for kids as young as 6. It also provides the twice-weekly rides required for students to join the Interscholastic Equestrian Association scholastic team.
Finding a place to ride horses isn’t the first thing many might think about when they imagine services available in New York City. But while there might not be a ton of places to ride, it can still create a piece of the country in the middle of the nation’s largest city.
Take Jayson Newsome, who visited Riverdale Stables because he’s moving to North Carolina soon, and wanted to blend in a little better.
“I want to learn how to ride a horse because down there, it’s all country,” he said. “It’s not like New York where there’s trains.”
The stable is home to 80 horses — primarily American quarter horses, thoroughbreds, and warmbloods. Since taking over in 2014, Tarter’s team has more than doubled student enrollment. But he still faces some adversity.
Cost of living in New York is really high, so attracting the right humans to work with the horses is very difficult. Getting supplies like feed to the barn, and dealing with waste, also are not the easiest things to get so far into the city.
“Supplies have to be trucked in, 18 tons of hay come in every three weeks,” Tarter said. “With that much hay being consumed, the waste that is produced is also trucked away.” That waste is recycled into a mulch a called sweet peet, which farmers use to grow crops.
The stables also are home to two of the city’s parks department mounted service units, which were first established in 1858 in a time when mounted cops were absolutely needed in a car-less city. Today, those horses are key to the force’s public relations, and are cared for at Riverdale Stables as part of its deal with the city.
And even after three years of running the stables, Tarter still takes immense pride in providing horseback riding lessons for the community no matter the season.
“I used to be a teacher here, so to see this place grow means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s like living at the circus, but without the elephants. It’s like a little piece of horsey heaven.”
CORRECTION: Law enforcement horses kept at the Riverdale Stables are maintained by the city’s parks department. A story in the Sept. 28 issue said otherwise.