By Amy Phillips Penn

You can have Tiffany’s, the Trump Tower and a “Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” but a horse in New York City? I don’t think so.

“And Allah took a handful of southerly wind, blew His breath upon it, and created the horse.”

Inhale, it’s the Year of the Horse.

I love New York and I have loved all its horses: police horses, Saddlebreds, polo ponies, carriage horses: especially the one who ate too many cans of Beano in Seinfeld.

I ache in their absence; the park has lost so much of its fantasy and folly without them.

There was something about a New York horse that said “look but don’t touch too much; ride but don’t fall in love; and anything can happen, and often did.”

As a child, I would ask every mounted policeman that I passed if I could pet his horse. Police horses were mainly bays (brown body, dark manes and tails) and were good looking, regal and happy to make a New York child’s day.

They sensed how much they meant to us.

I rode at Claremont (riding filled my phys-ed requirement at school), had a crush on every other riding instructor and the few boys who rode there. Claremont was a few crazy streets of a ride to Central Park. Runaway horses and loosely hanging riders abounded.

There were polo armories in New York; the closest one to where I lived was at 93rd Street and Madison.

A friend and I went in one day to ask if we could exercise the polo ponies. We were dressed in jodhpurs, with our whips tucked into our boots. It often took a lot of push to move a Claremont horse, unless he was running away with you.

“Don’t let my boss see that whip,” the polo groom sternly advised.

We never returned.

Instead, I feasted on my father’s stories about my Great Great Uncle Max, who played polo and umpired at New York armory polo games.

I have his DNA tattooed onto my soul.

The National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden was the glamorous event, for horse lovers and High Society, another pedigree of sorts. Opening night was Black or White Tie: time to wear the bowlers, mink jackets and muffs, and trot out that New York attitude.

Great horses have always cultivated cachet.

In the nineteenth century, close to one thousand members and directors featured in the National Horse Show program segued into the first Social Register.

Horses aren’t just for the privileged, but it helps to pay the alfalfa bills.

In one of the many collections of horse stories, an introduction remains in my being. I will paraphrase as best as I can.

“Many children would like to have a horse. Why don’t they? There are simply not enough horses to go around.”

As the bridle path began to decay, I wrote an article for the New York Post asking for support. The bridle path needed more dirt.

Sounds simple? Not so.

As the bridle path withered and reassigned ownership to joggers and bikers, Claremont couldn’t afford to stay alive.

The horsey set moved on to Millbrook and the Hamptons.

I played polo at the Southampton Polo Club, which is New York City mounted for the most part.  You can even see Nacho, if you’re lucky.

My mare Diosa was said to have summered there before I met her.

She has written and whispered her own tale Diosa: One Mare’s Odyssey on the Planet Earth to her New York co-author, who knows that a horse can rock your universe seismically, soulfully and mythologically.

%name Vintage Gossip: The Year of the Horse in the City
Image courtesy of Amy Phillips Penn

Diosa – that’s Goddess to us – wishes that horses still made Central Park come to a vivid, picturesque life, and doesn’t want that loss to domino.

She’s seen too much for a mare. After fleeing from one too many hurricanes and fires, she knows that we have to protect our planet and animals in emergencies.

Are you in?

Enjoy the the Year of the Horse.

It morphs the mystical power, immortality and speed of the legend that is known as a horse.

 

Featured image courtesy of The Blaze 

 

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