PROSPECT PARK — Brooklyn Equine from Prospect Park Stable has partnered with a local group that provides therapeutic horse-back riding for people with disabilities, as the stable owner further revitalizes Brooklyn’s once-rich equestrian culture.
GallopNYC started its life in Prospect Park’s Bowling Green in 2007. Once the therapeutic riding group opened its own facilities in Queens two years ago, the organization had to trek its horses across borough lines to continue providing sessions in Brooklyn, until the new partnership started last month.
“We’re proud of our Brooklyn heritage,” said Gallop Executive Director James Wilson. “Brooklyn is still a very important part of our organization and we have a lot of our riders from Brooklyn.”
John Quadrozzi Jr., president of GBX — Gowanus Bay Terminal and owner of Prospect Park Stable, provides his horses to Gallop so the group can more easily give sessions at the Bowling Green, while supporting a variety of riding options in Prospect Park.
“We’re now one of the few remaining stables and we think that establishing horse riding in areas where it’s viable is important,” Quadrozzi said. “We basically want to support that aspect of riding.”
Gallop provides riding lessons three days a week at the Bowling Green and gives about 400 lessons weekly between Brooklyn and Queens.
Riding helps people with disabilities gain confidence, agility and physical strength, Wilson said.
“We found that when you put somebody with autism on a horse, the constant motion and the movement allows them to focus on the task at hand,” he said.
On a recent Wednesday morning, Gallop clinicians and volunteers worked with Quadrozzi’s horses to give lessons to about a dozen school children with various disabilities.
Nothing without a challenge
Because of the type of riding and the number of people walking beside the horses at one time, Gallop and Brooklyn Equine had to train the horses specially over the last month.
As for the space — overgrown with vegetation — it posed a threat to the horses and created an isolated environment when viewed from the nearby street. Some of the species of plants were most likely harmful to horses if eaten, Quadrozzi said, so he worked with the Parks Department and went in with machetes to chop down the vegetation that had gotten to be about 30 feet deep in the pen area.
Going forward, Quadrozzi plans to continue the cleanup and will seek Parks permission to set up a proper equine fence to keep the horses safe and far enough from the sidewalk.
Other ambitions for the space
Nestled on the corner of Coney Island and Caton avenues, the Bowling Green provides a contrast to city life. As tractor-trailers roll down Caton, pedestrians can now look into the green space and see Brooklyn’s equestrian connection.
Quadrozzi has been working with Parks for over a year to transform the space to promote equine turnout for the horses where they can roam and play with each other when lessons are not in session.
He considers it a health benefit not only to the horses, but to the passersby who witness it.
“Whenever people see a horse in turnout, they’re amazed when they see them roll around and play with one another,” he said. “They’re beautiful, majestic animals, especially in an urban setting, but here in the city we don’t get to see them in turnout.”
The Bowling Green is not the only area that Quadrozzi’s crew has helped to reclaim. Just steps away from the stables, a small park on the corner of East Eighth Street and Ocean Parkway’s service road was until recently filled with litter and smelling of rotting garbage. After the stable crew did some of the cleaning, Parks stepped up and finished the job.
The department pulled weeds, put down wood chips and removed the remaining garbage, and has continued regular maintenance there since.In addition, over the years, Quadrozzi has helmed repairs to Prospect Park’s bridle paths, and upgraded the “Q equine area.” He is also bringing back beloved traditions. In July, Quadrozzi revived the Prospect Park Horse Parade, which brought over a dozen horses to perform. Prior to this year, the event had not taken place since the 1930s.