I think I’ve finally thawed out from my trip to New York City on Saturday to visit the carriage horses and drivers at the Clinton Park Stables and in Central Park. The welcome was so warm that I barely noticed the cold temperatures or the wind at the time. Over two hundred people tramped through the historic stables as the grooms and drivers went about their daily routine of hitching up the horses and moving the carriages out to the park. The horses were amazing.
Not one horse ever showed any signs of anxiety or distress. They enjoyed the attention and the carrots and the noise. They stood patiently, not even tied, as they waited to go to work. I’ve been around a lot of horses, at competitions, racetracks, and in all kinds of barns. The carriage horses are happy creatures, so loved and well cared for, and their behavior shows how they know that they are just where they are meant to be.
I was able to meet many of the people that I’ve come to know and admire on-line: drivers Ariel Fintzi, Steven Malone, Christina Hansen, Eva Hughes. Video and still photographers, Sandi Bachom, Nina Galicheva. Poet and photographer Doug Anderson. And of course, there was the loving presence of Pamela and Paul Rickenbach Moshimer along with their merry band of hardworking horse lovers from Blue Star Equiculture, spreading their good energy to warm up the crowd.
Then, I had one of those amazing, never to be forgotten experiences. Ariel offered to transport me and my daughter from the stables to the park. His horse, Rebecca, won my heart in a big way. Ariel snuggled us in under some big, soft cozy blankets, and Rebecca began her calm, steady route. They vary the way to and from the park so that the horse is comfortable and unafraid going wherever Ariel asks her to travel. We never had an anxious moment, as taxis and trucks and cars sped around us, and Ariel turned to talk to us, leaving the reins in his lap while Rebecca navigated across many lanes of traffic. I felt that we were surrounded by this protective glow, and while everyone was rushing, we were moving at a relaxed pace where we could appreciate all the sights and sounds of New York City. I almost felt like we were floating. Often, as we passed by, people would stop what they were doing, smiles would light up when they saw the horse, and they would wave at us. Clip clop, clip clop, the rhythm was sort of in sync with the beat of my heart.
In the park, Ariel began his magical tale, telling us about the history of horses in the park, about his parents and his childhood, about his friendship and experiences with Chief Arvol and the Native American friends he has made. While he talked, many memories of my 18 years living in New York City began to flood over me. I spent so much time in Central Park, needing to feel the grass and trees and to visit the carriage horses while I was in my twenties and thirties in order to keep my balance in that sharp edged, ambitious town. As Ariel sang us a touching and beautiful song that he has written for his horse, I realized that every day, he lives and works in the ethereal space of unexpected magic – the same magic that I experienced and loved while I was young and growing up in New York. No wonder he has done it for 35 years. He helped me fall in love with this powerful, mystical city all over again.
I could have stayed in the protective bubble of Ariel’s carriage forever, but after a couple of hours, he noticed that my child was turning into an icicle so we headed over to 59th Street. When I drove into the city that morning, I had expected that I would see a confrontation between the protesters and the carriage horse and driver supporters, but the rally had been cancelled and there was not a single protester in sight. I realized how glad I was that my memories of this magical mystery tour were completely loving and happy.
Soon, I will edit the video that I shot and post it, after I spend some time wrestling with the new editing program that I am trying to learn. I hope it will capture some of the glory of the horses and the drivers. They were so gracious and welcoming to everyone who came to visit them at the stables.
We made a wonderful new friend, Ariel, who has the most joyful and open spirit. He was incredibly kind to us. And I am thankful that I was able to once again share my love of horses and New York City with my daughter. I know that she had an experience that she’ll never forget, even if her lips were blue.