TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
LifestyleFamily

5 horseback riding experiences the family can try this fall on Long Island

Danae Oliveri, 17, of West Islip, rides alongside

Danae Oliveri, 17, of West Islip, rides alongside members from the Parkview Riding Center in Connequot State Park in Oakdale on Sept. 17. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

If your family is up for trying a new activity this fall, some may say there's no better time to try horseback riding. In autumn, riding on Long Island is booming, local stable owners say. Some credit it to the pandemic, since horseback riding is an ongoing, outdoor activity, but that’s the tip of the iceberg.

"Riding the trails when the leaves are changing is glorious," says Pauline Stechman, barn manager of the Bethpage Equestrian Center. "The air is crisp and clean. It’s nicer for people and nicer for the horses."

How is it possible to choose one stable that meets your specific needs? It comes down to this: what’s your horseback riding type?

RIDE-INTO-THE-SUNSET TYPE

If a sunset horseback ride sounds intriguing, meet at the Parkview Riding Center and take a guided trail ride as the sun goes down in Connetquot State Park. Parkside Riding Center owner Michelle Minieri describes the experience. "We’ll do a sunset ride, by reservation, on a Friday night. You might see deer out there, foxes and turkeys, and you’ll stop at Bunces Bridge, a specific spot in the park that’s beautiful when the sun sets." The Connetquot River runs below the bridge. Before turning back, if you happen to see a shattered pumpkin floating along, who’s to say it doesn’t belong to the Headless Horseman? As the tale goes, the headless horseman rides along a river at night.

INFO: Parkview Riding Center Inc.; 989 Connetquot Ave., Central Islip; 631-581-9477; Trail rides: $75 per hour, ages 8 and up; parkviewridingcenter.com. Call in advance for appointments.

MR. ED TYPE

If sensing what a horse is thinking and feeling makes you smile, the horsemanship workshop at the Big River Barn Rescue might be a perfect fit. Instead of horseback riding during the workshop, you’ll spend time beside a horse picking up its cues. If a horse stomps, it might be to shoo flies away. If a horse is interested in knowing if you have something for it to eat, it might nuzzle its nose in your pocket. Big River Barn Rescue director Janet King sums it up: "It’s for people who have a huge appetite for anything horses."

In addition to the workshop, there are six very gentle, well-trained rescue horses at the barn. "We ride in the Muttontown Preserve," King says. "Trails go through fall foliage in fields with wildflowers, meadows, lots of woods and marshes. You feel far from civilization even though you’re in Nassau County." After the ride, feed the horses apples and carrots.

INFO: Big River Barn Rescue Inc; 1864 Muttontown Rd., Syosset; 516-650-0016. Text Janet King in advance to arrange all appointments; Hours: Tuesday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday-Monday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Price: Trail rides — $150 per person age 12 and up. Horsemanship workshops offered on weekdays. Lessons offered; bigriverbarn.com.

THE HESITANT TYPE

If you’d like to ride near a horse, but don’t want to sit on it, check out the Bethpage Equestrian Center. By mid-fall, horse drawn carriage rides will be offered. On the other hand, if you decide you’d like to hop on a horse, you can ride on a trail beside the woods in Bethpage State Park. It’s filled with wildlife and red-tailed hawks in the fall.

In the stable, there are close to twenty horses to choose from, including a chestnut horse, a white one with blue eyes, a strawberry roan, even a few draft breeds. "We have a horse for every skill level, but most who come for a trail ride are beginners," says barn manager Pauline Stechman. "Some riders form a bond with their horses and ask for the same one a second time. No matter what your size, we have a horse for you. Everyone should be able to ride."

INFO: Bethpage Equestrian Center; 499 Winding Rd., Old Bethpage; 516-845-1000; Open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays and Mondays 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; bethpageequestriancenter.com. Appointments required.

FALL FOAL TYPE

If you’d like to ride a pony while surrounded by a pumpkin patch, hayrides and corn roasting in the background, the White Post Farm in Melville is the place to be. There’s a fall festival on weekends through Oct. 24. After a pony ride, pick or paint a pumpkin, visit the petting zoo, watch a magic show, and so much more. Pony rides are also offered during the week.

INFO: White Post Farms; 250 Old Country Rd., Melville; 631-351-9373; Open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; whitepostfarms.com

THE IMAGINATIVE TYPE

Nothing’s impossible.

Located on a tree farm that’s ripe with colors in the fall, the new unicorn party at The Little Red Barn is where the magic happens. It’s an intimate, children’s barn where you can have a party with up to four unicorns. The Little Red Barn founder Kate Nickles says, "We’re a place where families join together."

One family group or party can celebrate at a time. The unicorn party begins with guests brushing a white pony or horse that has a soft horn attached by ribbons. Next, they decorate the unicorn’s mane and tail with multicolored bows. (There are also candy-corn-colored ribbons for Halloween.) Lastly, guests take a ride around the farm on the unicorn. Families are welcome to gather at a picnic table with their own food, soft drinks or wine.

INFO: The Little Red Barn; 351 Manor Lane, Riverhead; 631-566-1690; Open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; littleredbarnny.com.

If you can’t visit a unicorn, a unicorn can visit you. Wild West Farms in Middle Island will drive their unicorn anywhere on Long Island to join your outdoor party. A gentle, sweet, white pony will arrive decorated with ribbons, pink or blue washable paint, glittery hoofs and a horn. Wild West co-owner Rob West helps each child step onto the unicorn and leads them around the yard. "Some kids are timid and just want to pet the unicorn. Other kids ride around once and they’re through. And other kids keep getting back in line and ride around and around and around," West says. "The most fun is when the unicorn arrives at the party. Kids ask, ‘Is she real? Can she fly? Let’s see!’ "

INFO: Wild West Farms Inc.; 54 Yaphank Middle Island Rd., Middle Island; For all arrangements and pricing call Lori West at 631-295-8324. Hours are by appointment only.

More Family