Tony Russo has been taking care of horses at the Babylon Riding Center his entire life.
His father, John, bought the land at the end of Peconic Road in North Babylon in 1964 based on how much he enjoyed giving riding lessons in Central Park. Russo was a mason and subsequently built the main office and stables out of concrete, something that other Long Island stables have begun doing.
“I pretty much grew up with it,” Tony said. “I tried a couple of different things. I enjoy what I’m doing and if you find something you enjoy doing and you’re making money at it, more power to you.”
Members of Russo’s staff are also equestrian lifers. Rider and and instructor Erin Easop, 27, started riding horses when she was 4 years old after her grandfather put her on the back of a plow horse in Southern Ireland.
The weather doesn’t faze committed riders like Easop. At 3 p.m. on a bitter Saturday afternoon she was saddled up, trotting through a trail surrounding Southard’s Pond, her horse’s hooves leaving imprints in the frozen snow.
“We’re open all year long,” Russo said.
He said that riding isn’t incredibly popular in the winter, but he still sees a sizable turnout. For safety reasons he only allows snow riding during the early afternoon, when the sun is strongest.
Fourteen-year-old Chelsea Sheldon of Lindenhurst spends much of her weekends at the center, practicing for shows and volunteering to care for the horses. Emily Cornell, 13, does the same and treks out from New Hyde Park.
On Saturday the pair wrapped up Juliette, a 9-year-old horse, in a cooling blanket so she wouldn’t cramp up or get sick from the rapid temperature change after returning to her stable.
“It’s so much fun,” Sheldon said. “You just want to come here every day.”