When thinking about the areas closest to New York City, the first image that comes to mind probably isn’t of rolling pastures and trotting horses. Nonetheless, Boulder Brook Equestrian Center, next to the Scarsdale pool complex on Mamaroneck Road, has been providing a suburban outlet for horses and horse-lovers for more than 90 years.
Boulder Brook offers horse and pony riding lessons for kids ages 4 and up and adults of any skill level. It also offer horse boarding, space leasing, show teams, camps and the largest indoor ring in Westchester County as well as outdoor riding space that operates year-round.
A training staff of four professionals, headed by Audrey Feldman for the past 16 years, provides guidance and support to riders of all ages and skill levels looking for a tinge of country living in the suburbs.
Many of Boulder Brook’s riders are local kids, teens and young adults who get involved early on, fall in love and stick with the sport and Boulder Brook until college or even onward. A calendar on the wall of the lounge area just outside the barn testifies to this with a big red mark on a date in late August, denoting the day one dedicated rider would leave for college and become a Boulder Brook kid “forever.”
Ten-year-old Scarsdale resident Momo Sato started her lessons at Boulder Brook at age 5, following in the footsteps of her sister, Yuri Sato, now 13. The sisters spend almost every day of the week at Boulder Brook, coming to the stables after school on weekdays and often on weekends.
“We come in and say ‘hi’ to the trainers, do laundry because there’s a lot of laundry, and go into the ring and see if there’s anything the trainers needs us to do,” said Momo. “It’s fun because everyone is really nice here and the horses are calm.”
“If you have a lesson, you’ll come in and be told [what horse] you’re on. I usually [arrive] an hour or more before I ride so I can groom my horse and get it ready,” said Yuri.
Friend and fellow rider Maya Katcher, age 13, also attends Scarsdale schools and has been riding for about seven years, the longest of the three. Though she and other riders like Yuri and Momo keep a busy schedule at school and expect to do chores like laundry and grooming when coming to the stable, she looks forward to spending time at Boulder Brook five to six days a week, if not more.
“Bonding with the horses is my favorite. And it’s also a de-stressor, especially in middle school with all the work and stuff; it’s therapeutic,” said Katcher. “When you’re riding you can’t focus on what you’re worrying about because the horse can sense it, so you just have to focus on what you’re doing and it’s just fun; it’s a distraction.”
“For me, coming to the barn is so relaxing,” agreed Yuri. “Hanging out with my horses and the other horses is so peaceful; it’s like my resting time.”
Though the three girls now interact with the horses like naturals — with 5 to 7 years of training under each of their belts respectively — none of them grew up around horses outside of the stable. According to Katcher, she asked her mom around the age of 6 or 7 if she could take a horse ride. Her mother obliged, figuring it would end up being one pony ride or two. Instead, it became something so important to Katcher that she is already thinking about which colleges have the best equestrian programs.
“My brother is going on college tours and every time they go to one with equestrian programs, they send me pictures of the barns,” said Katcher. “Cornell is beautiful, but I need the grades for that … I guess I have a few years.”
Yuri said she first realized she was interested in horses while watching one of her brother’s soccer games at Winston Field next to the barn.
“I was at one of his games and I heard a weird noise and turned around and a horse was there,” said Yuri, noting that she immediately asked her mother to begin taking lessons after seeing the horses being ridden. Momo, like any good little sister, followed soon after.
“I first liked interacting with horses because of my sister and the first time I rode I was really excited,” said Momo. “I tried to hide my smile because I was embarrassed [at how much I smiled.] After a while my sister got real riding boots and I stole hers — I was just so excited I didn’t care.”
“I wore cowboy boots from a Halloween costume and leggings and borrowed a helmet for my first [ride],” said Yuri. “I walked over to my horse and we automatically bonded.”
The bond that builds between rider and horse is a trope that comes up again and again in movies and books, and it certainly came up over and over again among the riders at the local stable. Specific horses each present different personalities and sets of challenges, teaching the rider a new set of skills or concepts with each session.
“Oliver is my favorite because he’s not so easy to ride. He’s just a little hard and I still have stuff to fix with him, but he’s also sweet and cute and teaches us a lot,” said Momo. “When you’re riding you get to bond with the horse, and some are a little meaner than others on the ground. But when you get on them, they’re like a totally different horse.”
“I think it’s cool because there’s a lot of partnership and it’s almost like a team sport because your horse is like your partner and you have to communicate with your horse,” said Katcher. “You have to know their feelings and what their body language means and although it sounds difficult at first, you get used to it. And the trainers help you out so much.”
Boulder Brook riding students have the opportunity to show off their abilities at local and national riding shows throughout the year. The equestrian center also offers pony rides and birthday parties by appointment, and a summer camp with riding instructions and lessons in horse care and stable management for riders of all levels ages 6-12.
For more information, visit boulderbrookequestrian.com.