Kensington Stables may soon gallop off into the sunset.
If the city Health Department implements new regulations about caring for horses, Walker Blankinship, owner of Kensington Stables, says he’ll have no choice but to end his operation in Prospect Park.
“If I have to go to box stalls, I have no intention of maintaining any horseback riding in Prospect Park,” he told this paper. “If I’m putting a two-foot-high pony in an eight-foot-high stall to appease animal rights activists, then I’m not wanted here. I’m going to leave.”
One of the new requirements, those box stalls are larger than the straight stalls some horses currently reside in.
The changes would also require that horses have a five-week vacation. And Kensington Stables would have to install a sprinkler system in the barn. Blankinship supports the fire safety measure but balks at the $35,000 price tag.
These new rules would decrease the number of horses Blankinship can maintain and put significant financial strain on Kensington Stables, 51 Caton Place.
“If we were to remain open and have to give up seven of the rental horses that are in straight stalls, it would cost $260,000 in lost revenue,” Blankinship noted.
The Health Department proposed the regulations in response to animal rights activists’ calls for better treatment of horses in Central Park.
But Blankinship says his horses are already “treated just fine” and would not benefit from the changes, which the Board of Health will vote on at its March meeting.
“Horses do not understand vacation time,” he insisted. “You strive to maintain consistency for the horses so why would you give them a vacation?”
Greenpoint resident Eleanor Celmer has been a loyal rider at Kensington Stables for nearly a decade.
“We treat our horses well, they’re well-maintained, they’re happy and healthy,” she said. “They’re not overworked, there’s no need for a furlough.”
Celmer says horses will be in shock if moved from straight to box stalls.
“They will not be able to adapt to it. They’re so used to a straight stall where they can see all their friends and be able to look around at the barn,” she explained. “One horse got very upset when we put him in a box stall.”
The Health Department told this paper that it is “now reviewing all of the comments submitted during the public hearing and comment period.”
The thought of losing horseback riding in Prospect Park is “devastating,” Celmer said.
“The trails in Prospect Park were designed for horseback riding,” she explained. “It’s kind of like asking what would New York City be without yellow cabs?It would be completely different, it wouldn’t be the same ever again.”