A plan to treat city horses better than some human residents is about to put the venerable Kensington Stables out of business.
If the Health Department goes ahead with new regulations regarding the care of urban horses, Walker Blankinship, the stable’s owner, says he’ll have no choice but to close.
The regulations would require the stable — a pastoral throwback on the southernmost corner of Prospect Park for decades — to build more-spacious stalls for the horses, install a $350,000 sprinkler system, and even give its tailed tenants a five-week equine vacation.
“I have no intention of maintaining any horseback riding in Prospect Park” if the regulations go into affect, Blankinship said. “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.”
The vacation period also struck Blankinship as absurd.
“Horses do not understand vacation time,” he insisted. “You strive to maintain consistency for the horses, so why would you give them a vacation?”
Blankinship accepted the need for a sprinkler system, but scoffed at the hefty price tag.
All together, Blankinship said, the new regulations would force him to cut back on the number of horses in his beloved stables on 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 long-standing complaints regarding treatment of carriage horses in Manhattan.
But Blankinship says his horses are already “treated just fine” and would not benefit from the changes, on which the Board of Health will vote at its March meeting.
An equestrian hailing from Greenpoint, Eleanor Celmer, also said the city may be overreaching in its proposed regulations.
“The horses are treated well, they’re well-maintained, they’re happy and healthy,” said Celmer, who has ridden at the stables for nearly a decade. “They’re not overworked; there’s no need for a furlough.”
The loss of Kensington Stables would be a loss for all park users, even non-riders, 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.”
— with Michele De Meglio