Woof vs. hoof! Dog and pony showdown in Prospect Park

Woof vs. hoof! Dog and pony showdown in Prospect Park
Lawbreakers: Horseback riders who take to the trails of Prospect Park’s horse-exculsive bridle path say that dog owners are not following the rules, posing a life-threatening situation to both humans and animals.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Rule-breaking dog owners who let their canines on Prospect Park’s horse trail put both human and animal lives in jeopardy, equestrians claim.

The greenspace’s winding three-and-a-half-mile bridle path is supposed to be a terrain for horses exclusively, but riders complain that dog owners often let their pooches stroll along the dirt trail, bark at the horses, and sometimes even chase them.

“The horses do not attack the dogs — the dogs do attack the horses,” said Manhattan horse owner Mark Adam, who claims out-of-control dogs have lunged at his horse several times in the past decade, biting and drawing blood twice. “One is a predator and the other is a prey animal.”

“There is no reason why the dogs should be on the trails — they have the whole park,” said Adam, who keeps his 1,000-pound steed, which he has asked this newspaper not to identify by name for fear of repercussions, at the nearby Kensington Stables.

Dogs are permitted off-leash in Prospect Park from 5 am to 9 am and 9 pm to 1 am daily in large areas including the Long Meadow, the Nethermead, and the Peninsula Meadow, but the freed canines often bolt out onto the bridle path, alarming the horses, riders say.

“There’s no way to stop a dog from leaving the Nethermead and getting onto the bridle path,” said Walker Blankinship, the 20-year owner of the Kensington Stables. “Dogs want to chase. It’s part of their instincts.”

Blankinship said that every year there is some kind of dog-on-horse confrontation, whether the canines are leashed or not, because some dog owners do not abide by the rules.

And sometimes those confrontations go from bad to “traumatic” when a horse gets spooked, he said.

“Occasionally, a horse gets loose over it,” he said, adding that dogs have chased horses out onto the street into traffic in the past. “I’m expecting there to be more incidents coming up.”

Signs along the bridle path indicate that “horses have the right of way” and “dogs are prohibited,” but riders say the placards won’t stop scofflaw pup owners without enforcement.

Parks officers give out tickets to lawbreakers, said Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.

“Failure to comply with signs can result in a $50 to $200 fine,” said Lalor.

Anthony Chiappelloni, president of FIDO, Prospect Park’s dog advocacy group, said that pup owners must abide the laws of the park — and those who ignore the signage or are uneducated about the rules are irresponsible pet owners.

“It’s selfish. They don’t care,” said Chiappelloni. “No dogs are allowed on any of the trails — it will hurt the horses, it will hurt the people on the horses, and it could hurt the dogs.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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