Riding in Rotten Row – 2011

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When I was booking my New Year’s Eve trip to England this past January, I searched high and low for a company that offered carriage drives through the London parks, a la New York’s Central Park. There are none. What with the state of London traffic, one can hardly blame them. And no doubt there are at least 37 laws currently on the books against the practice. But what a pity that the City once known for it’s fashionable promenades through the centuries should have let this tradition disappear altogether. Fashionables, fops and fair ladies with fine figures (not to mention splendidly attired servants) are now but distant ghosts. Phaetons have fallen by the wayside and Gunter’s is gone. Oh, the humanity!

However, a very last vestige of London’s equine past can yet be found at Hyde Park Stables, Bathurst Mews, W2, housed in an authentic mews used for stabling horses. Here, at least, not much has changed through the centuries. Although I don’t think they buy their horses from Tattersalls. No matter, the horses and ponies from Hyde Park Stables are well-known for their calm temperament and you’ll be escorted around the five miles of bridleways across Hyde Park so there’s no fear of getting lost.

“There have been horses here continually since 1835, aside from just two years in the Second World War when the building was used for motor vehicles,” says Catherine Brown, manager of Hyde Park Stables. “Mews are not very spacious but we’ve fitted air conditioning and rubber flooring for the horses. . . people are amazed there are still horses in an area like this. They just expect homes.”

Hyde Park Stables London
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Cost is about $115 per hour, helmets and boots provided. One drawback, no cantering allowed. A trot is all you’ll be allowed unless you pre-book an hour lesson in order to have your riding skills assessed.

One can only wonder at what Count d’Orsay must be thinking of this turn of events.

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