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Muttontown Preserve Annual Equestrian Open House

Muttontown Horsemen’s Association and Nassau Suffolk Horsemen’s Association host event  

The Muttontown Horsemen’s Association (MHA) and the Nassau Suffolk Horsemen’s Association (NSHA) held their annual open house at the Muttontown Preserve on April 29. It was a perfect day for the event, sunny with a bit of breeze.

Through their care of the equestrian area, they have shown that they are the lead agency involved in the care of the Muttontown Preserve. Recently Nassau County hired Saratoga Associates to come up with a blueprint for caring for all its parks and preserves. There was a need for looking at the future of the parks and preserves because of the daunting economic climate that caused cutbacks in staffing of workers who maintained those open space areas. At the Muttontown Preserve a staff of 10 was reduced to one fulltime and one half-time employees. The recommendation of Saratoga Associates was that Nassau County residents should form “friends of the parks and preserves” groups to support their local open space venues.

The MHA has continued to step up to the plate and take responsibility for the special equestrian features of the preserve, which is the only one in the county that allows horse activities. MHA President Kathleen Kleinman said that this season, the MHA has held several cleanup events for the trails and have repaired the split rail fence around the equestrian rings at the preserve.

“We added 60 rails to the fence around the rings,” she explained. “We’d like to put a bronze plaque on a rock there to honor the late William Uhlinger, a MHA member, who died on Oct. 3, 2011 and who founded and was the commander of the Rough Rider Troop re-enactors, which honors President Theodore Roosevelt’s group.” She added they need the approval of the county to do that.

Attending the MHA open house was the new commander of the Rough Rider group, Frank Bradford, “Think of Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony,” he said as a mnemonic device for his name.

Mr. Bradford is the NSHA president emeritus and the new Rough Rider Troop Commander. He has taken the role of the late William Uhlinger. Mr. Bradford is a photographer and a marine insurance underwriter. He said the RRT have scheduled 35 engagements this year, The provide living history demonstrations. “Ten events are set up for this year already,” he said. 

Meet Augie and Friend

Diane Gormly of Muttontown brought her horse, Augie, a haflinger, an Austrian breed, to the event. “The Muttontown Preserve is a only dedicated equestrian riding facility in Nassau County. The two groups running the show, the MHA and the Nassau Suffolk Horsemen’s Association are very dedicated to the horse community.”

Mike Hrycak of Muttontown added, ‘They are fighting against the rising tide of regulations and lack of sensitivity to the equestrian community. People move to an equestrian area but they don’t want horses in their backyard. Trails are cut off. The trails are no longer deeded here to riders’ use.” Ms. Gormly added that “Only Old Westbury still has dedicated trails.”

Mr. Hryck explained there are fewer continuous trails than there used to be in Nassau County. “People with backyard barns have trouble getting here because of that lack of continuity,” he said. At one time there were equestrian trails that allowed riders to go from Old Westbury to Cold Spring Harbor – all through what was essentially private property. New residents buying into the area expressed fear of accidents and lawsuits in case of injury.

The MHA and the NSHA have taken a proactive stance in terms of insurance, and people attending the April 29 event were given insurance waivers to fill out and sign, in place of an admission fee.

There were sandwiches, free for a donation. Tents were set up selling T-shirts and horse-related items. There were equestrian demonstrations all during the day.

At around noon there was a demonstration by the Islip Horse Association’s The Spirit of Long Island Mounted Drill Team. It was formed in 1978 by John Jorgenson, a NYC mounted police officer. The show announcer said they have a wide variety of breeds and ages of horses. Some riders have been involved for more than 10 years. The aim of the group is to learn precision horsemen’s skills. They are active in performing for many groups including at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Howard Minsky of Upper Brookville, who is with the Sweet Hollow Stables, acknowledged a friend of his who was riding with the drill team—Carol O’Dougherty, a retired Stony Brook University professor. “They practice once a week,” he said. The troop did several impressive choreographed marches and runs on horseback, holding American flags high, showing the Spirit of America, the theme of the group.

“Don’t miss the East End Ass Whisperers,” said Kathleen Kleinman. “They rescue Sicilian donkeys and [they]are performing in the second rink,” she said. Sure enough, the donkeys were pulling small carts to the great enjoyment of the riders and watchers. There were many families attending and one mother watching the Islip drill team was encouraging her daughter to consider joining them, an indication that there is an active equestrian community here on Long Island.