History

Our History Tells the Story

Bedford's riding trails were first cleared nearly a century ago as an accommodation to the Fairfield-Westchester Hunt and provided a means for foxhunters to travel across the countryside to meets.

In 1920, a group of horsemen and large property owners established the Private Lanes Association. Their aim was to preserve, protect and maintain a system of country lanes and trails on private property for the convenience of equestrians so they could avoid the paved roads and increasing automobile traffic. More than 50 miles of such trails were open and additions were constantly being made.

The Private Lanes Association became a publicly supported, non-profit organization now known as the Bedford Riding Lanes Association under the auspices of Marilyn Simpson. Today, the BRLA still preserves over 100 miles of the most beautiful trails in the Eastern United States.


Spotlight on Caramoor: by Caroll Bancell  Did you know the BRLA trails cross the grounds of a Mediterranean-style palazzo on 80 acres, complete with a Spanish Courtyard and formal gardens? It is Caramoor, the home of our area’s largest and most renowned summer music festival, The Caramoor International Music Festival. Riding the BRLA trail at Caramoor will give you only a small glimpse at the splendor that lies within the gates.


Spotlight on Beaver Dam Sanctuary: by Nicki Esdorn. It is a lovely summer morning and I am humming as I get my horse ready for a special trail ride today. We are going to explore some of the most beautiful trails in our BRLA system, the Beaver Dam Sanctuary. . .


Many people were saddened by the recent passing of Mrs.Thomas (Wilhelmine) Waller. Not only was she a lifelong supporter of both show hunters and racehorses, but she also was the consummate horsewoman. . . .

 


Gerald Nielsen Tribute: Gerald Anton Nielsen, Sr. owner of Sunnyfield Farm in Bedford died suddenly on Monday February 2, 2004; he would have been seventy years old in March. Mr. Nielsen and his wife Joanne Tammany Neilsen have owned Sunnyfield Farm, almost three hundred acres, in the heart of Bedford's riding country since 1976. See also Spotlight on Sunnyfield Farm . . . by Roger Savitt


Spotlight on John Jay Homestead by Roger Savitt: Perhaps the folks at John Jay Homestead should try out this slogan: "Bring your horse here and help us recreate history." By fall, this landmark in Katonah will see the opening of new riding trails designed and built by BRLA. These trails, to link with others already in existence, will do more than strengthen a long-time bond between the historic site and the trails association. They will bring more horses to a place where horses are a comfortable fit. As site manager Alix Schnee puts it: "Horses are a direct connection to our past." . . .

Spotlight on Sunnyfield Farm by Roger Savitt: Think of Bedford and you might think of Sunnyfield Farm. Among all the local stables, perhaps none is as recognizable as this inviting home to rolling pastures, yellow stables and grazing horses. With some 230 acres along Route 172, Sunnyfield is as prominent as it is picturesque -- one of the first places you see when you enter town from Interstate 684 . .


Spotlight On Bedford's Wood Family by Roger Savitt: Relying on nothing more than a bucket brigade, family members were quickly outmatched by the fire that erupted in their home during the predawn hours of April 27, 1869. Frantically, they then began pulling out as much furniture as they could. Soon, even this desperate effort was being abandoned, when a grandfather's clock within the spreading canopy of smoke and flame was heard chiming the hour - no doubt its last . . .

Spotlight on BRLA by Jan Montgomery: The PLA (Private Lanes Association) was the predecessor of the BRLA. Mrs. Tilt believes it dates back 80 or 90 years; she rode the trails linking her family property, the Prestons' with the land of the Wood and Brewster families and extending beyond Mt. Kisco toward Seven Bridges. They were well maintained by a Mr. Harrison who was paid by all the families using the trails . . .