Written by Kate Czaplinski
It may no longer be charged with escorting and defending the governor — that is, unless New York invades Connecticut — but the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard is keeping a tradition and history intact each week.
Shelton resident Jay Francino-Quinn, who is also an elected member of the Board of Education, is a member of the all-volunteer state militia unit. It runs cavalry drills every week on the bucolic grounds of Fairfield Hills in Newtown. It is one of the last cavalry units in the country that still works with horses. Troopers ride in 1928 McClallan saddles, the last issue by the U.S. Army.
“We are here keeping Connecticut and U.S. history alive,” Francino-Quinn said.
When the second company was formed in 1808, the First Company Horse Guard already existed and served in the “other” Connecticut capital, Hartford. At the time, New Haven was also considered a capital of the state. The Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard was formed in October 1808 by an act of the General Assembly. The duties of the original company were “to attend upon and escort him [the Governor] in times of peace and war” to New Haven. The group also escorted visiting diplomats.
The horse guard still serves the governor and state as a dress and ceremonial unit of the Connecticut Army National Guard.
The guard run events throughout the year, including an annual horse show that will be held on Sunday, July 22. The group also holds riding lessons for people with disabilities.
Francino-Quinn became involved about four years ago. He was afraid of horses and decided he would conquer his fear, since his daughter had just started taking riding lessons.
“I served in the U.S. Army for eight years of active duty,” he said. “I saw a recruitment poster for the horse guard and thought it was a good way to extend my service.”
Horses are now a love of the Shelton resident.
“When I’m away from here for two weeks I feel like I’m missing something,” Francino-Quinn said before his drills in Newtown.
There are currently 39 volunteer members, and anyone is welcome to apply. Due to state budget constraints there are fewer horses than members so the drills are split in groups between marching and riding.
The guard is always looking for new recruits.
“They don’t need to know anything about horses,” Francino-Quinn said. “We have people who served in the military and who didn’t. That first day of training, everyone is on the same sheet of music.”
To learn more about the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard visit thehorseguard.org or call 203-426-9046.