Steady...Go! Here comes the cavalry.
The Second Company Governor's Horse Guard (2GHG), stationed in Newtown and active at the direction of the Connecticut Army National Guard, is one of four state militias and one of the country's oldest cavalry units in continuous service.
"Our job was to escort the governor in times of peace in war. To sum it up, we are keeping Connecticut and military history alive," said CPL Jay Francino-Quinn, Shelton resident and member.
That history dates back to when 2GHG was chartered in 1808. The group uses a 1948 U.S. Cavalry Manual to guide their drills, which are practiced weekly on Thursday evenings. At one point 2GHG had about 35 horses, but budget cuts have caused that number to dwindle down to 10.
That doesn't mean the all-volunteer crew plans on packing it in any time soon. With 40 active troopers, the facility is constantly buzzing yet maintains a peaceful, positive environment.
"We're going to continue even if we have one horse," said public affairs officer 2nd Lt. Kenneth Fay. "Time goes by and we try to survive but we still have our heads up. Down the road, hopefully we can get up to 15 horses."
To make do, troopers now drill in shifts. Fay said the practice is vital to the company's livelihood.
"The drill allows the squad to work together and learn how to communicate to the horse. Drills are really important because it hones our skills and gets us ready for any mission we have to go to," he said.
The cavalry was called out last October during the unexpected Halloween storm. Horses and troopers were sent around the state and stationed at Red Cross shelters. The Troop was also activated by the federal government during WW1 and WW2
"We have to be ready to go," he said. "We represent our military and do it in a professional manner. There are not many organizations like that. It if was ever lost, you'd never be able to get it back."
Given the weight of such responsibilities, it's not hard to see why the horses (Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians and Morgans make up the mix) are doted on by members.
"The horses' safety is number one here, first priority," Francino-Quinn said. "They're treated better than we are. A lot of it has to do with making sure the riding gear is safe, and that's a lot of work for us but it has to be done."
In addition to on-call duty, 2GHG is currently involved with a couple different service programs. Saddle-up For Life is a recreational horseback-riding program for residents of Southbury Training School; supervised interaction with the horses has shown to be therapeutic, particularly for people with disabilities. Similarly, Blackhorse 4 Heroes offers equine therapy for disabled veterans.
"Where else can you do this and have these options?" said Sgt. Jose Rosa. "We see to it that all we can do as a militia is fulfilled. I want to do anything I can so that generations to come will be proud to say I was part of this."
The company's annual horse show will be held this coming Sunday, July 22 starting at 8 a.m., and on August 11 Tommie Turvey & His Amazing Horses will be in town! For more details about upcoming events, visit the 2GHG website.