Even though union ratification of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed concession package would most likely eliminate the state order for the First and Second Company Governor’s Horse Guards to reduce their herds to 10 each, it is possible that the Avon unit may lose horses regardless.
“Right now, we’re in the process of either returning or adopting out seven of our horses,” said Maj. Michael Downes, commandant of the First Company.
If a plan to move the Second Company from Newtown to Avon happens, the First Company will be forced to reduce its herd size from 17 to 10, keeping the horses that are most suited to the unit’s need.
Two of the horses would be returned to the standard breed retirement organization in New Jersey that donated them, and if the mandate is reversed, the Horse Guards will be able to recover them. Five others will be available for adoption through a bidding process.
Individuals interested in adopting one of the First Company horses are asked to reach out to Caretaker Lisa Dinsmore at 860-673-3525 to talk about available horses and set up an appointment to see the horses.
Should they choose a horse they want to adopt, people will be allowed to place bids until Aug. 12 at 3:30 p.m. To do so, they are asked to mail a bank check amounting to their proposed bid, paid to the order of “Treasurer, state of Connecticut.” If a bidder is not selected, the check will be returned. Bidders should also write a note on the outside of the envelope indicating that horse bid documents are enclosed.
“This is a much more humane solution than was originally discussed for the horses that deserve to be properly taken care of,” said Downes, who explained that otherwise the horses would have gone to the highest bidder at a University of Connecticut equine auction, which wouldn’t necessarily mean they went to the right owner. “It’s far better to retire the horses and make sure they get good homes.”
The address for the bids to be sent to is:
Attn.: Joe Balesano
360 Broad St.
Hartford, CT 060105
After the deadline passes, the bidding process will officially open on Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. The horses will go to the highest qualified bidder and the applicants will contractually be given their horses by Aug. 19, with no condition that the horses will be returned if the union agreement is approved. The new owners would need to pick up the horses in a trailer.
“We might lose the horses anyways,” Downes said.
He said they will look at options to increase the herd if the mandate is reversed and they are short horses.
At this time, there has been no transfer of horses from the Second Company, Downes said, but the deadline for the transfer is Aug. 22 if one of three scenarios play out.
In the first and current scenario, if the unions ultimately do not ratify the SEBAC agreement, the Second Company will share Avon’s Arch Road facility, under separate command, and both units’ horse sizes would be reduced to 10 each.
The second scenario is that the First and Second Company reduce their herd sizes, but the Second Company would stay in Newtown, funded solely by private donations, piloting a pseudo public-private model. This is an agreement that State Rep. Chris Lyddy (D-106) said that he and other Newtown area legislators have made with the Military Department. Downes said he had read about the agreement, but he was not part of the discussion.
Finally, if the unions agree to the concession deal the state is proposing to close a $1.6 billion gap and balance the biennial budget, both Horse Guards units will operate as they currently do without herd reductions or the Second Company moving to Avon.
The First Company has been ordered not to go to its annual training in Niantic in order to prepare for the Second Company’s possible move. Downes said that the military department will wait “until the last possible minute” to transfer the Second Company, if that is the outcome.
“We’ve had to clear out administrative office space to accommodate both commands, as well as clear out storage space and stall space,” Downes said.
He said that the unit has “had to be creative,” since the “building wasn’t built to have two commands.”
“We’re focusing on the consolidation and hoping it won’t happen,” Downes said. “We’ve done our best to accommodate our friends from Newtown. We understand they’re losing their home, and if they have to make this their new home, we want to make this as comfortable as possible.”
Even with possible changes looming, the First Company has already recruited six new members who underwent 16 weeks of training. There is a graduation ceremony scheduled for them on Friday at 7 p.m. at the unit’s headquarters at 280 Arch Road.