Spring Hollow Marquesa is a liver chestnut Morgan mare, foaled on July 10, 1996. She was bred by James and Evelyn Skillington of Spring Hollow Morgans in Hopewell, PA, and sold to the University of New Hampshire Equine Program at the age of two.
UNH had once been known for breeding sturdy, solid Morgans through its governement grant program. These horses were used by UNH to teach students everything from riding to driving to drill team to eventing. In an ad for their breeding farm, the Skillingtons recognize Marquesa’s sale and state that “Marquese marks the first Morgan introduced into the dressage and combined training-oriented breeding program in more than twenty years.” Janet Briggs, then program director, said she had been looking for size, length of stride and strong, correct conformation. “It had become difficult for us to find sport horse type movement and conformation in the Morgan breed,” says Briggs in the ad. “I’m very impressed with Marquese. She’ll fit right into our program.”
Marquesa was started at UNH in the school’s young horse training course, and transitioned into the riding program as she matured. At the age of three, she was bred and the next year produced a colt foal named Max. A subsequent attempt to breed her was unsuccessful, and Marquesa entered the school horse herd.
Marquesa was around eight when I first met her, and she stood out to me largely because she had a bob tail (allegedly chewed off by her foal and never regrown) and her lack of a half halt. She would literally lap other horses in the ring as she veritably zoomed past them, neck up, knees up, looking ready for the saddle seat ring. When riders tried to slow her down by pulling, she would transition into any of a number of “not gaits”, including both a running walk and the tranter.
Slowly but surely, we worked on teaching riders how to execute a proper half halt on a horse with Marquesa’s natural enthusiasm, and the quality in her gaits improved. She became a reliable and consistent jumper, and in time was always my reliable, steady-eddie “go to” for riders who lacked confidence over fences. While she always carried a bit more pace and moved with a shorter step, I knew I could count on her to just do her job, which in turn allowed riders to relax and begin to focus on learning essential jumping skills.
Where Marquesa especially shined was as a cross country schooling mount. I can’t tell you how many nervous, timid or fearful riders Marquesa has escorted out onto the UNH cross country course….but I can assure you that nearly every single one returned to the barn smiling and joyful, thrilled to have had so much fun, thanks to their wonderful mount.
As Marquesa approached twenty years old, she started to show some signs of losing her sense of humor for packing novice riders around. The staff of the UNH Program decided it was time to find a retirement home for her. A senimental favorite, she was voted the Zone I Region 2 IHSA Reserve Champion School Horse of the Year in 2016.
Marquesa came to live at Cold Moon Farm on May 21, 2016. Far from being ready to retire, Marquesa is enjoying the next phase of her life as a trail horse and working student mount. Her sweet and willing Morgan temperament has allowed her to tackle new challenges such as bushwhacking, crossing streams which touch her belly, and riding solo. I am constantly amazed by her willingness to do what I ask, especially given that for eighteen years of her life, she lived in one place doing group lessons.
**I spell Marquesa with an “a”, though her registered name is with an “e”. This is because of my love for the song “Southern Cross”, by Crosby, Stills and Nash, which refers to the Marquesa Islands in the lyrics.**