She’s devoted decades to producing pretty ponies and raising the standards.
Sometimes, on a soft summer evening, Marguerite Taylor-Jones will place a chair in the shade of a tree and gaze at the weathered red barn and paddocks where hundreds of ponies cavorted.
She replays in her mind walking down the aisle, with pretty pony heads hanging over the stall doors, nickering for their breakfast. And she reminisces about quiet nights spent rubbing a soft gleam into young ponies’ coats, getting them looking their best.
On just 3 acres in Hampton, Va., Taylor-Jones, 78, created an enduring legacy of pony bloodlines that continue to run through top performers today. The famous Cymraeg Rain Beau was born here and began his storied career as a sire with Taylor-Jones, who owned and bred him.
“She brought the entire pony hunter division to a new level through her breeding program and desire to excel,” said Richard Taylor, Taylor-Jones’ nephew and a successful pony breeder, trainer and judge today.
Though Cymraeg Rain Beau passed away in 2000 at the age of 25, his impact on today’s pony hunters is strong. He was consistently in the top of the U.S. Equestrian Federation pony hunter sire standings for more than a decade, topping them in 2000 and 2001, and was fifth in 2006. His son, Blue Rain, has topped the pony hunter sire standings from 2005 to 2010, and there are five other Rain Beau sons on that list.
Some of Rain Beau’s most famous offspring are Buzz Light Year, Light Up The Year, Dow Jones, Blue Mist, Beaujolais, Remember The Laughter, Lucky Me, Lucky Too, Millbrook’s Tiny Bubbles and Knickerbocker.
“He was a huge deal. He was special the day he was born,” said Taylor-Jones’ daughter, Marianne Taylor, of Rain Beau. “He started our own generation of breeding, even though we’d been breeding to other people’s stallions for years. We bred a lot of mares to him—they came from all the best professionals. It was a special time. Rain Beau established [my mother] as one of the premier pony breeders in the country.”
No Corners Cut
As important as Rain Beau was to Taylor-Jones and her breeding program, Richard Taylor emphasized that he wasn’t a fluke.
“Rain Beau was the next step in her evolution of where she wanted to go. She created him; he did not create her,” Richard said. “Before Rain Beau ever came along, they had some ponies equally as good as what he sired later. Rain Beau is extremely important, but he didn’t take them to a new level. He carried it on, but Marguerite was on her way.”
On their modest farm, in a 17-stall barn, Taylor-Jones and her first husband, Kenneth, and their son and daughter, Kenny and Marianne, bred, raised and sold some of the best ponies in the country. Marianne did much of the riding, while Kenny preferred riding tractors and doing farm maintenance.
“I did all the foaling and the breeding. Looking back, it’s a miracle I did it all,” said Taylor-Jones. “I did it all with not much help other than my family. I had young girls who would come in and want to be around the ponies, and I had some that were as loyal as could be. I taught them to ride in return for helping with the barn. I’d go away to shows and leave them in charge of the farm. I did it with family and volunteer help.”
While Taylor-Jones didn’t have the biggest operation around, she made the most of what she had. “We had the best tack, we had the best riding clothes, we had the best ponies,” said Marianne. “And it definitely wasn’t because we had a lot of money, because we didn’t. It was just the way Mama did things. They ate the best hay and feed, they were bedded up to their knees on the best bedding. She was very detail oriented. Everything we did, we did right. There were no corners cut anywhere. We just worked hard.”
Taylor-Jones’ first husband, Kenneth, was in the real estate and insurance business, but horses were in his blood. “Our whole lives were centered around the horses and ponies,” Taylor-Jones said. “He loved the ponies as much as we did. In all his spare time, he loved rubbing on them. He was a perfectionist. Because of him, I learned to be a perfectionist also.”
Taylor-Jones can remember that on spring nights when she couldn’t sleep, especially in the month before the Devon Horse Show (Pa.), she’d go down to the barn in the middle of the night and groom ponies, content in the quiet barn.
Devon was the true showplace for Taylor-Jones’ ponies, and for almost 30 years, starting in the late 1960s, hers dominated the pony breeding division.
“I would sleep at the barn at Devon,” Marianne recalled. “We’d start braiding at 1:00 in the morning and just get it done. One year we had 26 breeding ponies at Devon, and they were all ready to go by 7 a.m.”
They went to horse shows every weekend, but the show ponies also foxhunted and trail rode and went swimming. “They did everything,” said Marianne.
Three That Started It All
Taylor-Jones didn’t get into breeding right away, but her eye for a pony was apparent immediately. She’d been known as a catch rider on horses around the circuit, but when Marianne turned 3 in 1956, Taylor-Jones went on the hunt for a pony for her daughter. Joan Mackay-Smith Dunning of Farnley Farm was a good friend and directed her to an appropriate pony.
Her name was Gremlin’s Delight, and she turned out to be a marvelous pony in her own right, winning the international pony teams competition in England in 1961. Gremlin’s Delight went on to a successful broodmare career, foaling the famous pony Dresden.
Taylor-Jones promptly bought Johnny Reb and Swamp Fox too, and was hooked on ponies from then on. “They all became famous. Johnny Reb was champion all over and on the first U.S. pony team in 1959,” Taylor-Jones said.