JULY 1996 BACK ISSUE
Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 7/1/96; 10:00:00 AM.
Morgans - Made to Win!
by Lisa Peterson, The American Morgan Horse Association
Have you wondered if there are still horses that can do it all? A horse that will keep the kids safely occupied after school & on weekends? A horse that has enough spirit to make any rider proud, yet is gentle & sensible enough to handle green riders or dangerous situations? A horse with the endurance to work the range all day & still look sharp in the show ring the next?
This type of horse is one of America's best-kept secrets. While some people go out & buy one horse for each of their interests, there is another group of people that have discovered the versatile Morgan horse.
Descended from a single stallion known as Figure, & later as the Justin Morgan horse, the Morgan breed has proven itself through some of history's most challenging periods.
Born in 1789 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the original Justin Morgan was given to the man Justin Morgan as payment for a debt. Despite the bay stallion's size, he quickly proved himself in races- walking, trotting & running- & in pulling contests, popular in a time when colonists were clearing the wooded fields of Vermont for pasture & crop land.
Not only did this little bay stallion prove himself a willing worker, his offspring shared the same characteristics. They were hardy on rations which could be unpredictable. They rarely suffered from feet & leg problems despite covering miles of rocky & steep terrain. And they continued to pass along the outstanding traits of their sire: intelligence, agility, stamina, soundness & beauty.
Between 1789 & 1909, the Morgan horse experienced the same growing pains as the nation they were raised in. First, they were used as farm horses, capable of doing field work & then taking the family to church in style. Soon, good quality roads covered the countryside & a horse which could move with speed was demanded. The Morgan fit the bill. In fact, Justin Morgan's great-grandson, Ethan Allen, 50, became the champion trotter of his day. He proceeded to found a dynasty of his own, still evident in the bloodlines of modern-day Morgans.
While the roads improved transportation, trouble was brewing between the states they connected. When the Civil War broke out, the Morgan once again proved its value. Upheaded, flashy in action & sensible under fire, the Morgans were in demand by those in command. General Philip Sheridan & his Morgan, Rienzi, were immortalized in poetry by Thomas Buchanan Reed following a 20 mile gallop to rouse his Union troops back to action. Morgans were also ridden by Stonewall Jackson, who was riding his Morgan, Fancy (also known as Little Sorrel) when he earned his name for being unyielding as a stone wall. "The Grey Ghost," Colonel Moseby of the Confederacy, rode a Morgan & was fond of raiding the First Vermont Cavalry to get their Morgan horses for his Southern Army.
When war ended, Morgans carried settlers west. Their agility & sense made them premier cow horses & this, combined with their hardiness, caused many Morgan mares to be placed in bands of broodmares which were later registered as Quarter Horses.
Today, the demand for horses has once again changed. Stock work, pleasure riding, carriage, trail, jumping & dressage are all growing fast & have special requirements. And the Morgan is still proving itself in these demanding fields with style & a willing attitude.
In 1909, a group of men who recognized the value of old Justin Morgan's progeny founded the Morgan Horse Club. From its original 59 members, the Club is now the American Morgan Horse Association with 12,000 members. Thanks to written records kept over the years, the original members were able to create a registry, tracking the lineage of their horses back to the founding sire, Justin Morgan. Today, some 90,000 Morgans are recorded in the Registry of the American Morgan Horse Association.
"So," you ask. "What can today's Morgan do for me?"
This is a question which all owners should ask & which Morgans continue to lead the way in answering.
The breed seems to intuitively know its limits & can rate itself during a day's work, keeping plenty of energy for the long haul while working at 100 percent.
Another valuable trait of the versatile Morgan is its common sense. Remember those stories about the colonial doctors who would race to see a patient after dark in adverse weather? And how they would come to a bridge & their trusty buggy horse refused to cross, even when urged on with the whip, until the driver discovered that the bridge had washed out in flood waters? Time & again, those life-saving buggy horses proved to be Morgans.
The same caution & sense can be seen in modern-day Morgans. The breed's intelligence & concern for their riders makes it valued by mounted police, like the Denver Mounted Patrol, & by therapeutic riding programs which depend on quiet mounts to give courage & support to their riders. In both cases, a horse which is alert to the needs of its rider, yet patient enough to wait for orders, is a must. The Morgan proves its abilities for these demands over & over.
Morgans stand out as the most popular breed in carriage driving competition, one of the fastest growing equestrian sports. In pairs competition, which includes an international World Champion, Morgans have represented the U.S. three times, easily keeping up with larger horses bred especially for the demanding phases of carriage competition.
The reining world is just discovering the value of the Morgan. With their short back & close-coupled body, quick spins & dynamic slides are all in a day's work for the Morgan reiner.
In dressage, Morgans have earned spots on the list of the top 20 horses in the nation every year against European horses bred just for this elegant sport. Once again, Morgans prove that American-made means made-for-winning!
So you think you need a big horse? Then expect to be passed by those competing on compact, agile Morgans! An athletically built horse, the Morgan's average height of 14-15.2hh is no problem when it comes to moving mountains, jumping the moon or racing the wind. The "All-Terrain Vehicle" of the horse world, the Morgan's compact size makes it maneuverable, while its balanced conformation provides the power demanded by modern sports.
Morgans are notorious for being easy-keepers, eating a handful of grain when most horses need several quarts & their solid build, hooves & heart mean they spend little or no time being laid off from leg & foot problems. While another horse may be accumulating farrier & vet bills, the Morgan is out earning his keep.
If you dream of having a horse that is ready to join you in whatever horse-related endeavor you are faced with from day to day, there is such a horse that is ready to work with you: The Morgan horse, a breed which was born to versatility 200 years ago & continues its winning ways today.
If you would like additional information about the Morgan horse, the American Morgan Horse Association is able to provide you with wealth-free materials, including the names of breeders, clubs & shows in your area. Please contact the AMHA at PO Box 960, Dept. RH, Shelburne, VT 05482-0906. 802/985-4944, fax 802/985-8897
*Permission granted to reprint for uses promoting the Morgan Horse