One of the first breeds developed in the U.S., the Morgan horse breed traces back its origins to a stallion named Figure, later renamed Justin Morgan after its owner. Compact and versatile, the Morgan Horse has many uses and features even in children’s books.
The Morgan Horse Breed
The story of this horse breed begins with a stallion, Figure. Justin Morgan got Figure in 1792 as payment for a debt. Soon after, he put the stallion to stud. Figure had several foals in his life, but only six confirmed sons. Out of the six, three became significant influences in the modern Morgan breed. These are Woodbury, Bulrush, and Sherman. The latter, a chestnut stallion, went on to produce foundation horses for the Tennessee Walking Horse, the American Saddlebred, and the Standardbred horse breeds as well. Figure’s ancestry is unknown, though some say he had a Thoroughbred sire.
The Morgan Horse excels in harness, and this made it an excellent horse for harness racing and pulling coaches, its main uses in the 19th century. But driving wasn’t the breed’s only use. In the Californian Golden Rush, miners used Morgan Horses to pull carts. The American Army also used them during the Civil War, in both riding and harness. One Morgan stallion, exported to England, influenced the Hackney horse breed as well with its remarkable trotting abilities. Some Morgans have gaits other than the trot, including pacing and the fox trot. Not all horses are gaited, though.
The first catalog of Morgan stallions was published in 1857, and the breed’s registry was founded in 1894. Today, there are four main Morgan Horse families: the Lippitt, Government, Western Working and Brunk families. The Government family is the largest and owes its name to an effort by the US Department of Agriculture to preserve the breed, from 1907 to 1951. The Lippitt family, on the other hand, might be the purest, with the least number of outcrosses with other breeds in the 20th and 21st centuries.
This breed also features in literature and film, including the 1945 children’s book Justin Morgan Had a Horse, about Figure and his owner and a Disney adaptation of the same book, in 1972. Author Ellen Feld also wrote a “Morgan horse” series of children’s books.
go Height 14.1 – 15.2 hh
go Color usually black, chestnut and bay. Other colors exist, including pinto, but are not as common.
follow link Conformation Compact, with strong legs, a straight or slightly convex profile, large forehead, large eyes, short back, straight croup, high-placed tail and strong hindquarters. The different families of Morgan Horses do not vary in conformation.
Uses this breed can be used for all English and Western purposes, including stock work. They are popular in driving events, and also in therapeutic riding, due to their gentle dispositions.