The Morgan Horse is one of the native american horses and became the most popular American breed of the 19th century!
The Morgan is one of America’s first native breeds. It owes its existence to a single stallion named ‘Figure’. The breed was named after its owner, Justin Morgan, who was a school teacher in New England in the late 1700’s. This stallion was said to possess incredible strength and speed, even though he stood at only 14 hands.
The ancestry of the horse, Figure, is uncertain. Some claim he was a Welsh Cob while others say he descended from the racehorse, True Briton. But either way he was noted for being very strong and fast, and a familiar participant at the races and weight hauling contests. His reputation grew and he became a desired stud. His descendents were popularly used for driving and harness racing, and in the Civil War the Morgan’s pulled canons.
The modern Morgan Horses are more refined but still strong and spirited. They are known for having wonderfully pleasant personalities with an exceptional cooperative and willing attitude. They tend to be high stepping horses, usually carrying their head and tail higher than other horses too, and a few Morgans are gaited. This is one of the most popular horse breeds in the United States and it has its own registry, the American Morgan Horse Association.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Perissodactyla
- Family: Equidae
- Genus: Equus
- Species: caballus
The Morgan Horse is a light horse breed. These light horses are also referred to as a warmblood horse. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or ‘other’. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the ‘other’ classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. In some cases the ‘other’ types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The horse class the Morgan Horse primarily fits into is the ‘saddle’ type class, though due to its strength it is quite versatile, skilled at driving as well. They are also increasingly being used as dressage and jumping horses.
Figure, the sire of the Morgan breed, was owned by a school teacher named Justin Morgan and lived in New England in the late seventeen hundreds. There is some discrepancy as to his ancestry. Some claim he was Welsh Cob, while others say he descended from a racehorse named True Briton.
He was known for his incredible strength and speed, and was a familiar face at races and weight-hauling matches. His reputation spread across New England and he became a desired stud horse. His descendants also possessed his strength and speed and his small stature.
In the 1800’s, Morgans became popular driving and harness racing horses, and during the Civil War, soldiers rode Morgans and used them to pull cannons. The modern Morgan is much more refined than Figure, but still possesses his spirited nature and versatility. Today, the Morgan is one of the most popular breeds in the USA and has its own breed registry, the American Morgan Horse Association.
Morgans tend to be small in stature (14.2 to 15.2 hands) and the most common colors are bay, brown, black, and chestnut. They have a short head with a wide forehead and their face can either be slightly dished or have a flat profile, but never a roman nose (bends outward). Their eyes are large and bright and the ears are small and nicely shaped.
Morgan Horses tend to hold their heads high and have an upright, muscular neck. They have a deep, angular shoulder, a broad chest, and a strong, short back. The withers are higher than the hips and it is ideal for the hind legs to be camped out behind. Morgans also usually have a long, thick mane and tail.
Morgans are known for having exceptionally pleasant dispositions and are extremely willing horses. They tend to step high and carry their heads and tails higher than other horses do. A few Morgans are gaited, which means they have different gaits from the normal four gaits: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
Horse Care and Feeding
They are known to be easy keepers, meaning that they generally stay at a good weight on less feed than other horses might. They may need to be kept on low amounts of sweet feeds to keep them from getting overweight.
Horse Training and Activities
Morgans are extremely versatile as they are great carriage and saddle horses. They are historically known for their skill at driving or pulling carriages. Morgans often compete in combined driving, which is a three-day competition consisting of a dressage test, a marathon where they must navigate obstacles over a 5 to 13-mile course, and a cones course where the horses must navigate through pairs of cones that are just wide enough for the cart to fit through.
An example of an exemplary Morgan athlete is the stallion HVK Courageous Flaire, who has been world champion several times in a driving class called park harness and in an English riding class called park saddle. Morgans perform well in a wide variety of show classes including Western Pleasure, Pleasure Driving, and English Pleasure. They are also increasingly being used as dressage and jumping horses.
Common Health Problems
Morgans have remarkably few medical conditions present in the breed. The occurrence of genetic diseases is at about the same rate as the general horse population. They have a low incidence of leg and foot problems. Morgans tend to be long-lived and can often live past 30 years.
Morgan Horses are fairly available throughout the United States.
Maria Costantino, The Handbook of Horse Breeds, Barns and Noble, 2004
Mellin, Jeanne, The Morgan Horse Handbook, Penguin, 1980
Frequently Asked Questions About the Morgan Horse, American Morgan Horse Association, referenced online 2008
Author: Sandra Lloyd
Featured Image Credit: Shawn Hamilton, Shutterstock