If you’re a horseperson, most likely you’ve heard the story of the Morgan Horse. In 1788, a man of many talents, Justin Morgan, moved from Massachusetts to Vermont. The next year he acquired a young, burly colt by the name of Figure. Mr. Morgan, being a schoolteacher, composer and horseman, named the colt after the musical figures.
Figure grew in leaps and bounds, no one aware of the history this colt would write. He was built with a compact, muscular body, with fancy movement and strength beyond his type. He was a plowhorse, a parade horse, a racehorse, a pleasure horse, and more. The colt was stronger than his body let on. But inside was what matters – inside was a heart of gold.
Later in Figure’s life, Mr. Morgan passed away, and as was the practice during that time, he was named for his past owner. And so Figure became known as the Justin Morgan horse. He was bred to many mares in his lifetime, and became well known for his ability to pass on HIS characteristics.
Sadly, in 1821, Justin Morgan (Figure) died from an untreated kick received from another horse. His three most famous sons, Bulrush, Sherman, and Woodbury, carried on his genes.
As the Morgan breed grew, so did its home nation. They worked alongside their owners, clearing fields and forests. The breed, still true to its original copy, provided transportation to the Saturday market, Sunday meetings, and pulled stagecoaches throughout the cities of New England. By the 1850’s, the Morgan horse society was filled with breeders - many with horses third- or fourth-generation of Justin Morgan – who were selling their horses for top prices across the United States.
Morgans set world-trotting speed records during the early days of harness racing. Two of those trotters, Black Hawk and his son, Ethan Allan, became very famous during this time. Just because they could trot as fast as any other horse, the American people didn’t just give up and say, “Oh, a Morgan? It’s only good for harness racing.” Yeah right! They stuck those horses back into the fields, buckled ‘em into the shafts on their carts and off they went. And the Morgan could trot a record in the morning, and in the afternoon, take the family out for a country drive in the same day.
These brave horses even served during the Civil War. In the First Vermont Calvary, most men were mounted upon Morgans, gaining the horse another use to add to the long list. But of 1200 horses in that unit, only 200 made it through the war. All fought till their last breath.
Since the war, the Morgan horse helped to influence the beginnings of a few other American breeds, such as: the Standardbred, Tennessee Walking Horse, and American Saddle Horse (an early version of the American Saddlebred). The first Morgan Registry was founded in 1894, and since its establishment, it now lists 147,000 horses, with breeders in ALL fifty states (yes, that includes Hawaii and Alaska) and overseas. They are found in actually 20 foreign countries! Wow!
The Morgan horse tends to reach a height between 14.1 hands* and 15.2 hands, with the Association making exceptions for animals a bit shorter or a bit taller. This magnificent horse appears in a rainbow of colors, including: bay, black, brown, chestnut, gray, palomino, crème, dun, and buckskin. Okay, here’s some of the stuff that they can do (they do MORE than what’s listed, people): Park Saddle and Harness (that’s high-steppin’ fancy stuff!), English and Classic Pleasure Saddle and Driving, Hunter/Jumper, Jumpers, Eventing, Dressage, Reining, Cutting, Western Pleasure, Endurance, and Competitive Trail. *Whew* They’re also active in 4-H and Pony Club under youth riders.
So if you’re looking for a smooth, calm, horse to do EVERYTHING, look through your local listings and find yourself a Morgan farm. They’ll be glad to help you find the Morgan horse of your dreams.