Pictures with kinde permission by Sally Blair, American Driving Horses Society, Kathleen DeFazio, Nancy Jewell
The Morgan Horse- Pleasure in Driving Made in America
It all started in 1789 in Massachussetts, America: during the American Independance War, a little brown colt foal by the Thoroughbred stallion True Briton out of the Berberian mare Wild Diamond named Figure was born. Who would have guessed that this colt should become the founder of a new horse breed, the Morgan Horse?
Figure, owned by the stallioneer, music teacher and compositioner Justin Morgan during the 1790ies, was soon called and well known under the name Justin Morgans Horse or short Morgan Horse. He became a real phenomenen in history, because he passed on so many of his characterics to his offspring that all today registered Morgans can not only be traced back to him, but also look a lot like him and show the same versality , ability, intelligence and sensibility he did.
The people of the young American nation needed strong horses that were able to work hard and help them build up their farms and cities. So Figure was working with a plug, had to help working in the woods and fields and pulled a lorry to transport all kind of things through the wilderness of Vermont where Justin Morgan had moved to. In comparison to the usual coldbloods that were owned by the farmers in those days, Figure seemd to be too small, too refined , too hot tempered and too beautiful to work that hard.
But he always was healthy, uncomplicated in every manner and with very good hoofes, too-
a big plus for a horse living in the area of Vermont.
Not only his ability and willing to work made Figure become famous in those days.This little only 14.1 hh big stallion pulled stone sleighs easier and faster than any other horse , he became to be an excellent racehorse, invincible even to Thoroughbred Champions or, in trot races to Standardbreds and he did it all in his "pasttime"added to his usual work.
It did not take long until Figure was well known in the whole area and so a lot of people wanted to use him as a breeding stallion, too.
Figure was always easy to deal with, has been tacked and driven to church on Sunday morning by women or children and it must have been a breathtaking picture seeing him passing by with his full, long mane and his shiny bay coat sparkling in the sun like a gem, helding his upheaded neck high and with a lot of movement in front of the carriage or viceroy.
But it would be wrong to reduce him to only a "showhorse": Figure and his offspring were keeping the records for the in honour to them so called "Morgan Mile" at Randolph, Vermont and couldn`t be beaten by other horses over many decades.
Due to financial reasons, Figure was owned by several persons during his life and although he sometimes had to live in poorly circumstances and was not treated good by his owner, he died in the age of 42- he got injured while having fun with his stablemates in the pasture and his wound did not get any medical treatment.
In the 1820ies, Morgan Horses dominated the American racehorse scene and in todays Standardbred pedigrees , there often can be found more than one name of a Morgan Horse.
Besides the Morgan Horses job as a racehorse, working farm horse, later on as a cowboy horse at the western states of the USA, the Morgan had always been bred for being an elegant personal mount and driving horse, compatible for families, easy to keep and to deal with, healthy, with a good confirmation and good hoofs. Even the president of the United States chose a Morgan as his personal parade horse knowing it will impress the people with its beauty and elegance . During the American civil war, Morgans were used as cavallery mounts and the only person who survived Little Big Horn was a soldier on a Morgan Horse.
The connection of its beauty and stamina made the Morgan Horse adorable to the people since then.
The Morgan Horse , well known as the "First American Breed" is proteged by the Vermont Government that built the UVM Morgan Horse Farm as a tribute to this part of the Amrican culture- the only supported horse breeding of Amerika.
Meanwhile, Morgans are not only bred on the East coast of the USA, they have been imported to more than 20 countries all over the world with a lot of established farms in Canada and Great Britain.
The international breeding standard describes a horse 13.3hh to 16hh heigh, well muscelled and with a good confirmation, a deep chest, short back and a strong, deep hindquarter. The head should be small, straight with big eyes and nostrils , tiny ears and a braught forehead.
Its hair should be long and its coat is shiny and silky, it should have a high head carriage with a well set neck and throatlatch and its wonderful modelled topline makes the Morgan become to be a horse little girls get inspired with and draw when they dream about owning "their own pony".
Up to the 1990ies, only bay, brown, chestnut and black horses, solid coloured with only little white could be registered with the Morgan Horse Registry, meanwhile the so called " White Clause" has been deleted and breeders are also allowed to register their coloured Morgans.
But not only the Morgans nearly perfect built body makes it useful for every purpose of equine sport; its heart and soul, its stamina, willing to please-attitude and its love to its "special person" makes it become a real friend and compagnion for a whole life long. It is a wonderful family-horse and has conquered a place in the international sport.
In 2010, two teams with their Morgans were participating in the single driving competition at Patroni del Vivaro, Italy. The Morgan mare Courage to Lead had been nominated to become the "Horse of the Year" by the USEF for her incomparable successes in driving after being elected since 2005 for the US national driving team , winning the national gold medal in 2007 and the international bronze medal in 2009 at Greven, Germany.
Kennebec Count, a chestnut stallion with flaxen mane and tail dominated the US driving scene in pair driving with his son Kennebec Russel during the 1980ies. Both stallions had great successes in international competitions and in 1985, they won the gold medal in pair driving for the US national team and got to be 8th in single driving in the World Championships at Windsor Castle, GB. 1987 the competed successfully in the World Championships at Germany. After being done with his driving carreer, Kennebec Count was used as a breeding stallion before he died in 2004 at the age of 34 years.
Todays Morgans are used as Showhorses under saddle and in harness, they are driving and western horses in all disciplines, do hunter jumping, military, hunter dressage, classical dressage, are used as a therapyhorse for disabled persons or- in most of the cases, they are beloved family members and buddies.
In Germany, there are about 250-300 registered Morgans and due to Morgans are very rare, they are almost sold as a weanling or yearling- who once owns a Morgan will never let it go. Like a fever , the love to those special horses will never end.
So don`t wait any longer- Get a life-get a Morgan!