Justin Morgan had a horse. Not only a horse, but “Figure” who would be the founding sire of an entire American breed of horse. Figure, the Morgan foundation sire, was born in 1789 and lived a long life until 1821. His abilities were legendary; he out worked any other horse. He out ran them, out pulled them… you know, every ability an owner would want in a working horse, he had. As his stud services became renowned in the Connecticut River Valley because he passed on his incredible work ethic and distinguished good looks to his offspring.
According to history, Figure’s dam wasn’t much to talk about. She had some feathering on her legs, a thick neck, sturdy legs, and a bushy mane and tail. Sounds like a recipe for the modern show horse, right? Through the breeds modernization, Morgans have actually become quite the all-around horse. They’re compact with very sturdy legs, a refined and expressive head, a short back, and an arched, upright neck. And they’re easy keepers (as if we need another reason to get excited about this breed).
These typically smaller horses have contributed to other United States based breeds, too. Hackneys, Quarter Horses, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Standardbreds are all influenced by Morgan genes.
The first Morgan who trotted into my life was very skittish. He’d been abused as a colt, but he’d learned to trust women in particular. “Kashmir”, as he was called, enjoyed his work and only ever argued if he felt his rider to be particularly incompetent. In reality, that’s a trait I’ve come across more oft than not with Morgans. Stubborn as they may be, they’re intuitive and quickly tap into our abilities to be partners.
My second Morgan mount was a Morgan Arabian cross that stood just below 14.2. He was a liver chestnut roan with a flaxen mane and tale, and a thick white blaze on his face. It delivered just the right amount of innocence to his pony face. “Dezy” never went lame a day in his life. Cross country jumps cleared, water splashed, dressage tests finished. Though he had a hot temperament (let’s blame the Arabian side), Dezy was trustworthy, hardworking, and my oh my how his knees squared over every single jump.
I have been lucky enough to come across another Morgan who truly opened my eyes to the magnificence of the breed. The words sound terribly formal, however “Token” was an equine masterpiece. He was built on strong legs and over a short back that ended in a powerful hindquarter. “What kind of warmblood is that?” I was asked so often when we went to shows. He was intelligent, emotional, and dynamic.
These three bold, pleasant, and trustworthy horses encouraged me to look outside of the box when selecting a breed of horse. My dream horse was a black, 15.5 (give a girl a break, this was before I was educated) Arabian stallion growing up. Slowly, I watched the image of that dainty, dished face evolve into an expressive face, thick and upright neck mounted on a compact, bay body of a Morgan horse.
If you ever find yourself in the market for a trustworthy horse that’s versatile, sound, and sane… You already know what my suggestion would be.