Justin Morgan was a teacher, composer, businessman, and horseman
who acquired a small rough coated bay colt of relatively unknown
lineage who was born in 1789 and named him Figure. He was
a rather unremarkable horse that nobody wanted because he
was too small, yet he became the foundation of an entire breed
of horses recognized for quality and dependability.
The ancestry of the colt name Figure who founded the Morgan
breed is unknown, but is thought to be of Dutch, Thoroughbred,
or Arabian breeding. History's best guess is that his sire
was True Briton, who was respected for his excellence and
who sired quality horses. His unnamed dam was described as
being of the Wild air breed” with her sire being a son of
Church's Wildair by Wildair (Delancey's) out of a mare named
There is quite an in depth history and many stories about
this particular little horse, including a Disney movie in
1972 Justin Morgan Had a Horse that was based on a book of
the same name. Figure's ability to out walk, out trot, outrun,
and out pull other horses was legendary. For example, it is
said that he pulled a log that no draft horse could budge,
and that he outran the most winning racehorse central Vermont
had ever known. From these anecdotes came the Morgan Horse
owners' claim that this horse can do anything , and apparently
the breed does. Whatever equine discipline you can think of,
the Morgan Horse will be found to be a part of it and likely
excelling in it. Even when harness racing was popular in the1800's,
the world's fastest trotting stallion was Ethan Allen 50,
Justin Morgan's great grandson.
After Justin Morgan's death, Figure was passed on to new
owners and in the tradition of the times, he became known
by his former owner's name, Justin Morgan. He spent his life
working on farms, hauling freight, and as a parade mount at
militia trainings. Over a period of 30 years, the little horse
remained sound in limb, stamina and sight, throughout a lifetime
of two ordinary horses. He also had showy, ground covering
gaits with speed to spare at any one of them and was an extremely
gentle horse around children.
Justin Morgan's most valuable asset was the prepotency of
his genes. No matter what type of mare he was bred to, draft
or light racing horse, his offspring inherited his image,
his abilities and his distinguishing characteristics. And
not only his offspring inherited the traits, but the prepotency
also went through several generations. Today, every registered
Morgan Horse traces back to Justin Morgan through his most
famous sons Woodbury, Bulrush, and Sherman. Sadly, the little
Justin Morgan died in 1821 from an untreated kick received
from another horse, so his true longevity was never realized.
Morgan Horses were used as cavalry mounts and artillery horses.
They were sensible under fire; could march tirelessly all
day; could maintain their condition on unpredictable rations;
and were loyal to their riders. The only survivor in the Battle
of Little Big Horn was Keogh's Morgan bred horse, Comanche.
The First Vermont Cavalry was mounted entirely on Morgan Horses
but of their more than 1200 horses, only 200 survived the
war and in 1894, the first volume of the American Morgan Horse
Register was published by Colonel Joseph Battell.
The American Morgan Horse Farm was established in Weybridge,
Vermont in 1907, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for
the breeding and preservation of the Morgan horse. But it
was not until 1909 that the Morgan Horse Club (MHC) was formed
at the Vermont State Fair. In 1921, the MHC presented the
Justin Morgan statue to the U.S. Morgan Horse Farm on the
100th anniversary of the death of Justin Morgan, and it is
still exhibited there today.
The Morgan Horse ranges from 14.1 to 15.2 hands high with
some individuals that are taller or shorter. They come in
wide variety of colors, from bay, brown and black to silver
dapple, roan, palomino, buckskin, dun, grulla, cremello, perlino,
smoky cream, gray, flaxen, sabino, splashed white, and others.
The head is expressive with a broad forehead, large prominent
eyes and a straight or slightly dished short face. The ears
are short and shapely, set rather wide apart and carried alertly
with mares having slightly longer ears. The throatlatch is
deeper than other breeds. The neck is slightly arched with
the top line of the neck being considerably longer than the
bottom line and the stallion has more of a crest. The body
of the Morgan Horse is compact with a short back and high
set tail that is carried gracefully and straight. The feet
are in proportion to the size of the horse.
The Morgan Horse is distinctive for its stamina and vigor,
personality and eagerness and strong natural way of moving.
The Morgan walk is rapid, flat footed, and has a four beat
elastic cadence with the accent on flexion in the pastern
while the trot of the Morgan is a two beat, diagonal gait
that is animated, elastic, square and collected with the rear
action in balance with the front action. The overall impression
is a unique combination of draft like substance, Arabian like
heads with a Saddlebred like elegance.
The Morgan Horse is considered to be the oldest of all American
breeds and was strong enough to contribute greatly to almost
every other American light horse breed while retaining its
own identity across two centuries. The American Saddlebred,
the Quarter Horse, the English Hackney, the American Standardbred,
and the Tennessee Walking Horse, among others, all owe much
to the Morgan Horses in their own ancestry.
Author Resource:-> Crystal writes for http://www.HorseClicks.com,
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