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As humans, we tend to rely on animals a lot. For this reason, many people rear animals that are used for different purposes. For someone who lives in the countryside, having a horse is one of the best things.
A breed like the ‘Morgan horse’ is an animal that is such a delight for a farm. These animals can be helpful in so many ways and would make life easy for their owners.
The Morgan horse breed is mostly found in the United States since that is where it was developed. Justin Morgan was the horse breeder who developed this wonderful breed of horses. The breed is also named after the man himself. His horse named “Figure” was the sire of the breed we now know as ‘Morgan Horse’. All this took place in the late 1700s in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Justin Morgan received a horse named Figure in exchange for a failed payment. He bred the horse on his farm, and when it grew up, there were a few things that came to notice. This horse wasn’t very big and stood at around 14 hands (56 inches) tall. Yet it had a flair and athleticism, which was quite remarkable. His speed was not what was quite expected of a horse his size. In 1796, he beat New York horses in sweepstakes winning $50.
Not only was he a great racer, but Figure was also known to be a friendly horse. His pleasant temperament combined with his excellent athleticism is what made him so desirable. He passed on all these traits to his offspring resulting in the birth of a new breed. Earlier, Figure was known as the “Justin Morgan Horse” which became the basis to name the entire breed. He was sold later on and died in the year 1821 at the age of 32.
Due to the heavy use of horses in America, this breed has been a significant part of the country’s history. Since its foundation sire to the present-day breed, the breed of horses holds a special place. The American Civil War plays an important role in the country’s history, and Morgan horses were an important part of it too. However, the horses had always made their presence known, whether it was war or civil work.
The first generation of these horses owned by Justin Morgan worked with their owners. A week’s work for those horses was to clear the fields as well as the forests. After the work was done, these horses were used as transportation to the markets or Sunday meetings. Soon, these horses were polling stagecoaches, and they became quite valuable horses with the help of some expert breeders.
Years of breeding by experts of Vermont and Western New Hampshire made these horses become the country’s favorite. This horse breed was selling for premium rates and was distributed in many areas of the United States. After they were introduced to the world of harness racing, these horses took the world by storm. Some of the most famous horses have been champions of racing.
Despite their popularity on the race tracks, the majority of these horses worked for general purposes. This distinctive trait of working domestically and also as a racer gave a different identity to these horses. All this while, the breeders maintained the genetics of these horses and produced some great horses. As soon as the civil war broke out, these horses became a natural part of it.
Among the First Vermont Cavalry, these horses were the first preference for many regiments during the civil war. These regiments replaced many horses with other breeds as they died in the battle. Some of the most common of these regiments are:
- First Maine Cavalry
- Second Michigan Cavalry
- Third Michigan Cavalry
- Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry
- Fifth New York Cavalry Company H
- First Rhode Island Cavalry
The compact, strong body, regal posture, and extremely refined features of the American Morgan horse make them quite distinct compared to other American breeds. They are alert and majestic and tend to carry their, head, mane, and tail higher compared to other horse breeds.
But temperament is the ultimate quality that truly defines this horse breed. This friendly breed is generally eager to please its owner and even loves playing with strangers. The breed can be slightly spunky and animated, but it’s extremely affectionate and loyal.
Health And Diet
As mentioned before, this breed has a good temperament, so they are of cooperative nature. This makes it easy for humans to train them, and they also don’t have any behavior issues. The issue of lameness is not usual in the Morgan horses, thanks to the traits of their breed. However, there are one or two genetic disorders that some horses have, but they can be dealt with.
Since these horses have a great work rate, their diet should be and is usually good. Yet a Morgan horse consumes less food than the horses of other American breeds.
Grass, hay, and grains are the standard diet for these horses and are enough to keep them healthy. In fact, a horse of this breed shouldn’t be overfed as it may affect their bodily condition. So, a natural and balanced diet is what keeps these horses going.
Breeding And Uses
The American Morgan horse was initially bred for the sheer versatility, athletic prowess, as well as a cooperative nature that they possess. Since the beginning, these horses have served as an all-purpose horse owing to their abilities and wide applications. Even before industrialization transformed agriculture and transportation, these horse breeds were used in ploughing fields and pulling buggies.
The American Morgan horse proved useful as trotting horses on the racing track and as cavalry mounts during wars. People used to hitch them to wagons or ride them to the west.
Today, they are seen competing with other horses in many equestrian sports. There are Morgan horse shows that demonstrate the versatility of these horses through sidesaddle classes, driving classes, under-the-saddle trotting races, jumping, dressage, and so much more.
Though a Morgan horse is smaller than other horses, it excels in work rate.
A normal horse of the Morgan breed stands at around 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches) tall. In terms of weight, they normally fall between 900 and 1,000 pounds (453.59 kg).
What Breeds Make Up The Morgan Horse?
Many sources state that this breed was the most desirable horse during the civil war. This was due to its high proficiency, good work rate, and ability to perform a variety of tasks. The Morgans served in the civil war as cavalry mounts and artillery horses. The First Vermont Cavalry, which gained a huge reputation for their fighting spirit, were entirely mounted on Morgans.
Out of the 1200 Morgan horses which the First Vermont Cavalry used, only 200 survived the war. The physical attributes, as well as the spirit shown by these horses, build their foundation. This, combined with their build and the way these horses traveled, helped in the formation of many other breeds. These breeds include the famous Standardbred, Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and American Saddle Horse.
Whether it was the battleground or the race tracks, these horses made a name for themselves everywhere. Due to their exceptional qualities, some horses of this breed have become a yardstick in horse breeding. From “Figure” to the Saddlebreds of this day, Morgan blood has left a major impact.
Here is a list of some famous horses of the Morgan breed:
- Little Sorrel: Ridden by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson in civil war, this Morgan was an original descendant born in Springfield, Massachusetts.
- Charlemagne: Mounted by General Joshua Chamberlain during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, this Morgan helped him win the fight of Little Round Top.
- Ethan Allen 50: This one was regarded as the fastest trotting stallion of his day and was a world champion. He was sired by another famous horse called “Black Hawk”.
- Black Hawk: Although known for siring Ethan Allen, this black horse was also known for his speed and elegant style.
- Comanche: A mixed breed horse that many consider to be a lineage of the Morgan. He was the lone survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
- Rienzi (a.k.a. Winchester): Preserved at the Smithsonian Museum where it remains today, this Morgan was ridden by General Philip Sheridan. Thomas Buchanan Read wrote a poem on him and also painted him in “Sheridan’s Ride”.
This breed can be found in a variety of colors. Not only are there distinctive colors among these horses, but they come in all kinds of equine colors. While you can find horses of this breed in common colors, there are many horses that have less common colors. A Morgan of a less common color is quite valuable, so there are breeders who specialize in producing them.
Dark colors like bay, black, and chestnut are the most usual ones found among this breed of horse. Even a Morgan in these common colors looks far better than a horse of any other breed.
The less common colors which can be found on these horses include:
- Palomino: This color is a shade of gold and may also be called pale golden- also a bit tan colored. Most of these horses have a white tail.
- Pinto: Horses of this color have big white patches on them and can be found in different solid colors.
- Dun: This color is a mixture of gray and brown. It is a bit duller than the usual colors found in horses.
- Roan: This coat color is a mixture of different colors and white hairs. The head of this type of horse is mostly of a solid color.
- Buckskin: This type of color in horses resembles the color of a tanned deer and so is called ‘buckskin’.
What Do They Look Like?
Aesthetically, these horses are beautiful and are among the best-looking horses. These horses have a compact body and also have a short head but a wider forehead. Their eyes are quite large and have been described by many as expressive eyes.
Both the mane and tail on these horses are thicker than usual and make them look more beautiful. Their muscular build, which makes them look outstanding, is maintained due to all the work they put in.
What Are They Used For?
This breed of horse is known for its all round abilities. As an all-purpose horse, this breed can be used at home and is also great on race tracks. Apart from the common works, these horses are also used in harness racing.
Given their versatile nature, these horses are used for:
- Public transportation
- Hauling freight
- Private riding
Where Do They Live?
During the 19th and 20th centuries, these horses were exported to other nations, including England. Here is the origin of the bloodline of the Hackney horse.
Morgans have also influenced other American breeds, such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, American Quarter Horse, as well as the Standardbred.
To safeguard this amazing breed, the US department of agriculture established the US Morgan Horse Farm in Vermont for the preservation and safe breeding of the horse breed. The Morgan Horse Association AMHA is another organization that shares a strong passion for these horses and strives to protect them from extinction.
Foundation Morgan is found all over the country, in the backyard, working west, out on the trail, and in driving competitions.
How Long Do They Live?
These horses are seen to have a long life of more than 30 years, provided they are taken care of well by the owner.
How Fast Are They?
This breed of horse can gallop at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. The medium pace trot of these horses averages between 6 and 8 miles per hour.
How Much Do They Cost?
Prices of American Morgan horses are skewed to the higher side. Buyers can expect to pay somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000 for a registered mare and between $750 and $1,500 while buying a weanling.
Are They Suitable For Beginners?
Just like the Tennessee walking horse or the American Quarter Horse, the Morgan is also known for its great temperament. So, it’s quite suitable for children and novice riders, as well as for more advanced horse riders looking for a talented show mount.
So far, you may have got an idea of these horses and their versatility. But before you finalize the purchase, you should spend some time with the horse to know it well.
Discuss the history, health concerns, temperament, and training needs of the horse with the breeder so you are better prepared to get it home.
There’s a whole world of horse breeds out there to explore! Discover and find out more information by checking out our horse breed guides.