Native American Horse Breeds
The American Morgan horse is one of North America's oldest indigenous breeds. All American Morgan horses descend from one pint-sized prepotent bay stallion, Figure (often called Justin Morgan after one of his owners). Figure was foaled in Massachusetts in 1789. He is thought to have measured 14.1hh. A school teacher, Justin Morgan, was given a little bay weanling in payment of a debt. When he was unable to sell the little horse, Figure was leased as a workhorse. He proved himself superior to almost every horse in the area and was reportedly fast under saddle and in harness. He was an intelligent horse with a wonderful nature.
Whatever mares were put to the stallion, the progeny had the unmistakeable stamp of their sire, not just in their handsome appearance but in their willingness, strength and speed.
Morgans were popular as harness racing steeds during the 1840s and also played their part in the Civil War and the Pony Express. Philip Sheridan's mount Rienzi and Stonewall Jackson's Little Sorrel were both Morgans.
The first volume of the Morgan Horse Register was published in 1894. This was the beginning of a formal breed registry. Today the Morgan is found all over the globe.
The Morgan has had a huge impact on many other breeds, particularly those famed for their gaits such as the Standardbred, Tennessee Walker, Missouri Fox Trotter and American Saddlebred. Nearly 90% of all Saddlebred horses have Morgan blood somewhere in their pedigree.
The Morgan has a proud carriage. The distinctive, clean-cut head is carried quite high on a well-arched, crested neck. The profile is slightly dished and the ears and muzzle are small. The large eyes are widely spaced. He is deep-bodied and compact with well-defined withers. The quarters are strongly muscled. The legs are strong with short cannon bones and sound, hard hooves. The mane and tail are thick and silky.
He is athletic and has a willingness and zest for life which endears him to his owners. He is thrifty to keep and has excellent longevity. He has a naturally high action, with a 'look at me' presence, making him an excellent choice for harness work, particularly as he has such a calm nature.
His stylish appearance has made him popular as a mount for the police and the military in both the United States and Canada. They are just as suited for work as stock, show or pleasure horses. Morgans compete in all disciplines from English and Western classes to Dressage, Driving, In Hand, Combined Driving, and Hunter and Jumper classes.
He is athletic and has a willingness and zest for life which endears him to his owners. He is thrifty to keep with excellent longevity.
While most are bay, black or chestnut, there is now virtually no restriction on the colour. The breed standard specifies the height range as from 14.1hh to15.2hh. Morgans under 14.2hh can be registered with the National Morgan Pony Registry.
He is sensible and tractable but can show his elegance and gay movement when asked in a show class. He is reliable and tireless, happy to be part of whatever is going on and pleased to do his best whatever is asked of him.
The Morgan is the official state animal of Vermont (1961) and the official state horse of Massachusetts (1970).