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The Colorful and

Rich History of the

Morgan Horse

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A History and tradition of the Morgan Horse

The Morgan tradition started when a man named Justin Morgan
brought a young stallion to Vermont in the late 1700’s.

This sturdy young stallion named Figure, quickly gained a
reputation as being able to out pull, out trot, out run and
basically outperform all the other horses of his time, regardless
of their size or pedigree. It was soon realized that direct
descendents of Figure, who was referred to as the “Morgan” horse,
all seemed to inherit his sturdy compact build, heart and
stamina, and versatility. Morgan horses quickly became highly
sought after individuals because of their inherent ability to do
anything and do it well.

Figure was a stylish bay horse of many talents. He became widely
known for his ability to pull stumps and logs while clearing the
land of newly arrived settlers. In addition, he won races and
pulling contests, was a favored parade mount at militia
trainings, and was used as a saddle and driving horse. His
strength, endurance, and easy-keeping qualities served him well
on the Vermont frontier. Among horsemen he became widely
respected for his prepotency (the ability to pass his own looks
and qualities on to succeeding generations).

Figure was said to be sired by True Briton, a horse widely
respected for his excellence and known for siring quality horses.
He was said to have been "of the best English blood." Whether it
was Thoroughbred blood, blood of another breed (such as the Welsh
Cob), or a combination of types remains open to debate. Figure's
dam was a mare bred and owned by Justin Morgan (having been sired
by a stallion he stood at stud in 1793) and is described as being
of the "Wildair breed."

As was the custom of the day, Figure became known as the Justin
Morgan horse. After the death of Justin Morgan, Figure passed
into other hands and spent the balance of his life in Vermont and
the Connecticut River Valley of western New Hampshire. He died in
1821 at 32 years of age after sustaining a kick injury from
another horse. He left a legacy of sons and daughters who were
used by farmers to develop a type of horse well suited to the
hilly topography of northern New England.

Sherman Morgan, Bulrush Morgan, and Woodbury Morgan were Figure's
most famous and influential sons. These stallions, along with
other unrecorded offspring, came to dominate the horse industry
of New England and northern New York. In the 1820's they were
favorite teams for the stage lines and for field work on farms
and transport to town. Their reputation as "horses of all work"
was becoming widespread.

New England supplied big city markets such as New York with
Morgan horses for public transportation and freighting as well as
private driving. Morgan horses comprised the preferred teams of
stage line owner M.O. Walker of Chicago. They were taken to
California to be employed as ranch and harness racing horses. In
other areas of the West they were also used as ranch horses.

It is well documented that Morgan blood was extensively used in
the later development of American breeds such as the Saddlebred,
the Standardbred, the Tennessee Walker, and the Quarter Horse.

The Morgan was the world champion trotting racer at the turn of
the 19th century, and the Morgan was also the only breed
propagated by the U.S. Government for Calvary mounts.

As a matter of fact, during the civil war, the Vermont Calvary
was exclusively mounted on Morgans, and they were considered to
be the best Calvary mounts in either army. It is his beauty,
intelligence, soundness, longevity, and versatility that
separates the Morgan horse from other horse breeds.

By an act of Congress in 1905, a farm to perpetuate the Morgan
horse was established. The United States Morgan Horse Farm was
established in Weybridge, Vermont, on Joseph Battell's former
Bread Loaf Stock Farm. The farm was operated under the auspices
of the federal government until 1951, when it was transferred to
the University of Vermont, which continues managing the farm

Throughout the balance of the 20th century the Morgan horse, like
other types and breeds of horses, has been used primarily for
recreational purposes. The majority of Morgan horse owners use
their Morgans for pleasure. Many also compete with their Morgan
horses in a wide variety of sporting events. Morgans are highly
competitive in driving competition as well as in horse shows and
on trail rides. They are competing in reining, cutting, and
dressage with success.

See also: The Morgan Horse Breed

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