The morganhorse is a horse of proud bearing. They are though, sound, athletic horses, heralded for their versatility as well as their cooperative and people pleasing nature.
The morganhorse is the most versatile breed you can get
In the beginning
Many things have been said about the first Morgan horse.
- That he was of an unknown breeding.
But in an advertise made in The sportsman in 1778 Mr Justin Morgan wrote
Sportsman, the dapple grey horse, will cover this season at Justin Morgan stable in West Springfield, Mass. At eight dollar all season and four for one single leap… His excellence for beauty, strength, saddle, harness and fine colts are so well known that there needs no further description.
Than his next advertisement in The Massachusetts Gazette was in 1783 for Diamond.
Will cover this season at the stable of Mr. Justin Morgan, in West Springfield, the horse called Diamond, who sprung from a good mare and from the horse formerly owned by Mr. Church of Springfield.
At this time he had a five year old chestnut filly by Sportsman and she got a filly in 1784, by Diamond.
Than in 1788 after loosing two of his children, Mr. Justin Morgan decided to move with his family to Randolph county. He left his horses with an relative, John Morgan, whom kept a stallion named True Briton. In 1789 Figure was born. And as we all know he is the forefather of all Morgan horses.
- It is always said that Mr Justin Morgan got Figure as payment of dept, but I believe that the colt was the dept. He came back for him and two other horses that his relative had kept for him wile he settled in Randolf.
- It is also said that Mr Justin Morgan was a music teacher.
There is no record of him ever being an teacher, he did make a couple of hymn in honor of his dead wife and probably children and otherwise he was a farmer, horsebreeder and a bit of an all purpose kind of guy. He was even the towns clerk a couple of years.
So who are those three breeding stallions named in Figures background?
- True Briton (Figures father) was by Lloyds Traveller and out of the mare Betty Leeds who was by Babraham (a son of Godolphin Arabian one of the foundation stallions of the Thoroughbred horse).
- Diamond (Figures grandfather) was bred in Connecticut in 1779 by Church Wildair an stallion imported by capt James De Lancey by Wildair. Wildair was by Cade (and he was by Godolphin Arabian) and the mare Steady (by one of that times best racehorses Flying Childers). The stallion Church Wildairs mother was also by Wildair. Diamond was a bright red bay, while his daughter, known as the Wildair mare (Figures mother), was a light shade with mane and tail tending to a more brownish tone.
- Sportsman’s story starts with the arrival of the Arabian stallion Ranger in Connecticut in 1766. He survived even though he had three broken legs. He was originally on the way from Morocco to England as a gift to the king sailing on a frigate. They docked in the West Indian island and the captain wanted to let the poor horse run and stretching his legs after standing still for so long. They let the stallion run in an large lumber yard where he run around like only Arabians can. But than he stepped or slipped in to one of the piles of lumber and fell down with the pile. On the same dock there be another Captain whom happened to be a friend of the first one, he had a more of that times cargo ship with a crane and a big cargo room and he secured the horse in slings and bound up the broken legs and lay out on his way to America. Sportsman was foaled in 1774 by the Arabian Ranger. General George Washington bought Ranger in 1778 and renamed him Lindsay Arabian.
- The first mare Justin Morgan had whom he bred to Sportsman was said to be a Dutch horse. A dutch horse in that time was a fast, small and muscullar horse with heavy mane and tail.
Figure was born in 1789 and Mr. Justin Morgan picked him up in 1793 after he had stayed one season as a breeding stallion at his relative John Morgan. At Mr. Justin Morgan’s farm he was used as an working horse and a breeding stallion. The fancy little, 14,1 hh, horse did an exceptional work and got a lot of mares. Than Mr. Justin Morgan sold the horse and he had about ten different owners whom all used him for different kind of work besides breeding on him.
He won Sweepstakes races in Brookfield, he was used for logging timbers, inspecting troops, farmhorse, wagonhorse and parade mount for president James Monroe, he even went four years to Canada. At 22 years old he was used in a six horse hitch up to haul freight from Windsor to Chelsea (a 45 miles trip each way). At 32 years old, in 1820, he died in the field because of a kick to the hip.
His ability to outwalk, out trot, outrun and outpull all other horses, fast became legendary. However his most valuable asset was the ability to pass on his distinguishing characteristics, not only to his offspring but through generations.
In the 1840s several breeders in Vermont and western New Hampshire began the efforts to concentrate the lines from Figure. By locating 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations from Figure and breed them together they established the foundation of the Morgan breed. By the mid 1850s the Morgan horse where selling for high prices and distributed all across the USA.
The three most notable sons of Figure
- Sherman Morgan. He was 13,4 hh, foaled in 1808 and all black. He was a gaited horse and is not only the forefather to the Morgan horse but also the American Trotters and Pacers.
- Woodbury. He was 14,3 hh, foaled in 1816 and had a blackred kind of color (which is rather often found in the Morgan breed. It is red but so dark that it can at times be taken for a black horse) and a showhorse to the tip of his hooves. He would never miss an opportunity to strut his stuff.
- Bulrush. He was 14,2 hh and a bit rougher than the other two he had a mane who reached to his knees. He lived to become 36 years old sound as a colt. Is unfortunate extinct as a stallion line but will still live on through his many daughters.
An little fun fact is that in when the Canadian horse was in danger of extinction the organizations involved took DNA test of Canadian horses and Morgan horses and found many links. So they used a couple of Morgan stallions to save the Canadian horse, that is why you now can find red color in the Canadian breed.
- History Lesson – Justin Morgan
- Battels vol 1 of the Morgan register
- Jeanne Melin – The Morgan Horse 1960