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The Morgan is one of the first horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to Figure owned by Justin Morgan [he is the breed's namesake, he owned Figure from 1792-1795]. A flexible breed Morgans excel in most disciplines, and is known for its versatility.
Morgan - Breed History: Morgan horses trace back to one foundation sire named Figure. The stallion was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1789. The small, dark colt is now believed to have been sired by the English Thoroughbred "True Briton", also known as "Beautiful Bay" and "Traveler," who was foaled in 1768. His dam was of Wild-air breeding, sired by Diamond, foaled in 1784 in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The bay mare was, in fact, bred by Justin Morgan, for whom the breed is named. Figure is thought to have stood about 14 hh (Hands High) (1.42 m), and to have weighed about 950 lb (430 kg). Figure was also known for his prepotency, passing on his good looks, conformation, temperament, and athleticism.
In 1792, Figure was advertised for stud before he was given as a payment for a debt to Justin Morgan (1747-1798), a singing teacher and one-time Randolph, Vermont Town Clerk. Justin Morgan owned Figure from 1792-1795, advertising him for stud in Lebanon, New Hampshire and Randolph, Vermont (1793), Randolph and Royalton, Vermont (1794), and Williston and Hinesburg, VT (1795). Figure was then lent out to Robert Evans in the fall of 1795 to clear land for a Mr. Fisk at a rate of $15.00 a year.
Justin Morgan later traded the horse for land in Moretown, Vermont, to a Samuel Allen, who then sold the stallion later that year to William Rice of Woodstock, VT. Morgan died of tuberculosis three years later, unaware that an equine breed would be named for him.
In 1796, Figure raced in a Sweepstakes in Brookfield, VT, beating New York horses to win $50. That year, he was advertised at stud by Jonathan Shepard of Montpelier, Vermont, who also raced him in several match races in which he did well. It was around this time that Figure became known as the "Justin Morgan horse."
Figure was traded again in 1797, along with a blacksmith shop, to James Hawkins. It is not known what became of him until 1801, when he was in the possession of Robert Evans of Randolph, Vermont. Evans owned the horse until 1804, using the stallion for logging, racing, and breeding, until he fell into debt to Colonel John Goss. Goss collected the horse as part of the debt, and used him to review troops and also entered him in a pulling bee, which the little horse won. He later traded Figure for a mare owned by his brother, David Goss, in 1805.
David Goss owned Figure from 1805-1811, where he worked on the farm for 10 months, and was used for breeding for two months each year. He was sold in 1811 to Philip Goss for the breeding season. Philip Goss then sold Figure to Jacob Sanderson, who sold him to Jacob Langmeade. Langmeade used the horse to haul freight, and is thought to have abused the aging stallion.
Langmeade sold Figure to Joel Goss and Joseph Rogers at the end of 1811. Figure stood at stud for several years, before he was sold to Samuel Stone in 1817. Stone exhibited the stallion in the Randolph fair. Figure was used as a parade mount by President James Monroe later that year.
In 1819, Figure was sold to his final owner, Levi Bean of Chelsea, Vermont. Toward the end of his life, Figure was put out to pasture without shelter to fend for himself. He died in 1821 from an injury to the flank, caused by a kick, at the age of 32. Figure is now buried in Tunbridge, Vermont.
The popular children's book, Justin Morgan Had A Horse by Marguerite Henry, has unfortunately tended to perpetuate some misconceptions about the breeding of Figure (in the book called "Little Bub") and his early life. There is far less mystery about Figure's ancestry than is popularly supposed. This has, however, been widely researched by celebrated artist and author, Jeanne Mellin, in her work entitled The Complete Morgan Horse.
Morgan - Continuing the Breed: The breed's trotting ability made it a favorite for harness racing in the 1840s. Morgans were also used in the Civil War as cavalry mounts, including Sheridan's "Rienzi" and Stonewall Jackson's "Little Sorrel". In the post-civil war era, Morgans were also used in the Pony Express and as mounts for the cavalry in the western United States. The only survivor of the Custer regiment from The Battle of Little Bighorn was the Morgan-Mustang mixed breed horse Comanche.
The first volume of the Morgan Horse Register was published in 1894. Since then, more than 132,000 Morgan Horses have been registered. The stud book was closed in 1948 in an effort to preserve the breed. The Morgan has also influenced several other breeds, including the Standard bred, Tennessee Walker, American Quarter Horse, and the American Saddle bred. Nearly 90% of Saddle bred horses today have Morgan blood.
The first national Morgan Horse competition was held in 1973 in Detroit, and is now held each October in Oklahoma City, OK. In addition to the Morgan Grand National, there are 10 regional championship shows and many other official (referred to as "Class A") shows. Morgans also compete in all-breed shows, 4H shows, and combined driving events.
At class A shows, Morgans compete In Hand, English Pleasure, Park, Western, Carriage Driving, Fine Harness, Hunt Seat, Trail, Roadster, Parade, Reining, and Dressage. In a qualifying class, performance is to be 60% of consideration in judging, and conformation to be 40%. Championship classes are judged with 50% consideration to each. The exceptions to this are the trail classes and in hand classes, which give full consideration to performance and conformation, respectively.
The classic type of Morgan is generally quite good at the Olympic disciplines as well (show jumping, dressage, and Eventing), making the Morgan one of the most versatile breeds of horse.
Contact: American Morgan Horse Association - www.morganhorse.com