Last Updated on December 27, 2021
Whether you’re completely horse-crazy or just want to learn more about them, you won’t fail to be impressed by the beauty and elegance of Morgan horses. But maybe you are wondering about the origin of the Morgan horse and how this breed came to be in existence?
Let’s find out all about these amazing horses with our Morgan horse origin and history facts!
What Is The Morgan Breed Of Horse?
The Morgan horse is a smaller breed of horse, standing between 14.1 and 15.2 hands high. You will occasionally come across taller Morgan horses, up to 16 hands high or more.
Morgan horses have a proud and elegant movement and posture. They have a distinctive arched neck with a high head carriage. The head of the Morgan horse is finely chiseled and has large, expressive eyes.
The body of the Morgan horse is highly muscled and powerful. Their gait is elegant and dramatic, with a high-stepping movement.
This breed is normally solid in color and can be found in colors including bay, black, brown, buckskin, chestnut, crème, dun, gray, and palomino.
In the modern-day, Morgans can be found in all 50 U.S. states and over 20 other countries. They are highly sought after for their versatility, style, power, and stamina. The Morgan horse is high-spirited and can excel in many different equestrian disciplines, including:
- Combined Driving
- Carriage Driving
- Western Events, Including Reining & Cutting
- Hunter Trials
- Endurance & Competitive Trail Rides
As well as having the advantage in competitive events, Morgan horses are also gentle-natured enough to carry less experienced riders. This makes them perfect Pony Club mounts, as well as for older children and novice adult riders.
What Is The Origin Of The Morgan Horse?
The Morgan horse originates from the state of Massachusetts in the United States of America. The founding horse of this breed was a bay colt called Figure, born in West Springfield in 1789.
When he was just one year old, Figure was passed on to a schoolmaster named Justin Morgan as part payment for a debt. This little colt grew into a strong and athletic horse, with many talents.
The figure was used to pull tree stumps and large logs when clearing forestry land. He was also very fast, and won many races and pulling contests. This stallion became widely known around the Vermont frontier, and he was highly sought after for breeding purposes.
The reason for this was that Figure had the strength, endurance, and speed that all horse owners desired, but was also very easy to keep and manage. As a stud stallion, he had the ability to pass on these traits to his offspring.
The figure was sired by True Briton, a stallion who was renowned for having high-quality English bloodlines. It is not clear what True Briton’s breeding was – some say he was a combination of Thoroughbred and other native British horses such as the Welsh Cob.
Figure’s dam was bred and owned by Justin Morgan, and her bloodlines are also somewhat vague. What we do know is that Morgan described her as medium-sized, with a thick chest, and a smooth, handsome movement.
At that time, prominent breeding horses were often given their owner’s name. So, Figure became known as the Justin Morgan horse. This plucky stallion and his owner are the sources of the name of the Morgan horse we know and love today.
Morgan Horse History
So, what happened to the Morgan horse from the late 1700s to the present day? The legacy of Figure left colts and fillies throughout New England with his characteristics and traits. Three of his sons in particular – Sherman Morgan, Bulrush Morgan, and Woodbury Morgan – became the most famous and influential breeding stallions.
By the mid-1800s, Morgan horses were being supplied to big cities such as New York for public transportation and wagon pulling. They were also taken to California and other areas of the West to be used as ranch horses. During the Civil War, Morgan horses were highly valued as cavalry mounts and artillery horses.
Unfortunately, during the following years, it became more fashionable to have taller horses. The small Morgan horse fell out of popularity but was still used to crossbreed with other horses to create new, taller breeds. These include the Standardbred and the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Conversely, there was also growing demand for strong horses, leading to a rise in the popularity of draft breeds. However, a small group of Morgan horse fans made an effort to regenerate the Morgan horse, and in the 1890s a breeders association and breed register was formed.
In an effort to prove the usefulness and stamina of the Morgan horse, challenges were created to prove their endurance. These included trail rides of up to 300 miles in length – the original competitive trail and endurance ride competitions!
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The Modern Morgan Horse
An act of Congress in 1905 ordered that a Morgan horse farm be established, cementing this plucky breed’s place in American heritage. This farm still operates today, under the management of the University of Vermont.
During the early 1900s, horses were still an essential part of daily life. They were used for transportation, and ranch work, and pulling heavy loads. The versatile Morgan horse was strong and agile enough to fulfill these roles, whilst small enough for all family members to ride and care for.
With the advent of the automobile, horse ownership became recreational rather than functional. These days, the Morgan horse breed is as popular as ever, but more likely to be used in competition rather than farm work.
So, as we have learned, the Morgan horse is an elegant and athletic breed of horse. The Morgan horse is versatile and easy to train, making it popular for many different equestrian disciplines. Traditionally, Morgan horses were used for a wide range of roles including ranch work and pulling public transportation in cities.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about our Morgan horse history. Do you dream of owning one of these elegant horses? Or maybe you have been lucky enough to ride a Morgan horse? Please add a comment below!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1