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The Morgan Horse developed from one founding stallion, Justin Morgan father, grandfather, great-grandfather of many of the best horses that ever traveled the roads of America!
This ancestor of the entire Morgan Horse breed was foaled in 1798, a dark bay with black points and no white, and only grew to be about 14 hands in height. His name was probably Figure, owned by a poor teacher named Justin Morgan. The horse became known by his owner’s name after the owner’s death.
As a trotter Justin Morgan was not speedy and wouldn’t have gone a mile in less than four minutes, but he had endurance. He was a good runner at short distances and it didn’t take him long to get going. He met over and over the top horses of the community in which his owner lived, and he won. He was able to out walk, out trot, out pull, and out run his competitors. He was a favorite performer at country gathers and won followers wherever he went.
Perhaps a little long in body, Figure was nonetheless totally sound and without blemish. The rib was round, the breast broad and projecting, the leg short and powerful. His muscles were remarkable for his size. Figure was endowed with wonderful power and endurance, coupled with intelligence which he passed on to the breed of Morgan Horse breed he founded.
Figure, or the stallion Justin Morgan, was constantly used for the rough labor needed in the development of mountain country, and was even traded from time to time to pay an owner’s debt, yet he maintained great and natural life long animation while being very easy to handle. He was owned by a succession of poor people who had no choice but to work him hard all of his life. Like many great horses, he was not appreciated during his life as he should have been, but his legacy was assured when his sons and grandsons and progeny became famous, and the Morgan Horse became famous as show horses and sires reproducing his likeness.
Worked hard all of his life, Justin Morgan became thin and was sold to his last owner for next to nothing. Running in a lot with other horses, he was kicked in the flank and left outdoors in winter weather without shelter. Inflammation set in and he died, neglected, in 1821 at the age of 32. The truth of his pedigree has been argued and over-argued, but his legacy is obvious. Although the modern Morgan horse little resembles Justin Morgan’s conformation, they surely carry forward his other characteristics of heart, willingness and kindness.
Morgan Horses, owe everything to this sire of sires, who so strongly stamped his progeny with his remarkable characteristics. His get combined stamina, strength and action and they were easy to handle. There were six sons that were outstanding:The Hawkins horse, The Fenton horse, Revenue, Sherman Morgan, Bullrush Morgan and Woodbury Morgan. These were the strong blooded sons that transmitted such striking qualities of their sire and made the name of the new breed one to reckon with
Justin Morgan was the founder of the first great American breed, and Morgan Horses have been of untold value in the building of two other great American breeds, the American Trotter and the American Saddlebred horse. The Morgan was also of untold value in the building of the United States.
The part they played in the Civil War showed them to be almost as wiry as the western broncos. They were capable of carrying weight and of covering grounds and at sharp and steady gait. During World War I, when the country was being scoured for horses for the army, much attention was given to every Morgan Horse available and a breed that has proven worthy as descendant of the study little dark bay that made sporting history in Vermont.
The Morgan registry was established in 1894 but as the Morgan reached the Middle West the true type began to disappear. Yet in spit of this the flood of Justin Morgan was and is still powerful. Without the prepotency of this original blood, the present day show ring would have lost some of its most attractive performers.
Today, at an extensive breeding farm in Middlebury, Vermont, the Morgan Horse Club has erected a bronze statue to the famous progenitor of Justin Morgan. And on the Brush Hill Farm in West Springfield, MA, there is a table that relates a legend.
From this farm came the stallion, Justin Morgan, progenitor of that useful breed known as the Morgan Horse.
Morgans are active in many disciplines including: Combined Driving, Carriage, Pleasure classes, Western, Hunter, Dressage, Reining, Cutting and of course Endurance and Competitive Trail. And their great kindness makes them assets as therapeutic riding horses. The Morgan Horse adapts to his owner’s needs and lifestyle.