The Morgan horse is a versatile American horse breed known for excelling in a wide range of disciplines. First developed in the Northeastern United States in the 1800s, modern Morgans have long maintained a reputation as dependable companions and willing partners.

The breed’s history began with the offspring of a legendary stallion whose descendants went on to serve many roles throughout American history.  Morgan horses are also prominent in the foundation bloodlines of several other horse breeds on both sides of the Atlantic.

Their kind characters and sturdy builds make the Morgan an ideal pleasure mount for horse owners today. However, Morgan horses are susceptible to health problems if owners don’t carefully manage their diet and weight.

This article will discuss the history, characteristics, health problems, and nutritional requirements of Morgan horses. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for your Morgan.

Morgan Horse History

The Morgan is one of the earliest breeds of horses developed in the United States. With deep New England roots, the horse is now famous throughout North America.

These horses are so central to Vermont’s history that the state made Morgans the official state animal. Morgan horses are also featured prominently in literature and film, and the breed continues to grow its fanbase today.

Morgan Horse Breed History | Mad Barn Canada

Origin

All Morgan horses can trace their heritage to a single foundation sire, Figure. Born in 1789, the bay stallion became known as the Justin Morgan horse after his most prominent owner. [1]

The stallion’s exact origins remain a mystery, but evidence suggests he descended from Arabian, Thoroughbred, Welsh cob, and Friesian lines. Figure’s life is also clouded by legends and myths popularized by Marguerite Henry’s 1945 novel, Justin Morgan Had a Horse.

Today, it’s generally believed Justin Morgan only owned Figure from 1792-1795. The stallion had a long life with several owners and careers on the racetrack, in farm fields, hauling freight, and standing at stud. He even once carried President James Monroe as a parade mount. [1]

Figure gained recognition for his ability to pass on his unmatched versatility and distinguishing characteristics through several generations. After his death, his three most famous sons, Woodbury, Bulrush, and Sherman, carried on his legacy. [2]

Four widely recognized Morgan families include groups of horses originating from a specific breeding program or common ancestors. [3] These include the Brunk, Lippitt, Government, and Working Western families.

Historic Use

Figure’s offspring likely spent their days clearing fields and forests for their owners. The same horses often provided transportation to markets and meetings on the weekend. Many also pulled stagecoaches throughout New England.

These horses stood out in their ability to excel at both riding and pulling. By the 1840s, breeders began selectively breeding to concentrated Morgan lines. The horses produced by these breeders soon began selling for high prices to new homes throughout the U.S. [2]

During the early years of the harness racing industry, Morgans began setting trotting records. However, Morgans were mainly regarded as excellent general-purpose mounts and served as cavalry horses on both sides of the civil war.

Morgan characteristics also contributed to the formation of other notable American breeds, including the Quarter Horse, Standardbred, and Tennessee Walking Horse. [2]

Breed Registry

The American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) is the official breed registry dedicated to preserving, promoting, and perpetuating the Morgan horse. Founded in 1909 as the Morgan Horse Club, the association underwent reorganization and was renamed in 1971.

Today, there are approximately 90,000 living Morgans registered with the AMHA. The organization only registers foals that have two registered Morgan parents.

The slogan of the AMHA, “The Horse That Chooses You,” reflects the heart, willingness, and intellect characteristic of the breed they represent.