The Morgan Horse

Have you ever read the novel Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry? Or watched the movie? (Both are good – I recommend them!) If you have, then you might’ve already learned a little about the magnificent Morgan horse breed.

I rode a really fun Morgan horse, Rikki, for a while and really liked him so I think the breed is pretty cool. Here are some more things you might want to know about the Morgan horse breed.

Breed History

Did you know that Morgan horse is the first known American horse breed? These horses trace back to one foundation sire – Figure, who was owned by a horseman named Justin Morgan in 1788.

Figure was one of two colts who were taken as payment for a debt. He looked like just a little thing at first but he grew to be 14 hands high and weighed 950 pounds. He turned out to be a strong bay horse that worked the fields, had a certain distinctive look, conformation, and temperament. These are all characteristics that Morgan horses have today.

Figure spent a life working on farms and as a parade mount at militia trainings. He died at the age of 32 in 1821 and was buried in Tunbridge, Vermont. He’s the horse who is the star of the book and movie, Justin Morgan Had a Horse. One thing I loved about his story was that no one thought he could do what he did because of his size, but he ended up winning all kinds of competitions!

Characteristics of the Morgan Horse

You may be able to tell a Morgan horse if you know what to look for. You’ll probably see a compact, refined build; large expressive eyes; an upright, graceful neck, strong limbs and laid back shoulders. These horses are usually black, bay and chestnut. But you may see them in other color patterns like grey, dun, palomino, roan, or even pinto patterns!

Most full grown Morgan horses will be between 14.1 to 15.2 hands high. If they are under 14.1 hands tall, then they will be considered “ponies” and registered with the National Morgan Pony Registry (even though they are technically full-grown horses).

Morgan horses are usually athletes. They can be ridden Western or English, and they often make great trail horses and ranch horses.

Morgan Horses Today

You may see this breed in horse shows – even in the Olympics! There is even a show circuit just dedicated to this breed. You may have also seen them in show jumping, dressage, eventing or combined driving.

Famous Morgan horses include Figure, of course, as well as Little Sorrel, who Confederate General Stonewall Jackson rodeduring the Civil War and Charlemagne, mounted by General Joshua Chamberlain in the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

In the US, horses of this breed are registered with the AMHA or the American Morgan Horse Association.