Morgan Horses are distinctive for their stamina and vigor, personality and eagerness and strong natural way of moving. Conformation is the degree of perfection of the component parts and their relationship to each other.
1. The head should be expressive with broad forehead; large prominent eyes; with straight or slightly dished short face; firm fine lips; large nostrils and Nvell-rounded jowls. The ears should be short and shapely, set rather wide apart and carried alertly. Mares may have a slightly longer ear.
2. The throat latch is slightly deeper than other breeds and should be refined sufficiently to allow proper flexion at the poll and normal respiration.
3. The neck should come out on top of an extremely well angulated shoulder with depth from top of withers to point of shoulder. It should be relatively fine in relation to sex. It should be slightly arched and should blend with the withers and back. The top line of the neck should be considerably longer than the bottom line. The stallion should have more crest than the mare or gelding. An animal gelded late in life may resemble the stallion more closely.
4. The withers should be well defined and extend into the back in proportion to the angulations of the shoulder.
5. The body should be compact with a short back, close coupling, broad loins, deep flank, well-sprung ribs, croup long and well muscled with tail attached high, carried gracefully and straight. A weak, low, or long back is a severe fault. Morgan horses should not be higher at the croup than at the withers.
6. The stifle should be placed well forward and low in the flank area.
7. The legs should be straight and sound with short cannons, flat bone, and an appearance of over-all substance with refinement. The forearm should be relatively long in proportion to the cannon. The pasterns should have sufficient length and angulations to provide a light, springy step.
8. The structure of the rear legs is of extreme importance to the selection of a long lasting equine athlete. Any sign of poor angulation of the hocks, sickle hocks or cow hocks must be considered a severe fault. Lack of proper flexion of the hock is cause for very close examination of the entire structure of the rear legs and should not be tolerated in breeding stock or show ring winners.
9. The feet should be in proportion to the size of the horse, round, open at heel, with concave sole and hoof of dense structure.
10. Viewed from the front, the chest should be well developed. The front legs should be perpendicular to the ground and closely attached to the body.
11. Viewed from the side, the top line represents a gentle curve from the poll to the back, giving the impression of the neck sitting on top of the withers rather than in front of them, continuing to a short, straight hack and a relatively level croup rounding into a well muscled thigh. The tail should be attached high and carried well arched. At maturity the croup should NOT be higher than the withers. The under line should be long and the body deep through the heart, girth and flanks. The extreme angulation of the shoulder results in the arm being a little more vertical than in other breeds, placing the front legs slightly farther forward on the body. The front legs should be straight and perpendicular to the ground. The rear cannons should be perpendicular to the ground when points of hocks and buttocks are in the same vertical lines.
12. Viewed from the rear, the croup should be well rounded, thighs and gaskins well muscled. Legs should be straight. The gaskin should be relatively long in relation to the cannon. The Morgan should portray good spring of rib and well-rounded buttocks. Slab-sided individuals should be faulted.
13. The height ranges from 14.1 to 15.2 hands, with some individuals under or over.
14. Horses must be serviceably sound--i.e. Must not show evidence of lameness, broken wind or complete loss of sight in either eye.
15. Stallions two years old and over must have all the fully- developed physical characteristics of a stallion. Mature stallions must be masculine in appearance. Mares must be feminine in appearance.
Other distinctive attributes of the Morgan horse are his presence and personality.
Correct way of going for In-Hand classes:
1. The walk should be rapid, flat-footed, with a four-beat cadence, and elastic, with the accent on flexion in the pastern.
2. The trot should be a two-beat, diagonal gait, animated, elastic, square, and collected. The rear action should be in balance with the front. Posing horses must stand squarely on all four feet with the front legs perpendicular to the ground. Rear legs may be placed slightly back. Judge must ask exhibitor to move hind legs up under horse for inspection.
For a complete set of judging guidelines for all Morgan Horse Divisions refer to "The Morgan Horse Judging Standards."
As the new nation of the United States of America began its 200-year- old history, a new breed of horse also began. The now legendary bay stallion Figure was born in 1789 in southern New England. He was taken to Randolph, Vermont, in 1791 by Justin Morgan, who had recently emigrated there with his family from Springfield, Massachusetts. Little did Justin Morgan know that the young stallion Figure and his descendants would play a major role in American history.
Figure became known as the Justin Morgan horse. After the death of Justin Morgan, Figure passed into other hands and spent the balance of his life in Vermont and the Connecticut River Valley of western New Hampshire. He died in 1821 at 32 years of age after sustaining a kick injury from another horse. He left a legacy of sons and daughters who were used by farmers to develop a type of horse well suited to the hilly topography of northern New England.
Sherman Morgan, Bulrush Morgan, and Woodbury Morgan were Figure's most famous and influential sons. These stallions, along with other unrecorded offspring, came to dominate the horse industry of New England and northern New York. In the 1820's they were favorite teams for the stage lines and for field work on farms and transport to town. Their reputation as "horses of all work" was becoming widespread.
New England supplied big city markets such as New York with Morgan-horses for public transportation and freighting as well as private driving. Morgans comprised the preferred teams of stage line owner M.O. Walker of Chicago. They were taken to California to be employed as ranch and harness racing horses. In other areas of the West they were also used as ranch horses.
During the Civil War Morgans were dependable cavalry mounts and artillery horses. Again, their easy-keeping qualities and ability to endure grueling condition allowed them to outlast other types of horses. Several units of cavalry in the Union army and one (known) of the Confederate army were mounted on Morgan horses. United States General Philip Sheridan's famed charger Winchester (a.k.a. Rienzi), who was immortalized after the war, was a descendant of Black Hawk.
From this type of foundation other American horse breeds were developed. Harness racing had become an exceedingly popular sport for which the Standard bred was developed. Other major American breeds that contain the Morgan horse in their initial development include the American Saddle Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, American Quarter Horse, and American Albino.
The Vermont State Fair of the 1850's and 1860's had been a popular venue for the showing of Morgan horses. This fair was discontinued in the 1890's when as economic downturn forced it to cease operating. It was revived in 1907 and, within a very few short years, became the national showcase of the Morgan horses. In 1909 the Morgan Horse Club was formed during the fair. Morgan horses from as far as Illinois and Pennsylvania came to participate in a highly competitive atmosphere.
By an act of Congress in 1905, a farm to perpetuate the Morgan-horse was established. The United States Morgan Horse Farm was established in Weybridge, Vermont, on Joseph Battell's former Bread Loaf Stock Farm. The farm was operated under the auspices of the federal government until 1951, when it was transferred to the University of Vermont, which continues managing the farm today.
Throughout the balance of the 20th century the Morgan-horse, like other types and breeds of horses, has been used primarily for recreational purposes. The majority of Morgan horse owner’s use their Morgan’s for pleasure. Many also compete with their Morgan horses in a wide variety of sporting events. Morgans are highly competitive in driving competition as well as in horse shows and on trail rides. Morgans in reining, cutting, and dressage are gaining success.
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