The Morgan is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the U.S., tracing back to the foundation sire, Figure, a bay colt born in Massachusetts in 1789 who was owned by a Vermont teacher and horseman named Justin Morgan. Figure stood about 14 hands is believed to have been sired by the British Thoroughbred True Briton, although some DNA evidence suggests that Figure’s sire or dam were Canadian Horses from Quebec.
As a sire, Figure (or “Justin Morgan’s horse” as he was commonly known) passed on his good qualities. One of his sons, Sherman, was the sire of Black Hawk, a foundation stallion for the Standardbred, American Saddlebred, and Tennessee Walking Horse breeds. Throughout U.S. history, Morgans were used as cavalry mounts and by miners during the California gold rush. During the 19th and 20th centuries Morgans were exported to other countries, including England where they influenced Hackney horse breeding.
Author Marguerite Henry wrote the largely fictional children’s book Justin Morgan Had a Horse in 1945, on which a 1972 Disney movie was based.
Morgan Horses are sturdy, hard-working, adaptable animals standing between 14-15.2 hands. They are solidly built and compact, yet refined, and while generally bay, black, or chestnut in colour, they can be found in any colour, including pinto.
Morgans have a spirited but manageable personality. Their gaits are animated, elastic, square, collected, and balanced. Some Morgans are gaited and able to perform the rack, foxtrot, or pace.
The Morgan Horse is known for its versatility, animation, stamina, and willing attitude. They can be found at both English and Western shows performing in dressage, show jumping, Western pleasure, saddle seat, and also make good endurance and trail riding mounts. They make exceptional working stock horses, pleasure riding mounts, and carriage driving horses. Their gentle dispositions and steady gaits make them sought-after for therapeutic riding programs and 4-H and Pony Club activities.