In today’s tough economic times, people are expecting their dollars to stretch further and further. in the equine industry, the specialists are dying out, while there is an increasing demand for the horse than can do it all. As a result, many breeds are changing to create more versatile animals to meeting this demand. However, some breeds have this versatility built-in already; the Morgan horse is a prime example.

Remarkably, the conformation to today’s Morgan has changed very little from that of the breed’s foundation sire, Justin Morgan, a compact bay stallion known throughout his native New England for his strength, speed and temperament. Except for their greater size (16.0 hands is not unheard of within the breed), Morgans have remained stylish, spirited and yet notably tractable mounts with sound, moderate conformation that lends itself well to a vast range of riding styles. A comparison of the Morgan’s conformation with other, less versatile, conformation types shows why the Morgan is indeed a breed for the times.

SPIRIT, STYLES, ABILITY: BASIC MORGAN QUALITIES

Spirit: From its large, soft eyes and well-shaped ears, through its broad forehead and moderately tapered nose, to its firm muzzle and expressive nostrils, the profile of the Morgan typifies its spirit. Lacking the narrowness of many saddle seat breeds; the heavy arched profile of the European imports; or the strongjowled toughness of many western types, the Morgan has the classic appear of its Arabian and barb ancestors and yet retains characteristics-like it unusually large and attractive eyes-which are distinctly its own.

Furthermore, unlike many breeds bred strictly for work and competition, also inherent in the Morgan is the friendliness and loyalty of a horse bred to be used by the entire family for both work and pleasure. Justin Morgan’s reputation was built not only on his ability to stamp his get in his image, but also on his remarkable versatility, a trait which he also passed on to his progeny. Today, Morgan owners will speak unendingly of the variety of their horses’ accomplishments. Unfortunately, given the well-known longevity of the breed and the unusual devotion typically displayed by its owners, conversing about a Morgan can be somewhat time-consuming.

Another important trait which epitomizes the Morgan is its intelligence, apparent in its conformation through its broad forehead and well-spaced, yet finely sculpted ears. Unlike breeds founded on draft blood, Morgan horses are quick learners and most can easily be trained by amateurs, instead of requiring years of professional attention like some European-breeds. The Morgan’s intelligence and good, basic conformation, which not producing talent of Olympic proportions in sports requiring exceptional speed or stride, nevertheless enable it to perform successfully through the advanced levels of many types of competitions.

Style: Morgan conformation also accounts for its ability to be a stylish mount for a number of activities. its moderately long neck rises higher from its shoulders than the western horse and yet is neither swan-like nor thin as is the standard for the five-gaited horse. This neck, combined with sloping, broadly muscular shoulders, round rather than angular withers and an exceptionally strong back and hindquarters are the traits which make the Morgan capable of accommodating a wide range of riding styles.

Also built into the Morgan conformation is the stylish carriage which is the basis for its suitability for both saddle seat and dressage. Because it is already engaged, active and light, the Morgan’s natural carriage often requires little more than adjustments in it straining and showing to adapt it to either pursuit. In contrast, the longer-backed race horse and shorter necked stock horse have trouble making similar adjustments because their conformation lacks the Morgan’s flexibility. Meanwhile, heavier-fronted European horses require years of training to perform with the style and natural carriage with which the Morgan is born.

Ability: Neither heavy-boned like the European horse, nor slight-boned like the race horse, the Morgan is still more substantially built than many taller horses. As a result, it can carry more weight and longer-legged riders without the expensive and troublesome demands of big horses: Morgans don’t require oversized stalls or horse trailers, they don’t require tons of food, and for the average rider, they don’t even require mounting blocks or a leg-up.

Like an efficient machine, Morgan’s round, muscular hindquarters; large, clean hocks and knees; short, broad cannon bones; and large, higher-heeled feet provide both power and remarkable soundness. Its supple shoulder, springy pasterns and four-square stance produce straight, elastic, efficient movement, making the Morgan equally suitable for driving, jumping, endurance riding or ranch work.

In contrast, the flatter, broader rumps of many European types often produce great power, but at the expense of agility; the slight, very flat rumps and "camped-out" hind legs of other saddle horse breeds severely limit their ability to reach under and push off with their hocks; and while the "fast-twitch" muscles of stock-type horses are powerful, their inefficiency suits only short bursts of effort and does not produce the years of useful soundness which characterize the Morgan.

Contributed By: The American Morgan Horse Association, Inc