Breed Name: Morgan

Origin: Vermont

Physical Description:

Morgans are noted for their small ears set above a broad forehead with large, kind eyes, tapered muzzles, and expressive nostrils; an arched neck set on a well angled shoulder; broad chest and short back; deep, compact bodies set on legs with flat, dense bone; round croup; and round, hard hooves. Their proud bearing gives them a distinctive eye-catching beauty.

The Morgan horse is free moving and calm under western tack or elegant and aristocratic ridden in English style. Its soundness, power, agility, and stamina make it the choice of many driving enthusiasts. Reliable, loyal, and tireless, it becomes one with people of all ages and walks of life, sharing the mutual enjoyment in every equine pastime.


Justin Morgan was a teacher, composer, businessman and horseman who moved to Randolph, Vermont from Springfield, Massachusetts in 1788. He acquired a bay colt, born in 1789, and named him Figure. This colt was to become the founding sire of the Morgan breed and America’s first horse breed.

Figure impressed many a pioneer farmer and settler with his compact muscular body and stylish way of moving. His ability to outwalk, outtrot, outrun and outpull other horses was legendary. He died in 1821 from an untreated kick received from another horse leaving his three most famous sons Sherman, Bulrush and Woodbury to carry on his legacy.

The offspring of Justin Morgan’s sons and daughters grew along with the young nation building itself upon hard work and determination. Morgans worked along side their owners clearing fields and forests. When the week’s work was done, they provided transportation to Saturday market and Sunday meeting. In addition, they pulled stagecoaches throughout New England.

In the 1840s several breeders in Vermont and western New Hampshire began efforts to concentrate the Morgan lines. By locating second, third, and fourth generation descendants of the original Morgan horse, they established the foundations of the breed. By the mid-1850s Morgans were selling for high prices and were widely distributed across the United States.

During the Civil War, Morgans served as cavalry mounts and artillery horses. A cavalryman was only as good as his horse and the Morgan is mentioned in many sources as highly desired during the Civil War. The First Vermont Cavalry, mounted entirely on Morgans, gained a wide spread reputation as a fighting unit. Of their more than 1200 horses, only 200 survived the war.

The stamina and spirit of the Morgan, combined with its build and way of traveling, contributed greatly to the formation of other American breeds. These include the Standardbred, Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and American Saddle Horse.

Today, Morgans can be found in all 50 states and in more than 20 foreign countries. Individuals generally range from 14.1 to 15.2 hands, with exceptions under and over. Colors allowed within the breed include bay, black, brown, chestnut, gray, palomino, creme, dun and buckskin. Since its establishment, the American Morgan Horse Registry has listed more than 179,000 Morgans.

Primary Uses:

The Morgan has remained a stylish mount with conformation that lends itself well to a vast range of disciplines and its versatility is widely recognized. The breed’s soundness, power, agility and stamina make it the choice of many driving enthusiasts. Morgans comprise a large number of entries at Combined Driving and Carriage events, and were the first American breed to represent the United States in World Pairs Driving competition.

Morgans also excel in many other disciplines, including Park Saddle and Harness, English and Classic Pleasure Saddle and Driving, Western, Hunter, Jumper, Eventing, Dressage, Reining, Cutting, Endurance and Competitive Trail. They are gentle enough for lessons, 4-H and Pony Club involvement and due to their steady, comfortable gaits are in great demand as therapeutic riding horses. Morgans are equally know for their loving, kind dispositions.

Famous Horses:

The most famous Morgan horse is of course, Justin Morgan himself, or, as he was also known, “Figure.” As Figure grew, his compact muscular body and stylish way of moving impressed many of the pioneer farmers and settlers. Tales of his beauty, strength, endurance, and gentle disposition soon spread throughout small New England towns. His ability to outwalk, outtrot, outrun, and outpull other horses were legendary. His most valuable asset was the ability to pass on his distinguishing characteristics, not only to his offspring, but also through several generations. His three most famous sons–Sherman, Bulrush, and Woodbury–carried on his legacy to future generations.

–Little Sorrel was a Morgan horse ridden by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson in his Civil War campaigns.

–Reinzi (a.k.a. Winchester) was ridden by General Phillip Sheridan to rally his Union troops and was commemorated in the poem and painting, “Sheridan’s Ride,” written by Thomas Buchanan Read. Reinzi was preserved and is at the Smithsonian Museum.

–The foundation sire of the Tennessee Walking Horses, Allan F-1, traced to the Morgan horse, Black Hawk, through his dam.

–The Quarter Horse stallion, Joe Bailey, was a son of Headlight Morgan.

–With 378 offspring, Courage Of Equinox is the breed’s most prolific stallion.

Breed Association: American Morgan Horse Association

(Information provided by U.S. Equestrian Federation?and the American Morgan Horse Association)

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!