The United States has never known a more likable, adaptable horse than the Morgan. Renowned for its amicable personality and exquisite strength, the Morgan has served every function a horse possibly can since its development in the 1700s. Whether carriage pulling, harness racing, or transporting miners during the California Gold Rush, the Morgan Horse breed has touched nearly every corner of American equestrian history!
Morgan Horse Physical Characteristics
What sets Morgans apart from other horse breeds are their pronounced withers and muscular compositions. They hold their heads and tails very high, giving them one of the most distinctive postures of any breed.
People often say that Morgan horses have a proud look about them, and it’s not hard to see why. The long neck, arched back, and expressive eyes make them appear to be holding themselves in an ever-alert, noble stance.
The Morgan horse has a compact body, a short back, and a broad chest. This body type has afforded them a lot of versatility in the equestrian world – they are excellent choices for show jumping, dressage, endurance riding, and pleasure riding. The Morgan’s agility makes it an ideal stock horse as well.
Morgan Horse Size
Morgan horses are typically 14-15 hands (56.4-60.8 inches) tall. This makes them one of the shorter horse breeds out there, but their height doesn’t diminish their elegant stature at all. The average Morgan weighs between 900-1,100 pounds (400-500 kg).
Morgan Horse Personality
The Morgan horse has an even, well-mannered temperament. The easy-going nature of the breed makes them a superb choice for riders of all experience levels, from beginner to advanced. Morgan horses are renowned for their outgoing predisposition — they’re a breed that won’t shy away from strangers. These traits make the Morgan horse especially suited for working with children since junior riders often require a patient and courageous mount.
Morgans will easily befriend their riders due to a tendency to be affectionate with people they know well. The bond between a Morgan horse and its rider can reach a complex depth if both parties establish trust. There is no lack of loyalty in the Morgan horse, and once they bond with their rider, they will always aim to please.
Curiosity is another hallmark of the Morgan horse’s character. Morgan horses are naturally intelligent, and their brains seek stimulation. You may find a young Morgan easily distracted during lessons, and even a grown Morgan may stop to explore their environment when it has the opportunity. The breed’s curiosity extends to people and contributes to their social nature.
Morgan Horse History
The Morgan is known as one of the first breeds developed in the United States. The Morgan horse’s founding can be traced back to Justin Morgan, a man from Randolph, Vermont.
Justin Morgan owned a stallion named Figure that may have been a cross between Arabian and thoroughbred lines, but its true heritage has been lost to time. Figure stood at only 56 inches tall, but he had a reputation for being one of his New England community’s most athletic and friendly stallions.
When word of Figure’s desirable traits got around, people lined up to breed their mares. Figure passed his traits down the line, and the distinct Morgan breed came to be.
Initially deemed the “Justin Morgan horse,” the breed successfully performed all kinds of arduous labor — draft work, pulling plows, and anything else that required excessive strength and stamina. Once the breed proved itself a reliable workhorse, the United States Cavalry used them as artillery horses in the American Civil War.
Today, the Morgan horse continues its hardworking and versatile nature. You can find Morgan horses giving pleasure rides, competing in all varieties of competition, and performing agricultural labor. They make beloved pets for families and horse lovers of all kinds.
How to Care for a Morgan Horse
Morgans are easy to care for, but it’s crucial to keep up with routine veterinary care. Ensure that your Morgan gets vaccinated, de-wormed regularly, and receives adequate dental care. Fresh water is an absolute necessity at all times. Daily exercise is also essential since it helps maintain the horse’s weight. Check your Morgan’s hooves daily for dirt, debris, and signs of infection.
Hoof picks and brushes are a necessary investment for maintaining your horse’s hooves. Picks will help you clean the hooves, and brushes are used to apply oils that keep the hooves healthy. Hoof oil can repair cracks, help prevent infections like thrush, and ease sore feet.
Morgan Horse Training
The Morgan’s friendly nature makes training fun and relatively easy. When a horse develops trust with its owner, it becomes more obedient to commands. Like all horses, it’s best to start when they’re young.
Halter training is the first step to building the foal’s trust and confidence. From there, you can work up to verbal commands and saddle training. Horses two years old and under should avoid strenuous exercises like driving and pulling because their bodies are still developing. It’s best to teach the horse to ride before training them to pull.
Nutrition and Feeding for a Morgan Horse
The best option for feeding your Morgan is to let them graze freely in a pasture. However, feeds will also work just fine. The biggest concern for a Morgan horse is becoming overweight since they are relatively small. To avoid weight gain, it’s essential to minimize the amount of sweet feed you give your Morgan. You should feed your Morgan between 2-4 pounds of food per day, depending on the horse’s activity level. You can add beneficial products like CBD oil to your horse’s food for maximum nutrition.
One way to monitor your Morgan’s weight is to feel along its ribs. If the animal’s ribs are not visible but can be felt without pushing hard, your Morgan is at a healthy weight. Morgans will stay healthier if you feed them smaller portions of food at more frequent intervals (this mimics free-roam grazing).
When measuring food, it’s also important that you measure by weight, not volume. Feed rich in fiber, like hay or grass, will support the horse’s digestion and help prevent weight gain. Be sure to check out our article, What Do Horses Eat, to learn more about equine nutrition.
Coat Color And Grooming
Brushing your Morgan at least once a week will ensure the coat stays healthy and free of debris. Since Morgans have thick manes and tails, dedicate some extra time to detangling and conditioning the hair, as this will prevent mats. Well-groomed manes and tails are likely to score extra points in any horse show!
No official breed standard exists for the Morgan’s coat appearance. Morgans come in a variety of colors, although their coats are most commonly dark and solid. These other patterns are common as well:
Bay horses have a brown coat with a black mane, tail, ears, and lower legs. Without the dark markings, the pattern is not considered bay.
A dun coat is light on the body, with darker pigmentation on the limbs. The dun pattern can exist on any coat color.
This describes a coat with an even ratio of white and colored hairs. Roans can come in chestnut, black, dark blue, or brown (bay) coats. Roan coats often lighten with the seasons.
Morgans are a healthy horse breed with very few congenital problems running in the line. However, it’s always important to check a horse’s pedigree before purchasing so you are aware of any genetic conditions they may carry.
Cushing’s disease, a hormonal condition that causes weight loss, excessive sweating, and lethargy, can occur in older Morgans. Fortunately, the rate of this condition is rare. Veterinarians recommend a balanced diet and serotonin antagonists to treat the disorder. Although Cushing’s is not fatal, it can seriously diminish your horse’s quality of life.
The Morgan breed carries a higher risk of obesity due to its short stature. To prevent weight gain, ensure your horse gets exercise daily and avoid feeds that are high in sugar and fat.
Laminitis is a condition that decreases the blood flow to the hoof’s inner layer, called the laminae. This causes inflammation in the hoof and intense pain for your horse. The condition can be caused by obesity and high sugar diets. Laminitis can lead to lameness if left untreated.
How to Get a Morgan Horse
Morgans can range from $1,000 to $5,000. A horse’s price depends on its age, health, training, and pedigree. You can buy them from breeders, shelters, or at local auctions.
There are lots of organizations dedicated to preserving the breed. The American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) offers mentor, competition, and breeding programs. They also oversee ranch networks for proud Morgan owners across the nation. The organization offers different levels of membership — registration in the organization provides members with access to these resources for an annual fee.
Similarly, there are regional clubs that help support Morgan horse owners. In California, the Sacramento Valley Morgan Horse Club works in conjunction with the American Morgan Horse Association to promote breeding. They host their own shows and offer special horse sales for members of the club. There are equivalent clubs in nearly every state in the country — just search Google for your region’s local horse association.
More About This Horse Breed
Morgans can live over 30 years if they are well cared for. Because of its American origin, you will sometimes hear the breed referred to as the “American Morgan horse.” Perhaps the Mustang horse is the only other breed so intimately connected to America’s history.
Morgan horses are undoubtedly one of the most charming and enjoyable horses you can own. Truly the most American line to grace the stables, the Morgan horse will continue to bring joy to equine lovers for generations to come!