Morgan Horse Breed
The ancestry of this American breed of light horse has caused a great amount of controversy over many years, but a measure of agreement has now been reached and it seems that the horse ‘Justin Morgan’, owned by Thomas Justin Morgan, was foaled in 1789 in the Green mountain country of Vermont, USA. This bay, standing 14.2 hands, reproduced to type, character, and conformation with extreme exactness, and won great fame and popularity, resulting in the service of large numbers of mares. The horse died in 1821, having established one of America’s most famous general-purpose breeds. The defined height is 14 to 15 hands.
American Saddle Horse Breed
This breed is a peculiarly transatlantic product and one in which Americans take great pride. It emanates from the early pioneering days of the first settlement of the country 400 years ago, when there were only two means of movement across the vast distances of the new continent – water and horseback. There was no indigenous horse in America, so the early settlers, like the Spaniards, brought their own or imported them soon after. English amblers and pacers came out before the days of the Thoroughbred, together with horses from Spain, France, Africa, and the East. All these went to make up the American Saddle Horse.
The pioneers had to have a light, strong, hardy, speedy animal, comfortable to ride over long distances, adaptable to harness, good-tempered, and intelligent. Accordingly, they bred with careful selection, from the best stock available, including in due course the English Thoroughbred, which gave the breed its fire and brilliance; while it inherited the gentleness and easy gaits of the older English amblers.
Various other American stocks have been introduced in the course of time, Morgan, Standard Bred, and so on; but the officially designated founder of the type is the Thoroughbred “Denmark” (foaled 1839). It is well to note, however, that the parent of the breed, the Kentucky Saddle Horse, was an established product before that time. The blood of “Messenger”, the ancestor of the American trotter, also runs in this breed.
The points of the breed are as follows. Height 15 to 16 hands, preferably not more. In conformation, it should be light and elegant, with a good head, long, fine neck, well-sloped shoulders, round barrel, flat croup, and good clean legs. The general appearance must be one of breeding and brilliance, with high, proud carriage of head and tail, and a stance that covers plenty of ground. In character, it must be docile and intelligent.
The specialty of the breed is the gaits that it exhibits in the show ring, for which it is now almost exclusively bred. These gaits are the usual walk, trot, and canter, and also the artificial paces, the running walk, steeping pace or slow rack, and the fast track. Animals are specially trained in each gait and are known as three- or five-gaited horses according to training. The trot must be highly collected, with the head well flexed, neck and tail arched. These gaits performed with the grace and precision for which the breed is famed are a spectacle not easily forgotten.
The characteristic carriage of the tail is obtained by nicking the muscles of the dock and then setting it in position with a crupper.
With its dynamic action, its three or five gaits, not to mention the peculiar and unnatural set of its tail, this horse is very arresting. Those that reach the highest standard in America present a horse in action comparable only with Hackney horses and ponies. The breed can only be found in a few places outside of America, nor is it likely ever to receive and measure of popularity were it brought to England, especially now that the law in this country prohibits the nicking and docking of horses’ tails.
The American Saddle Horse, as the name implies, is of course used primarily for saddle work, but as the action of this horse is high and exaggerated in the extreme it is unlikely to find general favor anywhere else in the world where the smooth, low, long and level action is considered as the ideal.