By Ruth Ring Harvie
February 1984 in "Dressage and Cross Training" and
adapted for this website) A current advertisement for an imported
European sport horse stallion reads " Remount and harness horse,
average height 15.2 to 16.2 hands, solid colors, known for action
and strength, main use today for dressage, jumping and cross breeding."
This description might have been used to promote the majority of
Morgan horses bred from the middle of the nineteenth century to
the middle of the twentieth century. For years, Morgans with exactly
these characteristics were being exported for the upgrading of foreign
stock, even to England, the acknowledged leader in blood-horse production.
Volumes I and
II of the Morgan Horse Register records horses known to have had
excellent conformation and type synonymous with descriptions of
the finest Swedish, German and Polish imports. Yet descendants
of the early registered Morgans have a documented lineage traced
with more certainly than many of the current imports, whose pedigrees
were clouded by the loss of records and breeding stock in World
War II. There is reason for those who demand a quality sport horse,
and who prefer to buy American, to consider the Morgan.
In the 1800's,
LL Dorsey of Middletown, Kentucky, was breeding horses outstanding
by today's Olympic standards, having size and quality known then
and now as 'world class.' Many of these were registered as Morgans,
yet carry he very best Thoroughbred blood as well. For years the
blood-horse influence on the Morgan Breed has been minimized by
its association, as has that of the Arabian stallion Zilcaadi,
whose blood comes through the registered stallion Morgan Golddust.
Many Morgans traced to the Thoroughbred Boston and, not surprisingly,
many of the illustrations in the early Morgan registers show a
powerful resemblance to the great English sire Diomed. Not only
did many of his descendants win the Kentucky Derby, many of them
raced under saddle and in harness across this entire continent,
and were registered Morgans. Breeders in Kentucky and Tennessee
are known to have refused over twenty thousand of dollars for
Black Hawk grandchildren out of mares who were granddaughters
of such notables as Sir Archy and Glencoe.
In the late 1800's,
it was not unusual to find a son of Black Hawk out of a Duroc
daughter standing in California to mares who had crossed the continent
on their own four feet. Most of the horses with this type of breeding
stood sixteen or sixteen and half hands high, which was average
for the Thoroughbreds of the day. Sixteen-two hand Morgans were
even bred to Dixmont, Maine, out of Virginia-bred mares (TB) by
Black Hawk and Morrill sires, where the sport horse tradition
now continues with Hanoverian sires! In Michigan, the Morgan sire
Green Mountain Black Hawk stood to daughters of Glencoe.
No stranger to
quality blood-horses, Richard Sellman of Texas chose the Morgan
stallion Major Gordon, whose daughters formed the foundation band
of this most influential family of mares. Sons of Meteor and The
Admiral were used on these mares to produce horses for ranch use.
These blood-lines breed true today with remarkable uniformity.
Sellman's discriminating taste and uncompromising selectivity
led to the purchase of Headlight Morgan, from the Morgan Horse
Company of Carpenterville, Illinois, a famous stopping place of
large quality, enduring horses on their way west. The old Brunk
family of Morgans also preserves quality blood lines from the
foundation mares of Frank Mc Gavock of Nashville, Tennessee. Present-day
Morgan sport horse breeders prize the blood of Daniel Lambert
and Jubilee King.
Before the motorization
of the Calvary, the United States government, through the War
Department and the Department of Agriculture, entered into a horse-breeding
endeavor to preserve this type of horse. Losses of both Thoroughbred
and Morgan horses in the Civil War, the development of the railroad,
and other sociological factors narrowed the genetic base for quality
horses to a degree which alarmed these agencies. Thus the Morgan
came to share, with the European breeds, the tradition of government
sponsored Remount service.
The horses researched
and selected by Col. Battel of Middlebury, Vermont, and subsequently
given for use to the USDA and the War Department Remount Program,
were fine examples of the international-style sport horse. Line-bred
descendants of General Gates, now considered the genetic base
for current Morgan pedigrees, and of Troubadour of Willowmoor,
when crossed with the early Remount service bloodlines, produce
excellent horses to this day. The Remount stallions were rigorously
tested, offspring were culled ruthlessly, and the highest standards
of soundness and conformation were set for resultant offspring.
Madison Lambert, and Donlyn (later purchased for use at the Imperial
Stud by the Emperor of Japan) were the original Army Horse Breeding
Program stallions, followed by Bennington, Red Oak (a particularly
prepotent sport horse sire), enlisted men remember holding beloved,
trusting mounts while their superior officers and Veterinary officers
administered lethal injections. Thus perished the largest and
best of the male offspring from the Remount Programs, for this
nation was at war, and there was no place for mounted units. The
only Calvary in action was annihilated in the battle for Bataan.
lines to the aforementioned stallions have died out, several private
breeders preserved a few of these families. In addition to Richard
Sellman's Texas stock, Californians Roland G. Hill, William Randolph
Hearst, and W.T. Carter bred outstanding horses of great quality.
Crosses to Headlight Morgan, The Admiral, Red Oak, Querido, Sonfield,
and Gay Mac are sought after by Morgan sport horse breeders today.
are descendants of old Brunk breeding from Illinois, Joseph C.
Brunk brought back stock from Tennessee to Illinois, rich in the
blood of Black Hawk, Allen King, Allen Franklin, Penrod, Jubilee
King, Juban, and Red Vermont are equally desirable blood lines.
The Brunk breeding also returned to the breed blood of Indian
Chief, through the great mare Lady de Jarnette, his daughter.
Indian Chief was a bright bay, with a stripe and a left hind stocking.
He stood sixteen hands high and was a famous Kentucky sire. Sellman
and Brunk bloodlines alike share the influence of this sire, through
the stallion Jubilee de Jarnette.
crosses with Upwey Benn Don and the mare Upwey Benn Quietude in
the pedigree have contributed to the quality sport horses. Thoroughbred
blood comes in again through the mare Quietude.
Until the 1960's,
the Morgan maintained its image as a using or working horse, on
ranches, competing in long distance and endurance rides, performing
in some of the earliest combined training events, and in dressage
and carriage driving. The versatile Morgan was an all-round pleasure
horse, giving years of service, with soundness and longevity -
its stock and trade.
Typical of the
Remount heritage is the mare Lady Linsley. She was bred by Lester
Biesecker of Topeka, Kansas, and brought east by Muriel Gordon
of Middleburgh, New York. She has taken owner Nancy Splaine Guyotte
through the A Level in Pony Club, through years of eventing, and
is still producing offspring of exceptional soundness and talent.
Her daughter is typical of the oldest American sport horse Sired
by a Thoroughbred, Kate Linsley [in 1984 was] AHSA Area I Champion
in Combined Training. [The previous] season she was in fourth
place, nationally. Her purebred and partbred siblings are consistently
and Lee Fergusson have ridden Morgans to advanced standings in
dressage. A fifteen-three hand Morgan mare called Mariah was Open
Jumper Champion, and the sixteen hand Sparrow's Dandy Date is
well-known in open jumping. Winning performances have been given
at Ram Tap and Pebble Beach Horse Trails and Events by offspring
of Kings River Morgan and Gold Dollar. Rancher Creek Carter, Cammando
K.R., Prince Dollar, and Redwood Morgan all campaigned in eventing
in California under such aliases as Hypodermic and High Potential.
It is no wonder that people do not realize they [were] Morgans.
With the emphasis
within the breed association on show ring activities, and styles
mostly dictated by the American Saddlebred tradition, recognition
from the Morgan establishment has not been forthcoming. Only in
Combined Driving have Morgans been recognized as a breed to be
noticed. . . .
Any serious student
of Morgan horses should carefully read the book Morgan Horses
by Peggy Jet Pittenger, published by A.S. Barnes. Her research
into the history of the breed is impeccable, and of the greatest
help to those interested in purchase or breeding.
For sport horse
use, we tend to seek out within-breed out crosses which seem to
revive genetic vigor, producing more size and substance. Effort
is also made to avoid high inbreeding coefficients to certain
stallions where short - or 'pony' - gaited characteristics prevail.
Excellence in balance and coordination are more pronounced in
some families than others, and a certain amount of selectivity
is prudent. Before they become extinct, bloodlines back to the
famous Bennington-Artemisia cross are desirable in order to keep
the genetic base as wide as possible. Careful breeding can produce
individuals of show quality, type, disposition, and generally
predictable size (ranging from 15.2 - 17 hands high).
differ somewhat from the horses bred for halter and show ring
classes today. Often Remount bred Morgans grow unevenly and mature
more slowly, generally growing into themselves as late as eight
years of age. Since longevity is one of their most endearing characteristics,
particularly for dressage enthusiasts who have such an investment
in schooling, one reaps benefits on the other end of the scale.
As it is with
the Lippizaner, wisdom in going slowly and not expecting too much
until seven or eight is a good practice. Excellent bone and soundness
of limb are the rule, and inheritable unsoundnesses are almost
unheard of. I would consider these horses to be 'warmer-bloods,'
for they have all the energy and sensitivity of the Thoroughbred,
with an almost indescribable 'cow-sense,' which may come from
the years of selectivity for ranch work. In any case, there is
an almost sheep-dog kind of companionship which develops between
these horses and their riders, as their willingness to please
and their untiring efforts become more appreciated. Generally,
very easy keepers, it is usual for a Morgan in hard work to need
only good hay and four quarts of concentrated ration.
. . .
Morgans of Old Lyme, Connecticut, are crossing the best of the
old Brunk-bred mares with the stallion Blackwood Correl from Nebraska.
A large, compact black horse, Correl's offspring are known for
their scopy way of going and tremendous impulsion. [In 2000 Whippoorwill
Ebony (aka, 1 Black Tie) owned by Catherine Echternach, was a
USDF All-Breed Winner having been awarded a 62.063% at Grand Prix
level, Freestyle]. Margaret Gardiner of Kennebec Morgan
horse Farm in South Woolwich, Maine, has been breeding Morgan
sport horses for years. Her foundation mare was Helen May, purchased
form the Roland Hill ranch in California. At Heron Cove, in Brunswick,
Maine, we have bred Morgans for our own use in Pony Club, Dressage
and Combined Training. Two of our youngsters will mature at 16.2
hands, one at 16.0, and one at 17 hands high. Conformation and
soundness were our most important breeding goals, but the size
and marvelous temperaments were an added bonus.
convinced that Morgans have the floating trot of the Takehner,
disposition as kind as the Hanoverian, presence and style equal
to the Swedish Warmblood, the charm, durability, and easy keeping
qualities of the Connemara and New Forest, along with the unsurpassed
tractability and the desire to please man as profound as the dedication
of the Arabian War mare to its master. Best of all, the roots
of the Morgan Sport Horse lie deep in the history of this nation.
2002 Up Date to Harvie's
Article . . .
Since Harvie's writing
nearly two decades ago, many more Morgan breeders and competitors
have joined the increasingly bourgeoning long list of successful
Sport and Pleasure Morgan enthusiasts.
Robert and Joyce Quigley
of Fox Brush Morgans, Florida. Have enjoyed honors in Combined
Driving Events (CDEs), Endurance, Jumping and lower level dressage
with their stallions 16 hand Funquest Erick and Funquest Sharpwing.
Funquest Erik is approved for breeding with the American Warmblood
Dick Nelson's success
as a sport Morgan breeder has been evident for several decades
many of these successful Morgans bare Nelson's "Primavera"
prefix. Such notable Morgans as: reining Champion, Primavera Valdez,
owned by Bob and Carol Simpson, California; Dressage and Cross-Country
competitor Primavera Victorio along with countless others bred
by Nelson (who is now residing in California) have gone on to
successful competition in a variety of European as well as western
DJJJ Ebony Gold owned
by Deborah Griffith of Griffon d' Morgans, Maryland, has campaigned
her 16 hand black stallion competing along side European imported
Stallions having ranked 3rd in his 100 day stallion testing in
jumping and receiving a notably high rideability score as well.
Ebony and Debra have been honored as Sport Horse and Breeder of
the year several times by the American Morgan Horse Association.
California, have been extremely successful both in breed and open
competition with their stallions Dragonfire Kirn (16 hands) and
Cedar City Penbrook (15.3 hands). The get of these stallions are
moving up the ranks in both show jumping and dressage nationally.
Currently, both Dragonfire Ladyhawke and Zinfandel are among the
2000 USDF All-Breeds Winners.
Dr Lowell Hughes MD,
Caduceus Morgans, Iowa, has been breeding Big, Black, Sport Morgans
who are successfully moving up the ranks in Dressage. One of a
number of such products of his program is Caduceus Herod, owned,
trained, and shown by Barbara Putnam, Iowa. Together the pair
have earned USDF all breed awards every year from 1993 to 2000,
to date they are MDA/USDF Prix St. Georges Level champions, in
the Adult Amateur division - all along competing almost entirely
open in USDF/AHSA recognized shows.
Dressage Training Facility,
Full Circle's, FEI trainer Chrissa Frith-Hoffman is campaigning
Dancity Savoir Faire "Savvy" along with four other Morgans
through the dressage levels and schooling Piaffe. Frith-Hoffman
finds Morgans to be promising as the demands for smaller warmbloods
are now increasing abroad, making it as she states, " . .
. easier for a good moving, good sized Morgans to be a dressage
option in America . . .". Frigth-Hoffmann now
rides with Pan American games Silver Medalist, Dr. Cesar Parra
of Columbia, who trains in Maryland and Florida and rides in Germany.
For many years now,
The Greentree Ranch, Colorado, has made a long successful tradition
of breeding for Sport, family and show Morgans which has now culminated
in their present generation of powerfully bred Sport Morgans.
Most currently, Greentree Ever Reddi, Greentree Courtney and Austin
Niagra are 2000 USDF All-Breed Champions also receiving MDA awards
Last but not least,
undoubtedly considered by many as the modern day grand-daddy of
Dressage Morgans, Big Bend Doc Davis, now deceased was a USDF
Grande Prix Champion Morgan stallion before retiring to the breeding
This post script high lights just a few of the Morgan trainers,
breeders and competitors who are finding Morgans exceeding expectations
as world class sport horses. Notwithstanding CDE, Jumping, and
other equine sports, close examination of the current USDF Winner's
list alone shows that nearly 20 years later Ruth Ring Harvie's
sport Morgan breeding strategy is "breeding true" today
as the majority of the Morgans now winning in upper level USDF
dressage are out of her recommended within-breed Morgan crosses.
We are also happy to say here at Bossert Ranch that we are breeding
these same Sport Morgan lines!
For more research and
information on Sport Morgans, please see our links page.