Morgan Horse: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

Chestnut Morgan horse standing on grass with hay in her mouth and looking over her shoulder

Joelle Sedlmeyer/Getty Images

The congenial and versatile Morgan horse is among the most popular horse breeds. Known as "the horse that chooses you," it's an exceptionally cooperative breed with an eagerness to please its humans. Adaptable to virtually any situation and use, the Morgan is generally easy to keep. Equestrians of all levels, including children, are typically able to handle a Morgan horse.

Breed Overview

Weight: 900 to 1,000 pounds

Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

Body Type: Compact, muscular build; short head with wide forehead; large, expressive eyes; high head and tail carriage; thick mane and tail

Best For: Owners and riders of all levels, including children

Life Expectancy: 30 years

Morgan Horse History and Origins

The Morgan horse was one of the first horse breeds to be developed in the United States. The founding stallion of the breed was a horse named Figure, owned by Vermont schoolteacher Justin Morgan in the late 1700s. No one knows for certain what Figure’s pedigree was, but it's generally accepted that it was the offspring of horses with Arabian, thoroughbred, and perhaps Welsh cob or Friesian bloodlines.

Figure was a compact horse, standing at only around 14 hands (56 inches) tall. But the stallion developed a reputation for his athleticism and pleasant disposition. As people of New England heard of Figure’s ability to out-pull and out-distance many other horses, it became a desirable stallion for breeding.

Figure passed his traits to his offspring, and the breed eventually was named after his owner. Over time, the Morgan became the ultimate all-purpose horse, equally at home in harness, under saddle, on the race track, or at work in fields. It also contributed to the bloodlines of other horse breeds, including the Canadian, saddlebred, Tennessee walking horse, American Standardbred, and American quarter horse.

The American Morgan Horse Association was established in 1909 to serve as a breed registry. 

Morgan Horse Size

Smaller than many other full-size horse breeds, Morgan horses average from 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches) tall. There is no strict standard regarding size, so horses may be shorter or taller. Morgans tend to weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds.

Morgan Horse Breeding and Uses

As seen with the stallion Figure, the Morgan horse was bred for its athletic prowess, versatility, and cooperative nature. Since its beginning, the Morgan has been an all-purpose horse with a long resume of abilities and applications. Before industrialization changed the landscape of agriculture and transportation, the Morgan was valued as much for plowing the fields as it was for pulling the family buggy.

Morgans were used as trotting horses on the race track and cavalry mounts in wartime. They also were hitched to wagons or ridden by pioneers who were traveling to the American West. Today, Morgans can be found competing in almost every equestrian sport. Morgan horse shows often feature sidesaddle classes, trotting races under saddle, driving classes, dressage, jumping, and more—all showcasing the outstanding versatility of the breed.

Colors and Markings

Morgans come in all equine colors. They are usually dark, solid colors, such as bay, black, and chestnut. However, some breeders specialize in producing Morgans with palomino, pinto, gray, dun, roan, and another less common coloring. There is no official breed standard for this aspect of the Morgan's appearance.

Unique Characteristics of the Morgan Horse

The Morgan's strong, compact body and refined features, as well as its regal posture, are all distinctive breed traits. Proud and alert, these horses tend to carry their heads and tails higher than many other breeds.

But the quality that truly defines the Morgan is its temperament. This friendly horse is typically quite eager to please its handlers and even enjoys meeting strangers. Although it can be animated and spunky, it’s still very affectionate and known for its loyalty.

Diet and Nutrition

As easy keepers, Morgans generally need less food than many other full-size horse breeds. They require a standard diet of quality grass, hay, and grains. But owners should be careful not to feed their horses too much, especially sweet foods. Morgans can easily be overfed, making them prone to obesity. This, it’s important to limit your horse to what it needs to maintain a healthy body condition.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Thanks to their cooperative nature, Morgans are generally easy to train and don’t have many behavioral issues. They’re also a generally healthy breed and don’t often develop problems with lameness. Occasionally, some Morgans have a genetic link to equine polysaccharide storage myopathy. This is a condition that damages muscle tissue and can cause pain, stiffness, and more.

Grooming

Standard equine grooming practices should be fine for a Morgan horse. Brush and comb your horse’s coat at least once or twice a week to remove dirt, debris, and tangles. Give extra attention to the notably thick mane and tail to prevent mats. Also, check your horse’s hooves daily for dirt, debris, infection, and injuries. 

Pros
  • Friendly

  • Cooperative and trainable

  • Generally easy to maintain

Cons
  • Prone to becoming overweight if improperly fed

Champion and Celebrity Morgan Horses

As the foundation sire of the breed, Figure is still one of its most popular members. While Figure sired many horses, three of its sons—Sherman, Bulrush, and Woodbury—are especially noteworthy. All modern Morgans can trace their lineage to one of these three stallions.

Descending from Sherman was another notable stallion named Black Hawk. Born in 1833, this horse excelled in harness racing and was a foundational stallion for the Tennessee walking horse, American Standardbred, and saddlebred.

Is the Morgan Horse Right for You?

Morgans are suitable as a family horse and for beginning equestrians. They’re also a great choice for anyone who wants a versatile horse that’s easy to manage.

Morgans excel in many different disciplines in harness and under saddle. They happily do what they are asked and love to socialize with people. They’re also known as easy keepers, which means they can subsist on less food than an average horse. They generally live long, healthy lives with proper care.

How to Adopt or Buy a Morgan Horse

On average, Morgans cost around $1,000 to $5,000. This price can fluctuate based on the horse’s age, health, training, and pedigree. Morgans are fairly easy to find to adopt or buy across the United States, though one of the best places to look is Vermont where the breed was born. 

It’s important to spend time with a horse before you opt to bring it home. Ask the breeder or rescue organization questions about the horse’s history, health, temperament, and training. Also, ask to see its training demonstrated if possible. Make sure you feel all of your questions have been adequately answered before committing.

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