It could be that one of the reasons for the popularity of the Morgan horse breed today is the expressive face which is part of the breed’s signature characteristics. It’s likely that this ability to express was part of the reason for the success of the Morgan horse, which sprung from the loins of just one sole animal. Probably, that animal’s ability to communicate to humans endeared itself to hundreds, and a similar capacity in his descendants is the likely factor in the creation of the Morgan breed as one of the oldest in the United States.
As mentioned above, Morgan horses can all trace their lineage back to one horse, a stallion by the name of Figure. Figure was probably birthed by an Arabian mare by way of a Thoroughbred sire, although no one is really sure.
Figure was owned by a man named Justin Morgan, who taught school and was known for his pure singing voice. Eventually, as the horse gained fame, he became known by the name of his owner rather than his “pet” name.
Aside from that face, Figure was best known for his strength. He was a little horse, but in the fields he quickly gained a reputation for pulling loads that could not be moved. Several times, in fact, Justin Morgan (as he was then being called) managed to move logs and loads that large draft horses could not handle.
Remember, this was in the late 18th century, long before man became dependant on machines. Horses were our main labour companions, and a good strong horse was a great thing to have. People from all over the state of Vermont began to hear of the strength of Justin Morgan and came to see him compete in fairs.
Pulling was not the only physical feat that set Justin Morgan apart from others. A fast trot allowed Figure to win many trotting and harness racing competitions. Again, combined with his good looks and his disposition, this gained him a lot of attention among the locals. Soon, people were asking Morgan to breed his horse with their mares.
Almost without exception, Justin Morgan’s offspring carried his looks, his ability to work hard and trot fast, and his genial disposition. Morgan horses, as they became known, were popular in harness racing, as mounts in the US cavalry, and as the horse of choice for the Pony Express.
The Morgan Horse Register was created in 1894, one of the oldest breed registries in the US. Today, Morgans are still known for their tenacious attitudes in all situations, their longevity, good looks, and there calm mannerisms. They are popular show horses.
Aside from the face, Morgans are noted for their compact and refined builds. These bodies include very strong limbs, which give the breed its characteristic strength, beyond most horses of its size. Typically, Morgans will stand from 14.1 to 15.2 hands in height, although this is not a limiting factor on the breed.