By Didi Hornberger
I grew up with the image of the original "foundation Morgan" horse – one with a short back, short, cresty neck, and fairly short legs – that of a sturdy, intelligent, and all-around "useful" equine profile. Although I am basically a "Thoroughbred" person, I've always admired the beauty and versatility of the Morgan horses, and loved watching them at horse shows and learning about them from friends who owned and rode them. While the fancy Morgan "Park Horses" often reminded me of Arabs, still there was always that "special something" which set the Morgans apart, although I really liked the ones with the more "natural" way of going, than the "high steppers".
As I got into model horse showing and judging, I suddenly discovered there was a lot I didn't know about the Morgan, especially where the models were concerned. While one model horse manufacturer made several different but familiar "shapes" of Morgan models, suddenly I came face to face with a single Morgan model from a different manufacturer that had me scratching my head. Since when did any Morgan horse look like a Saddlebred??? Initially, I found the rather vast difference in Morgan body styles between the two manufacturers of Morgans very confusing, and I was reluctant to accept one of the styles as a "legitimate Morgan". In times past, some of the "breeds" assigned to some model horses by their manufacturers, especially some of the older models, leave something to be desired as far as "realism" and "correct conformation". However, such breed assignments have improved, and continue to improve with the ever advancing knowledge and wonderful skills of our artists who sculpture them.
So – back to the basic question. If one desires a real Morgan, you'd think they would buy a foundation – type Morgan. If they want a Saddlebred, they would buy a Saddlebred. So why would anyone buy a Morgan that looks like a Saddlebred? (You real "Morgan people" have probably been wise to the answer to this question for a long time, but for me, the answer after researching the question came as quite a surprise!) So I'm sharing the answer with my fellow hobbyists as to why some Morgans actually can – and do – look "legitimately" more like Saddlebreds, than like Morgans!
According to one foundation Morgan Horse website, there are currently two very different TYPES of Morgan horse. Crossing Morgans with Saddlebreds began in the 1930's, due to the popularity of the Saddlebreds. Thus over time, some Morgans became less and less "Morgan type", and more and more "Saddlebred type, to the point where today, more than 80% of living modern Morgans have Saddlebred crosses in their bloodlines. However, the "foundation" Morgan bloodlines have NO modern Saddlebred outcrosses after 1930, and their tail male sire line must trace directly to Justin Morgan.
Check website below:
Et, voila! A "Morgan mystery" comes to rest, and hats are off to both manufacturers of Morgan model horses, with both types of conformation being "correct", for the two entirely different styles. This is definitely something to consider when exhibiting in, or judging any model Morgan horse class. Both judges and exhibitors will always have their preferences of "style", however bear in mind that the Saddlebred "type" of Morgan model itself should not be discriminated against, based on correctness, so long as it has been done in the "accepted" colors of one of the Morgan Horse Breed registries.
In addition to the two distinct types of full-sized Morgans, there is also a National Morgan Pony Registry, for purebred Morgans under 14.2 hands. So there is a great big range of exciting possibilities out there for the Morgan model horse hobbyist to have fun with! From the varied number of model Morgans produced, plus the many various pony models, go give your fellow exhibitors a run for their "Morgan money" – and share the word that real Morgans actually DO come in different shapes, and sizes, and "styles"!
Additional Morgan Horse websites of interest are:
Have fun with this lovely Morgan Breed Highlight! I did!
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