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Bel Joeor Sale and Giveaway!

Amanda from Bel Joeor is hosting a big sale on her Etsy site and a giveaway on her blog!  She makes beautiful saddle covers and bags.  I highly recommend checking out her shop and entering her contest.  

Morgan Horse Breed Type & Distortions

So, with a new Morgan horse in my life and a new opportunity to show said new Morgan, I have had renewed interest in the breed itself and in potentially doing breed shows at some point.  Of course, this has led me to bemoan how conformation, type, and show divisions have changed so much over the years.

When I posted the photos of Morgans here, I wondered how my blog readers would respond.  Interestingly enough, many of you did guess that, indeed, all photos are of Morgan horses (as long as the captions are to be believed in Creative Commons!).  At first I was happy to think you guys "know" the breed, but that soon changed to disappointment.

See, my ideal type of Morgan is the classic sport horse, from Old Government, Lippitt, and western working lines.  This is the type of Morgan I grew up with and fell in love with.  And much of what we are currently looking at in the show rings (especially hunter pleasure - more on that in a minute) right now do NOT look like that.  In fact, many Morgans look much more Saddlebred like to me.  Back in the 60's, Morgans were actually bred to Saddlebreds "out behind the barn", so there was an illegal influx of Saddlebred type infused into the breed.  So when I chose some Morgan pics that look like Saddlebreds in that previous post, I had hoped everyone would have thought that as well.

taken from the AMHA's "Standard of Perfection"
But it made me sad to think that we are now able to identify Saddlebred looking Morgans with long weighted hooves and ridiculous knee/hock action as actual Morgans.  To me, we have veered away from what the AMHA calls the Standard of Perfection.  There is a lot of discussion, argument, and bad feelings about this in the Morgan world.  I understand that the "show type" Morgan is what is showing up and paying the entry fees at shows.  I get that this is what judges are pinning in the show ring.  I get that people love their show Morgans just as much as I love my sport Morgans.  And I am sure that if someone finds this post, I could get some seriously negative feedback. (Hence another reason I took random photos from Creative Commons and purposefully have no idea who the horses/riders/drivers are in the photos because the last thing I want to do is create more bad feelings).

Yet for me, these show type Morgans are not what the breed standard calls for.  Remember, this is just my own personal opinion, as a lowly adult amateur who grew up with the breed from the age of six.  My opinion doesn't matter to anyone but myself (and especially not the AMHA, who rarely promote the sport Morgan types as far as I can see).  

It's funny, because the sport type Morgan is what the breed is truly based upon, not the show ring type.  Even AMHA itself states, "Morgans excel in virtually all disciplines. They are one of the premier carriage horses in the world, and are used for combined driving, competitive trail, and endurance riding, eventing, working western events, Dressage, all show ring disciplines, and as an excellent friend and companion whether in the backyard or on the trail."  So if we are beginning to accept the "Saddlebred type" Morgan as the breed type, I think we are getting away from the all around, family type horse that is capable of doing multiple disciplines and instead can only trot and canter with flashy knees around a show ring.  

Alright, now the photos I posted.  Remember this is only a split second in time, but a photo can still tell us a lot.

I tried to pick a few that were the "control" Morgans, the sport horse types haha.  Here is a great example of a carriage driving Morgan.  Lovely example of the breed in my mind.

More lovely examples of the breed here and yes, Morgans come in palomino and dark flaxen colors!  I did try to pick a few photos that to me shouted, "MORGAN!"

Here is where things change.  I get that this is a Park Harness Morgan horse.  While I may not personally like park type animals anyway (because of the way they move and how they are shod), at least this photo shows what the AMHA Morgan Horse Judging standards calls "high headed, bold, and airy moving and look[ing] through the bridle with attitude and presence."  The neck, the shoulder, the compact body, and the head all do look Morgan, even if it is not the type of Morgan I prefer.

Again, Park Saddle Horses.  I get it.  But according to the AMHA Morgan Horse Judging standards: "Judges shall penalize unnatural tail carriage. Unnatural tail carriage includes evidence of tail settings and/or breakover, dead tail and wry tail (wry tail is defined as twisted, carried askew or distorted). Judges have an obligation to see that tails carried vertically with an abrupt breakover are severely penalized."
Looks unnatural to me!
Definitely looks like a Morgan face, but man oh man, still so Saddlebred like.

Not that this horse isn't pretty in its own right, but to me this Morgan is too narrow and long.  Morgans in my mind are to be compact and not narrow like Saddlebreds.

I see a straight shoulder and "turkey neck" which is exactly what the AMHA breed standard condemns.

Even though the long tail/hooves and arched neck make me think this is an English Pleasure horse in western tack, this to me is at least more in line with the Morgan breed standard than some of the others.

Super cute western Morgan with a thinner/narrow neck and chest, but at least not as bad as

I don't even know what to say about the breed or discipline type here.  This doesn't say Morgan or western pleasure to me.   :-(

So far, I cannot really argue that a Morgan Park horse is going to look more Saddlebred like than a Morgan dressage horse.  That I can admit and it is just part of the discipline.  

Here we definitely have a Morgan face and compact body, but so Saddlebred like.  I get that it is Classic Pleasure, but here's what makes my blood boil: these are also the types of horses that are winning in Hunter Pleasure classes!  Like literally take off the saddleseat tack, replace with hunt tack, and this type and look is what is pinning in hunter pleasure, though I could not find a hunter pleasure Morgan in Creative Commons.   

This is not hunter pleasure.  Just no.  Go ahead and google Morgan Hunter Pleasure Champion and you will see what I mean.   A hunter pleasure horse should NOT move like a Park horse or English/Classic pleasure horse.  A hunter pleasure horse should be able to hold its own in the hunt field and pop over fences.  What I see in hunter pleasure right now is NOT hunter types.  

It makes me upset, because fine, you want to have Park and English/Classic Pleasure show Morgans?  Go ahead.  But when HUNTER pleasure classes look and move just like the English and Classic horses, I have a real issue.

It even says in the AMHA Morgan Horse Judging standards (bold is my own):
The Morgan Hunter Pleasure horse shall demonstrate proper Morgan type and conformation but should exhibit a lower, more relaxed head carriage than the English Pleasure horse. The Hunter Pleasure horse may travel with his nose slightly ahead of the vertical and should give a long, ground covering impression. He should never carry his head behind the vertical. The height of the head carriage will vary from individual to individual, but should be where the horse is comfortable and relaxed. The head carriage should be maintained with only light contact on the bit and judges should penalize horses that appear to be held in position with undue restraint. Judges should penalize non-traditional mouth controls such as flash, drop-nose and figure eight nose bands and gag bits and curb bits with shanks longer than five inches etc. 
The Morgan Hunter Pleasure horse should have ground covering gaits that would be comfortable for horse and rider over extended periods of time. His movement at the trot should be balanced and elliptical, with the length of the stride being twice as long as it is high. This elliptical motion should be maintained at both the regular and extended trot. The horse that exhibits height of motion without an elliptical ground-covering stride should be penalized.

Hunter Pleasure Morgans are NOT showing a lower, more relaxed head carriage than English Pleasure horses in my opinion.  I see nothing long and ground covering about the high knees and hocks of the hunter pleasure Morgans.  The length of their stride is NOT twice as long as it is high; in fact I would argue the opposite is true!

So if I decided to compete in Morgan shows with Ellie, I would not enter in Hunter Pleasure because she does not move like a Classic Pleasure horse even though she moves like what the judging standards call for as a hunter pleasure horse.  I would have to enter Morgan "sport horse" pleasure if they offered it (most shows don't) or Morgan hunter under saddle (again, not offered much).  Much of this on is the judges, who are distorting the breed judging standards and/or not following them at all.  

And let's face it, in the scheme of life, my true love is eventing and dressage, so I can just say the hell with breed shows and ignore this.  I know that.  It still irritates me that the breed standard is being distorted, at least in my eyes, having been involved with Morgans for thirty-three years!


Carly said…
There's a (pretty naughty) gorgeous, very sporty Morgan who is hands down the the best conformed horse in the barn. He's a fantastic jumper, and when he can be bothered a really nice mover on the flat. I can't imagine why anyone would want to move away from how much is RIGHT with him. Those last couple of pictures with the goose neck are just yuck!
TheFoxRider said…
It's definitely a pity that it seems more and more rare to see the more traditional non-saddle seat type Morgans (and Arabians, in my area) more often. They're fantastic horses - I learned to ride on and adored many Arabians and Morgans, but in my area, at least, finding a traditionally bred non-saddle seat animal these days is tough. I do know a gal who retired her saddle seat Arabian and he now events, which makes me happy that these horses can be more versatile and functional than I give them credit for post classic-pleasure life.
Martidoll said…
the sad thing is this is how it was in the late 80's and early 90s when i showed Morgan. We had the sport horse morgans (and we still showed Classic, driving, and western ha as well as hunt style) but the saddlebredy ones were there even then. UGH. I am sorry but a couple of those on your photos are NOT MORGANS even if they say they are. Especially that one with just a halter. UGH. It really is a shame. Really. but it is also a shame that things are still the same if not worse from the 80s-90s in Morgan land :(
Amanda said…
Okay well now I'm really depressed. :(

Even if/when I get a Morgan, there's little chance of me showing in breed shows, but it still impacts me - because the true type that I love is getting harder to find.
emma said…
i've never been deep into any of the particular "breed" worlds, but definitely have gotten the impression that types and standards for the horses have strayed pretty far afield from what seems practical in actual performance settings.
Exactly, the true Morgan style is something that definitely has a lot RIGHT! Why mess with conformation?
Oh, a Saddlebred and/or saddleseat horse can definitely be trained and use their muscles differently to compete in different disciplines like the Arabian you describe! It is just a shame to see the breed conformation move towards something that makes that hard to do well.
NOTHING has changed. It is sad because clearly there are folks upset by it. And I hear "Well, then, get out and do something about it!" But what? What exactly can I do?? :-(
Sorry, friend! I have spent the last several years stressing about finding the true type Morgan but they are still out there! You just have to look hard. And granted, Ellie fell into my lap when I never imagined I would be buying a new horse, but I am super grateful since there are only a few two year olds left at KMF and more than likely no more to be bred. :-(
I would have to agree with your statement. It is frustrating and makes me feel so helpless to change any of it. :-(
Sara said…
I passes on some in your guessing post because I thought hey were Saddlebreds. I love Saddlebreds, though I never want to own one, but those do not look like a Morgan at all. Every breed seems to be going this way. It’s really on the judges. They need to be upholding the standards and not pinning the money.
TeresaA said…
Okay I have a confession to make. When I first looked at your photos I identified the sport horse morgans right away (expcept for the last one- I wasn't sure if it was a Morgan or QH cross). The others I first though 'saddlebred'. But I wondered why so many non-Morgans in your post so I went to google and these photos popped up. :)

So I said 'all of them' but honestly I only like the sport ones. Here are some photos I took a few years ago of locally bred Morgans: and

those are the ones I like. :)
Hahaha I love that you doubted they were Morgans, because that gives me hope!! ;-) Those photos you shared show lovely horses!! I especially like that jump sequence; very cool!!
I'm with you. I love the old school Morgans.
Laura said…
Too bad that some (many?) breed show organizations end up with things like this. AQHA is very much the same - if you look at a lot of the high level hunter under saddle horses, they move with their head so low they would likely crash into jumps. lol I have seen some differences between local level breed shows and the bigger world shows - local events don't often have the extremes (like your pictures) in gaits/headsets etc. The horses are more often all-rounders and move/look a bit more normal. I wonder if that is true in the morgan world? Either way, it is very frustrating to want to show breed shows, but not with a horse that looks like some of those pics!
Martidoll said…
Also to be fair I have seen so many saddlebreds (Well at least a few of them) that are hunter types its not that i am against saddlebreds.

if Remus had not fallen into my lap i would have gotten another Morgan I am sure. LIKE ELLIE......:)
Liz Stout said…
It makes me sad to see the classic version of several breeds dying away in favor of current fads. I, too, love the "original" Morgan look way more than the recent trends. I'm so grateful my little mare embodies the old norm vs. the new.
Karen said…
IF I'm not mistaken many of the English type Morgans have been infused with Hackney horse blood, right? The Kolher horses- Nobe Flair, Nobility, etc. were half hackney horse. Before the DNA tests were used. And that has been passed on. Sure looks like some saddlebred too though!
Dom said…
The classic Morgan is such a sturdy, reliable, tough little horse. That's what draws me to them. To see them being (sorry if this offends anyone) watered down for the sake of looking flashy in the SS ring makes my heart hurt. I see things like this happening in many breeds, but it makes me especially sad in the Morgans.
It is too bad that this happens in other breeds as well. To me, it really comes down to judges pinning horses that do not meet the stated breed standard. And I am sure there are MANY reasons why they do this, none of which are right in my mind!
Oh, I am definitely not crapping on Saddlebreds, which I have seen do well in dressage/hunter/eventing. I just hate seeing Morgans look more like Saddlebreds when they are Morgans hahaha! You definitely have to come to Maine/New England someday to meet and ride Miss Ellie!!!
I hear you. It is just too bad because I don't think this is the way the breed should move, but it is and it feels impossible to stop. :-(
Oh, for sure there are Hackney and Saddlebred and Standardbred lines that can be traced back to old Morgan blood (even Figure, the first Morgan!), but I sure hope Hackneys were not illegally infused into the Morgan breed like the Saddlebreds. But you are probably right. :-(
Genny Macy said…
I know very little about Morgans, so I found this especially interesting! What I picture in my mind though is very much the "old style" or sport style you are describing. Anyway, thank you for the info.