EQUUS - - Insights Conformati­on -

Most of the peo­ple in­ter­viewed by Linsley, Her­bert and Bat­tell had bet­ter rec­ol­lec­tions of Fig­ure’s get than of the sire him­self. Farm­steads in the early 19th cen­tury, just as to­day, usu­ally did not main­tain their own stal­lions, but many farm­ers kept one or two mares from which they hoped to raise colts in­tended as geld­ings to re­place older horses as they wore out. For this rea­son, most of Fig­ure’s colts were gelded. Un­gelded sons of which we have record in­clude Billy Mor­gan (1810, dam un­known); Bru­tus (1794, out of a Dutch Hart­draaver mare); Chan­ti­cleer (1794, dam un­known); Euro­pean (1810, out of a Cana­dian mare); Fen­ton (1808, dam of un­known parent­age); Jowett’s Cop­per­bot­tom (1809, out of a Nar­ra­gansett Pacer mare); Hawkins horse (1806, out of a partCana­dian dam); High­lander (1810, out of a Cana­dian mare); Red Robin (1816, out of a mare of un­known de­scent); Re­venge (1815, out of a Nar­ra­gansett Pacer mare); Tom Hal (1816 out of a Nar­ra­gansett Pacer mare); Voyageur (1809, out of a Cana­dian Pacer mare). Most of these left at least a few de­scen­dants so that their names still oc­ca­sion­ally ap­pear in the pedi­grees of liv­ing Mor­gans.

The three “ma­jor” sons of Fig­ure ---Sher­man, Wood­bury and Bul­rush, de­scribed in more de­tail be­low---sired more foals, so that one or more of their names ap­pear in al­most all Mor­gan pedi­grees. De­scrip­tions of the dams are im­por­tant be­cause they show the va­ri­ety of mares to which Fig­ure and his sons were put.

Nearly all liv­ing Mor­gans de­scend pri­mar­ily from Sher­man and Wood­bury. Bul­rush re­mains im­por­tant through sur­viv­ing mare lines. Foaled in 1812, he was a bay stand­ing 14:2 hands. His dam was a dark bay Cana­dian or partCana­dian mare stand­ing about 14:3 hands and weigh­ing 1,000 pounds with a heavy black mane and tail. She was a very rugged, hardy in­di­vid­ual who had been used for long-dis­tance wagon haul­ing. The drafti­est of all Fig­ure’s un­gelded sons, Bul­rush took after his dam in hav­ing a low and com­pact build with heavy limbs and large joints. His neck was rather long, with a well-shaped head, which, how­ever, he did not carry very high. He was a “sharp” trot­ter--in other words he showed some knee and hock ac­tion in move­ment---but was some­what slow and pon­der­ous. He died in Walpole, New Hamp­shire, in 1848 at the grand old age of 36.

Wood­bury Mor­gan---also some­times called the Burbank Horse or the Walker Horse---was foaled in 1816. He was a dark, rich ch­est­nut color, stand­ing 14:3 hands and weigh­ing 1,040 pounds when in breed­ing con­di­tion. He had a blaze and a stock­ing on the off hind. His mane was a lit­tle lighter in color

than the body coat, and full with­out be­ing ex­traor­di­nar­ily heavy or long. His tail had been docked as a colt leav­ing about ten inches of hair, which grew thick and curly. Wood­bury was close and com­pactly built with heavy quar­ters and deep flanks. His chest was good, with finely-shaped shoul­ders, a short back, and broad, mus­cu­lar loins. His legs, like those of most horses sired by Fig­ure, bore some long hairs down the back side but were hard, com­pact and well shaped. Wood­bury was a larger horse than Sher­man Mor­gan but not so mas­sive as Bul­rush. His head was small and lean with a fine firm muz­zle, very large full nos­trils, wide be­tween the eyes with a straight fa­cial pro­file.

Wood­bury’s style in move­ment is de­scribed as “bold and res­o­lute,” and his tem­per­a­ment was so “ner­vous”--it is not clear whether the old writ­ers meant “ea­ger” or “skit­tish,” and per­haps it in­volved some of both---that when taken out with a bri­dle it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to keep him still. He was a fine har­ness horse but bet­ter still un­der sad­dle. In hand and in the breed­ing shed, he showed a gen­tle, pleas­ant and play­ful dis­po­si­tion.

Wood­bury’s dam, like Sher­man’s de­scribed be­low, is a very in­ter­est­ing in­di­vid­ual. She stood over 15 hands but weighed only 1,100 pounds, which jibes with the re­port that she was some­what long-backed and rather slab-sided. She was of a deep bay color with sparse mane and tail, a star on her fore­head, but no other marks. She had an ex­cel­lent chest, fine shoul­ders and hips, and ex­cel­lent limbs. Her head was very fine. She was a fast and free driver, re­ported to be a “fast walker” who both paced and trot­ted. From this de­scrip­tion, Wood­bury’s dam ap­pears to have been a cross of Thor­ough­bred and Nar­ra­gansett Pacer, in other words---as we saw in the last in­stall­ment ---ex­actly the type of mare “bred for rac­ing” com­mon in New Eng­land, Mary­land and Vir­ginia at the time.

Wood­bury stood at stud in the vicin­ity of Brad­ford, Ver­mont, un­til 1836, when he was sold and taken to Gainesvill­e, Alabama. He died there only two years later at the age of 22 years. Like Bul­rush and Sher­man, Wood­bury got over 100 foals. His most in­flu­en­tial de­scen­dants come from his son, the Gif­ford Mor­gan, who sired Hale’s Green Moun­tain. From him come many of the finest Mor­gan stock horses and show horses as well as the im­por­tant Lip­pitt strain which is de­scribed be­low.

Sher­man Mor­gan, foaled in 1809, was a bright ch­est­nut stand­ing 13:3 hands and weigh­ing 925 pounds, with off hind stock­ing and fa­cial strip. His head was lean and well shaped, ears small and fine, eyes small but full, prom­i­nent and lively. There was some long hair grow­ing down from

the back sides of Sher­man’s legs, but less than in a draft horse, and the limbs were hard and sinewy. He had a “cap­i­tal” chest with the breast­bone very prom­i­nent; shoul­ders long and slop­ing; ex­cel­lent neck car­ried in an arch; mane and tail full but not re­mark­ably heavy. Sher­man’s hips were like those of his sire, long and deep with broad and mus­cu­lar loins, but he was longer in the back and more tubu­lar-bod­ied---what is called “soft backed.” Sher­man died in 1835 at the age of 26 years, hav­ing sired over 140 colts and fil­lies.

Sher­man's dam is de­scribed as a bright red “Ja­maica” mare---this be­ing the name of Span­ish stock im­ported from the Caribbean to New Eng­land. “Ja­maica horses” were the op­po­site of “Suri­nam horses,” which as we saw in “Horses of the Amer­i­can Colonies” (EQUUS 468), were Nar­ra­gansett Pac­ers that had been crossed with Span­ish stock im­ported from the Caribbean. Suri­nam horses were bred in Rhode Is­land for ex­port to the sugar plan­ta­tions of the Caribbean and Suri­nam. Thus there was con­sid­er­able ship­ping of horses in both di­rec­tions, thanks to the so-called Tri­an­gu­lar Trade. James Sher­man and his wife, who bred and owned the stal­lion who took their name, re­called his dam as be­ing “of Span­ish breed.” The mod­ern reader must be re­minded that such horses were not “An­dalu­sians,” i.e., horses shipped from Ibe­ria, but rather, they came from the is­lands and were taken from the pop­u­la­tion of horses al­ready in ex­is­tence there. Over the suc­ceed­ing cen­turies, these horses be­came the Caribbean Pa­sos as we know them to­day.

Sher­man Mor­gan’s dam was said to be “14 hands high, high-spir­ited and el­e­gant,” bright red ch­est­nut in color, with three white feet and a blaze. She was some­what slab-sided and bony, rather long-backed, and “never car­ried much flesh”---a de­scrip­tion per­fectly in ac­cord with a large frac­tion of coun­try-bred horses of the Caribbean, Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, and also the Banker Ponies that are the de­scen­dants of 18th-cen­tury ship­wreck sur­vivors. Sher­man Mor­gan’s dam re­sem­bled them too in be­ing very bid­dable and pleas­ant in tem­per­a­ment. Sher­man Mor­gan him­self is re­mem­bered as high-spir­ited yet tractable, a keen and rapid driver possessed, like his sire, of great strength and en­durance. Sher­man’s most in­flu­en­tial get were Black Hawk (1833), Billy Root (1829), and Ver­mont Mor­gan Cham­pion (Knight’s Horse, 1826).


Writ­ing in 1937, his­to­rian John Her­vey ob­serves “in my boy­hood the en­tire United States was pop­u­lated with horses of Mor­gan blood. They were the fa­vorite ‘light’ horse of the whole coun­try. And they could be picked out from any and all other breeds, kinds and types on sight, by any­body … that knew a horse from a cow. Small, sym­met­ri­cal, plump and pleas­ing in out­line; tough, wiry, and long-lived in con­sti­tu­tion; won­der­ful road­sters and clever nim­ble sad­dle horses; as sure-footed as a goat and as hardy as hick­ory; full of life and spirit but so tractable that women and chil­dren could do any­thing with them; as in­tel­li­gent as they were goodtem­pered. The world has never seen their like.”

Dur­ing the cen­tury that elapsed be­tween Fig­ure’s death and the se­lec­tion by Bat­tell of horses to be in­cluded in the Mor­gan Reg­is­ter, the pop­u­la­tion of Mor­gan-related horses un­der­went cy­cles of boom and bust, which

ex­tin­guished numer­ous blood­lines. Be­tween 1785 and 1850, Mor­gans bur­geoned as the pop­u­la­tion and ter­ri­tory of the United States grew. Then in the 1860s came the Civil War, dur­ing which the de­scen­dants of Fig­ure were ev­ery­where pressed into ser­vice. Lit­er­ally tens of thou­sands of these horses died in the war, and many valu­able blood­lines were lost so that Bat­tell’s ef­forts 20 years af­ter­ward re­ally did amount to a last-ditch ef­fort to save the breed.

Many of the Mor­gans who sur­vived had been taken across the Mis­sis­sippi be­fore 1865; pop­u­la­tions were found in St. Louis and Kansas City and in smaller set­tle­ments such as Lawrence, Kansas, that had been founded by colonists from out East who knew the Mor­gan horse well. More Mor­gan-related horses were brought west dur­ing the wagon-train and cat­tle-drive eras of the 1870s and 1880s. Of course none of these were “regis­tered Mor­gans,” be­cause Bat­tell did not see them; but they were none­the­less known as “Mor­gan horses” and ac­cepted as such be­cause they showed the tem­per­a­ment and phys­i­cal type. In Idaho, Mor­mon pioneers crossed them with Mus­tangs to cre­ate the Moyle horse. Henry Miller, holder of vast ranch­land in Cal­i­for­nia dur­ing the gold-rush era, brought in Mor­gans from Illi­nois for use by his ranch man­agers. My friend and teacher, the great Tom Dor­rance, whose fa­ther home­steaded in the Wil­lamette Val­ley of Ore­gon, told me that their fam­ily also raised Mor­gans. The Dor­rances were not alone, be­cause nim­ble, tough, yet tractable Mor­gans proved su­pe­rior for ranch work in a day and age be­fore the Quar­ter Horse had well been heard of for this use.

As Her­vey’s re­port in­di­cates, the Mor­gan-related pop­u­la­tion had re­cov­ered con­sid­er­ably by the be­gin­ning of

the 20th cen­tury, and Mor­gans were once again the most pop­u­lar horse in Amer­ica. Be­gin­ning in about 1915, how­ever, there came a sea change that very few peo­ple had an­tic­i­pated: Farm tasks that had pre­vi­ously been han­dled in the United States by horses and mules be­came mech­a­nized, while the au­to­mo­bile took over as the pri­mary means by which peo­ple trav­elled and by which goods were moved. In the rel­a­tively short pe­riod be­tween the turn of the cen­tury and the first World War, al­most all horses in Amer­ica be­came ir­rel­e­vant for or­di­nary work.

It got worse. Be­tween the World Wars, dur­ing the Dust Bowl and De­pres­sion years of the 1930s, the U.S. equine pop­u­la­tion plum­meted to an all-time low. Large and heavy breeds were hard­est hit, but light breeds were af­fected too, both in terms of numbers and in terms of the knowl­edge---tra­di­tion­ally passed from mas­ter to ap­pren­tice---of how to prop­erly han­dle and train horses, for there were few young men of the time who saw any fu­ture as horse train­ers.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, the cy­cle turned pos­i­tive once again and Amer­ica ex­pe­ri­enced an eco­nomic boom which car­ried well up into the 1960s. From 1945 to 1965, dozens of new horse clubs and reg­istries were es­tab­lished and old ones, in­clud­ing that for the Mor­gan horse, were re­vi­tal­ized. While the Amer­i­can Horse Shows As­so­ci­a­tion had been founded in 1917, it was not un­til the mid­dle 1950s that it be­gan to have wide in­flu­ence, es­pe­cially west of the Mis­sis­sippi. Horse shows be­came first a fun fam­ily ac­tiv­ity, but over the next 20 years evolved in many cases into huge com­pet­i­tive and mon­ey­mak­ing en­ter­prises draw­ing hun­dreds or thou­sands of en­tries. To­day, apart from work car­ried out on horse­back in more or less tra­di­tional fash­ion on a rel­a­tively tiny num­ber of West­ern ranches, rac­ing and var­i­ous forms of horse com­pe­ti­tion are the only re­main­ing forms of use for many breeds of horse, in­clud­ing the Mor­gan.


Be­gin­ning shortly after the pub­li­ca­tion of the first vol­ume of Bat­tell’s Mor­gan Horse and Reg­is­ter, there came to be four main “schools” of Mor­gan breed­ing: govern­ment, Lip­pitt, Brunk and West­ern work­ing fam­ily. All de­rive from the same root­stock and to a great de­gree, they are in­ter­re­lated.

Govern­ment breed­ing: In 1905, the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture es­tab­lished a Mor­gan breed­ing pro­gram aug­mented two years later by Bat­tell’s do­na­tion of land and build­ings. The pur­pose of this pro­gram was, in im­i­ta­tion of a Euro­pean model, to cre­ate horses suit­able for use by cav­alry of­fi­cers and troops in the field. The con­cept was to pre­serve Mor­gan type while in­creas­ing size. Per­for­mance test­ing was part of the pro­gram, in­clud­ing 300-mile rides un­der full mil­i­tary pack, jump­ing and sprint­ing. The govern­ment sought to iden­tify the best horses and use them to pro­duce a uni­form pop­u­la­tion of hand­some, strong, tough mounts.

The foun­da­tion stal­lion cho­sen for this task was Gen­eral Gates (by Den­ning Allen, a grand­son of Ethan Allen, and out of the three-quar­ters Thor­ough­bred Fanny Scott, who traced to Jowett’s Cop­per­bot­tom. His most in­flu­en­tial sons were Red Oak (1906), Linsley (1918) and Ben­ning­ton (1908), who suc­ceeded him in 1925 as chief sire at the govern­ment farm. While Ben­ning­ton ini­tially sired cav­alry mounts, it had be­come ap­par­ent that cav­alry war­fare was soon to be­come a thing of the past. He was thus in­creas­ingly used to cre­ate horses for sale to the gen­eral pub­lic. Out of the mare Artemisia, he pro­duced a suc­ces­sion of ex­cel­lent colts in­clud­ing Mans­field, Can­field, Ulysses and Querido. De­spite the suc­cess of the govern­ment pro­gram, Congress cut off fund­ing for it in 1950, as it had for the U.S. Cav­alry in 1947. The Univer­sity of Ver­mont took over the man­age­ment of part of the herd and the rest was sold to pri­vate breed­ers who ex­pressed a com­mit­ment to pro­duc­ing this type of Mor­gan.

Lip­pitt breed­ing: These horses are known as the most “pure­bred” of Mor­gans, for they trace back to Fig­ure on a max­i­mum num­ber of lines with a min­i­mum of known out­crosses to other breeds, and no crosses at all to Amer­i­can Sad­dle­breds. The name “Lip­pitt” de­rives from Robert Lip­pitt Knight who op­er­ated the Green Moun­tain Stock Farm in Ran­dolph, Ver­mont, from 1927 to 1962. Utiliz­ing se­lect brood­mares, Knight sought to pre­serve and per­pet­u­ate the “old” Mor­gan. Small, short-bod­ied and up­headed, they dis­play the same trappy gait that seems to have been char­ac­ter­is­tic of Fig­ure and his im­me­di­ate de­scen­dants.

Foun­da­tion stock for the Lip­pitt in­clude the stal­lions Ash­brook and Moro and the mares Ade­line Bundy, Ne Ko­mia, Croy­don Mary and Green Moun­tain Twi­light. They in turn carry

The govern­ment sought to iden­tify the best horses and use them to pro­duce a uni­form pop­u­la­tion of hand­some, strong, tough mounts.

back to Gif­ford Mor­gan, the orig­i­nal Billy Root, and the Hub­bard Horse. Foun­da­tion stock rec­og­nized by the Lip­pitt Club also in­cludes the stal­lions Croy­don Prince, Rob Roy, Don­ald, Bob B., Wel­come, Sir Ethan Allen (whose name gives rise to the pre­fix “Sea—” of­ten used to des­ig­nate his get such as “Sealect of Wind­crest”).

Brunk breed­ing: This strain was es­tab­lished in 1893 by Joseph Brunk at his farm near Spring­field, Illi­nois, and car­ried on there­after by var­i­ous mem­bers of the Brunk fam­ily. Un­doubt­edly the hand­somest of all Mor­gans, they were known for their high ac­tion, cor­rect legs and feet, and all-round ath­letic abil­ity. Many of their get went west, and there are many links be­tween the pedi­grees of these horses and those of West­ern work­ing fam­ily lines.

The Brunk foun­da­tion horses were bred sim­i­larly to the Lip­pitts, utiliz­ing very choice mares trac­ing back to the orig­i­nal Billy Root, Royal Mor­gan and the Hub­bard Horse. Brunk used the stal­lion Mor­gan Ru­pert by Ethan Allen 3rd (a de­scen­dant not of Ethan Allen 1849, the fa­mous trot­ter, but of Ethan Allen 2nd, a son of Peters Mor­gan). Later, how­ever, the Brunks brought in the blood of Daniel Lam­bert, a son of Ethan Allen (1849), to in­crease speed and size. Through the cham­pion mare Se­nata, the Brunk pro­gram pro­duced the out­stand­ing cham­pi­ons Ju­bilee King (1927) and Fly­hawk (1926). Both these stal­lions passed on not only the big, springy trot of Daniel Lam­bert but also his gen­tle tem­per­a­ment.

West­ern work­ing fam­ily horses: This branch of Mor­gan breed­ing came into ex­is­tence over an ex­tended pe­riod from the 1880s to the 1950s through the ef­forts of numer­ous ranch­ers and breed­ers in the West­ern states who im­ported Brunk and govern­ment-related

stal­lions and crossed them with mares trac­ing back to Black Hawk. Black Hawk brings in Thor­ough­bred in­flu­ence, but this breed­ing group of­ten also car­ries Thor­ough­bred in­flu­ence through Sir Archy and *Diomed, Mam­brino, Mes­sen­ger and Amer­i­can Eclipse.

The cor­ner­stone of the West­ern work­ing horses was the Sell­man Moun­tain Vale Ranch in Rochelle, Texas, es­tab­lished by Richard Sell­man and ac­tive from the 1880s to 1925. Sell­man’s de­sire was to pre­serve the “old-time” Mor­gan. His foun­da­tion stal­lions in­cluded Head­light Mor­gan (1893, by Ethan Allen 2nd); The Ad­mi­ral (1903, by Ju­bilee de Jar­nette); Red Oak (1906, by Gen­eral Gates); and two stal­lions by Me­teor Jr. (of Black Hawk and Gen­eral Knox breed­ing), Ma­jor An­toine (1901) and Gold Medal (1902). These stal­lions were used on mares of Old Ver­mont breed­ing.

The vast Miller and Lux sys­tem of ranches, which had early im­ported and bred Mor­gans in Cal­i­for­nia, were grad­u­ally bro­ken up and sold off after Cal­i­for­nia state­hood. This opened the way for other stock­men such as Roland Hill of the Horse­shoe Cat­tle Co. with hold­ings in both Ne­vada and Cal­i­for­nia. At one time the largest breeder of Mor­gan horses in the United States, Hill’s pro­gram pro­duced foun­da­tion stock for many other ranches. Horse­shoe stal­lions in­cluded Red­wood Mor­gan (1918, by Head­light Mor­gan), Pongee Mor­gan (1922, by Allen King),Querido (1923, by Ben­ning­ton), Winch­ester (1929, by Mans­field), El Cortez (1937, by Ro­manesque), Son­field (1935, by Mans­field) and Spar­beau (1930, by Linsley). Other wealthy Cal­i­for­ni­ans who bred good Mor­gans at about this time in­clude Wil­liam Ran­dolph Hearst, F.A. Fick­ert and E.W. Roberts.

The Elmer Brown Ranch in Hutchin­son, Kansas, ac­tive from 1911 to 1939, pro­duced ex­cel­lent horses and

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