By PetMD Editorial. Reviewed by Courtnee Morton, DVM on Sep. 20, 2022
morgan horse

Reviewed for accuracy September 21, 2022.

Morgan horses are one of the most popular and loved horses in United States; it also happens to be one of the earliest breeds to have been developed in the U.S. Despite its compact size, it possesses amazing power, endurance and resilience few other horses have. The Morgan's body shape allows it to function magnificently as a farm or draft horse, while its expert handling and accuracy makes it a great for horse tournaments.

Physical Characteristics

Morgan horses are relatively small, standing only 14.1 to 15.2 hands high (or 56.4 to 60.8 inches in height). However, its deep-set chest, angled ribs, muscular back and well-pronounced withers -- the area between the shoulder blades -- all give it an air of elegance. The Morgan also has large, expressive eyes, a beautifully shaped head, small ears, and an arched neck. These traits of power, endurance and soundness are rarely found in large horses. Morgans are typically easy-keepers, and don’t require large amounts of hay and grain even if working, as they are prone to becoming overweight.

The Morgan is usually found in bay, chestnut or black, although it has also exhibited colors like gray, palomino, perlino, dun, roan, cremello, silver dapple or buckskin.

Personality and Temperament

Morgan horses are bold and intelligent horses, always curious about their surroundings yet very alert. Despite its power, it has a calm and gentle disposition, making it perfect for children as well as veteran or inexperienced riders. The Morgan is actually one of the most affectionate horse breeds, comfortable around people and during riding lessons.

History and Background

All Morgans can trace their ancestry to a single shire named Figure, a small bay stallion born in Massachusetts in 1789 who's bloodlines likely included Thoroughbred, Arabian, and other breeds. Once owned by a blacksmith and music teacher named Justin Morgan (the origin of the breed's name), Figure had muscular legs and shoulders, vivid eyes, prickled ears, a thick mane and a calm temperament. These characteristics and its usefulness as a farm horse made it an ideal candidate for breeding and gave way to offspring of similar appearance and traits.

Throughout the United States the "Justin Morgan horse" was used by many for draft work, agricultural tasks, and any other activities which required strong-hoofed legs. The Morgan even served as cavalry and artillery horses during the American Civil War. Later, Morgans were introduced into the world of horse competitions, harness racing,  and used in crossbreeding programs, producing such other breeds as the Standardbred, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Quarter Horse, among others.

Today, 90,000 Morgan horses are registered in the U.S. and can be found in another 20 countries worldwide, including Australia and England. Despite the generations that have passed since the Morgan’s inception, present-day Morgans differ little from the original Figure.

Care and Health

Because Morgans are easy keepers, they can easily become overweight if fed too much hay or grain. This can lead to potential development of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), or pars pituitary intermedia dysfunction (PPID) otherwise known as Cushing's Disease.  While uncommon, they do also have a genetic predisposition for a muscle disease called polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM).

It is important to feed your Morgan appropriately based on its age, activity level, and health. If you take good care of yours, they may live to be in their 30s, which is not uncommon for this breed.

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