The horse which has left the most indelible mark on American equestrianism was a surprisingly small individual who stood just 14 hands (142cm /4.5ft) tall at the shoulder, and weighed under 450kg (1000lb).

Horses make the landscape look more beautiful.
    Alice Walker (born 1944), American writer.

What set him apart from others was a unique combination of exceptional strength and pace. He was foaled in 1793, in the state of Massachusetts, and was originally called Figure, although his precise origins are unknown. Two years later, he was acquired by an innkeeper called Justin Morgan, and was moved to Vermont, taking his new owner’s name.

Whether he was entered in trotting competitions, sprint races or even log-pulling contests, Justin Morgan excelled and not surprisingly, the horse was in great demand for stud purposes. He covered as many as twelve mares a day, and after the death of his owner in 1798, his working life continued apace, up until 1821. Following a kick to his flank by another horse however, Justin was then fatally injured, dying at the age of 28 years old.

It was not until 1842, however, that his legacy finally became clear. Research at that stage confirmed that many small horses, which closely resembled each other in appearance and size, all shared a common ancestry back to this stallion. Finally in 1857, a Vermont farmer called D. C. Lindley christened the new breed as the Morgan, after the owner of the founding stallion. Morgans today are very popular in the USA, and have in turn contributed to the development of other breeds, including the Tennessee walking horse and the standardbred. The Morgan horse has also been adopted as the state animal symbol for Vermont.