Making strides: Morgans resurgence has mixed results
By Eric Blaisdell
STAFF WRITER | April 08,2013
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo
World champion Morgan stallion Treble's Tanqueray holds a classic Morgan pose in a pasture at Partridge Hill Stables in Barre Town on Friday.
After a rough patch caused by a troubled economy, some people in the horse community say the Morgan horse is on its way back up.
But the future of the Vermont breed is still up for debate.
The Morgan horse is the state animal and is a breed of horse created by one sire back in the late 1700s. According to the Vermont Morgan Horse Association, the horse was popular because of its versatility. It could ride on trails, pull carts, run races and serve in the military as a cavalry mount. Now, the animal is used more for its show ability, as well as pleasure riding.
Mary Jane Nau is vice president of the Vermont Morgan Horse Association. She said the economy has caused the population of Morgans across the country to decrease because people simply can’t afford the upkeep that comes with owning a horse.
In the early 2000s, Nau said there were around 3,500 Morgans foaled a year across the United States. Last year, she said there were 599.
Nau said Morgans are in a state of “suspended animation,” but they are starting to come back as more people enter the horses into open competitions at horse shows instead of Morgan-exclusive shows and more people are seeing what the horses are capable of.
Carol Fleck, along with her husband, Greg, of Barre, own one of the most-decorated Morgans in the country, if not the world.
Their stallion, Treble’s Tanqueray, has been a five-time New England champion, something no other Morgan has achieved more than three times. They also have a 15-time national and world champion in the “western pleasure” competition, where horses are judged on their movement; the horse must look like it is a pleasure to ride.
Fleck said Morgans have seen a dip in population, but that’s no different than any other breed of horse, as costs of gas, feed and other staples needed to maintain the horses have increased. She expects Morgans to become more prominent on the horse stage as more people get into the competition called Western Dressage, where horses are judged on complex moves they make in the show ring, something at which Morgans are exceptional, she said.
Julie Broadway is the executive director of the American Morgan Horse Association. She said membership in her organization did take a dip in the past few years due to the economy, but the numbers are actually coming back. She said the Morgan is very successful across the world, and has always been very popular.
Steve Davis has run the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge for 41 years. He said he is “bullish” on the future of the breed as the horse industry in the state is growing, even though he has seen sales of horses from his farm decline due to the economy, and people not having as much discretionary income as they had before.
Davis said the goal of the farm he runs is to preserve the tradition of Morgan horses and their original characteristics, whereas breeders in livestock typically want to change the animal to suit their needs.