The horse we call "Justin Morgan" was born in 1789 and was origianlly named "Figure." In 1791, he left his birthplace in Springfield, MA with his new owner, the soft-spoken music teacher, Justin Morgan. The stallion eventually became known by the same name. Figure's breeding is unknown but he is thought to be Dutch Thoroughbred and Arabian. But, whatever the breeding, his quality was plain to see. He had straight legs, a well-muscled body, an intelligent head with large eyes and short ears. He had lovely movement that sent his thick, silky mane and tail flowing out behind him.
The school teacher had purchased him for an investment, intending to sell him for a profit as he travel north to Vermont. However, the stallion's small size resulted in no buyers and the teacher found himself in posession of a horse when he reached Vermont.
Over the next 30 years, the little bay stallion worked long hours in the fields and on the roads of Vermont. He gained fame as he out-performed the big colonial workhorses and long-legged race horses. He was even selected to carry President James Monroe in a parade. In a match race, he out ran the winningest (is that a word?) race horse central Vermont had ever known.
Figure proved to be one of the best breeding horses ever. Regardless of the quality of the mare, Justin Morgan's off-spring inherited his genes and abilities. Today, every registered Morgan horse traces his lineage back to Justin Morgan through his best-known sons: Bullrush, Sherman and Woodburg.
The popularity of the Morgan horse spread across the US. New Englanders headed to the California Gold fields on Morgans. The Vermont Cavalry fought in the Civil War mounted on Morgans. Union General Sheridan rode his Morgan "Rienzi" while Stonewall Jackson rode his Morgan "Little Sorrel" for the confederacey.
The book Justin Morgan Had a Horse,by Marguerite Henry and the 1972 Disney movie about him were not terribly accurate but they were fun stories anyway.
In 1961, Morgans became the official state animal of Vermont.
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