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The Gaited Morgan Horse

Few horseman of any breed fancy have not heard the story of the stocky, stylish little stallion, Figure, destined to become known by this owner's name, Justin Morgan. This pre-potent horse spawned a dynasty that has spanned generations.

The hallmark of the breed is the stamp of its progenitor. Morgans bear his unmistakable "type," both physically and mentally.

Visit these Gaited Morgan Associations:

Morgan Single-footed Horse Association

The Morgan is a horse of proud bearing. He holds his delicately chiseled head, upright, on his graceful, substantial neck. The eyes are deep and expressive and the ears, foxy and alert. Morgans are known for long sloping shoulders which contribute to smooth,extended gaits. They are tough, sound, athletic horses, heralded for their versatility, as well as their cooperative nature. Traditional Morgan character is sought after for the intelligence, willing attitude, calmness and tractability the founding sire impressed upon his get.

Nearly a secret

But the gaited Morgan is nearly a secret. He is so little known, that until very recently, breed aficionados vehemently denied his existence. Strange, considering the illustrious past of the smooth, "traveling" Morgan. For instance, Morgan horses were instrumental as Calvary mounts. General Stonewall Jackson's favorite horse, Little Sorrel, or Fancy, was a ground covering, smooth gaited, "pacer" -- most likely a singlefooter.

Many Morgan breeders are surprised to find new foals gaiting the paddock. Due to the mysteries of the genetic code of gait, non-gaited mares and stallions routinely produce gaiting offspring. Unofficial breed estimates state that from 10 to 20 percent of all Morgans perform some sort of intermediate gait! The gaits produced range from a true singlefoot, for which an entire registry has been established.(The North American Singlefooting Horse Association), to a high action rack to a form of a running walk.

So where does this tendency come from in a "non-gaited" breed?

Perhaps the more pertinent question is "where did it go?" The old literature and indeed, the original Registry volumes, point time and again, to "pacers" -- the often used common term for a horse performing a gait other than a trot, rather than a true hard pace. there were other references to "single-footers."

Gait sacrificed to "big trot"

As roads improved, the emphasis was on speed at the trot. As vehicles replaced horses, the emphasis was on what placed in the show ring. Because the Morgan rack was not as high as that of the American Saddlebred, he was not able to compete at that level. In short, the gait was sacrificed to the "big trot" so esteemed by roadsters and show exhibitors.

Consider these gaiting claims to fame:

  • Several sons of Justin Morgan, including Sherman and Hawkins Horse were reputedly gaited.

  • Maggie Marshall, granddaughter of the famous Morgan stallion, Black Hawk, was the dam of the foundation sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed, Allen F-1. In fact the dam of Black Hawk, himself, was believed to be a Narragansett Pacer.

  • Copperbottom was a legendary racing Morgan of the early nineteenth century, who could win any race, in any gait.

  • Lady de Jarnette, the most renowned Morgan show mare ever, could call upon seven perfectly developed gaits, including the singlefoot and pace.

Bloodlines that most typically display gait include Jubilee King and Flyhawk. The L.U. Sheep Ranch, a half million acre Wyoming spread, ran up to 80 saddlehorses at time -- all Morgans. The singlefooters were the hands-down favorites of the ranch hands! And a good percentage of the Calvary remounts bred by government stables from the turn of the century on were smooth traveling, coveted singlefooters. this all goes to show, the gaited Morgan is nothing new, and apparently he's here to stay!

Photos: The Morgan Stallion Twilight Golden Dream. Courtesy of
The Morgan Single-footing Horse Association
2893 S 500 W
Kingman, IN 47952