Since the beginning of the Morgan's history, the horse has been well known for its ability to work all week in the fields, elegantly drive a carriage to Sunday meetings, and take on all comers whenever an opportunity to race presented itself. Today, this versatility continues thanks to many different disciplines that are available to the breed. From dressage to Working Western, the Morgan continues to succeed in whatever kind of equestrian challenge it takes on. Here are just a few of the different disciplines that Morgans are participating and excelling in.
Morgans have been revered for their excellent conformation as carriage horses since the foundations of the breed, and this tradition continues today. Morgans cut quite an impressive figure when at the front of the beautiful 19th century carriages seen at Carriage Pleasure Shows, thanks to their upheaded and elegant conformation. Morgans are also excelling at the sport of Combined Driving, which brings together driven dressage, a timed marathon chock full of obstacles and an obstacle course over a three day period. Morgans have been winning both national and international championships in this event since the mid 1980's, starting with Larry Poulin, who shocked the international driving world when he and his pair of Morgans placed first in driven dressage and sixth overall in their very first competition.
While Warmbloods have been dominating the sport of dressage for decades, many riders on both the national and international stage are seeking out horses that are lighter, more willing to work in partnership and more ridable, all of which fits the Morgan bill nicely! In fact, Morgans are well suited to dressage thanks to their intelligence and ability to retain what they've learned, plus their athleticism. As of this riding, over sixty Morgans have competed in open dressage competitions sanctioned by the USDF at third level or higher.
Eventing is another event that is seeing a rise in Morgan participation. Usually a three day event, this competition combines the control and elegance of dressage, endurance and athleticism in cross country, and agility and speed in show jumping. Much like dressage, eventing is still dominated by Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds, but Morgans have been quietly making a name for themselves since the 1990's, with winners such as TJ Paddy O'Shea, who with his sixteen year old partner placed seventh in the Young Rider's Championship in 1995 and LCM Challenger who appeared in the 2004 American Eventing Championships.
The Morgan played an integral part in settling the Wild West, and the horse's tradition as a western horse continues today in Working Western competitions all over the United States. Just some of the Working Western events that Morgans can compete in include Cutting, in which the horse and rider must separate a cow from its herd; Reining, in which the rider guides the horse in a series of turns and stops all performed at a cantor or gallop; and Rodeo, which includes events such as calf roping and barrel racing. Morgans are also working in real Western settings as ranch horses and recreational trail riding.