Breed Direction OR Identity Crisis

I wasn’t sure what to title this post.  I’m not even sure exactly what my opinion is on this, or what I’m trying to say, hopefully it’ll piece itself together a bit as I type.  But I was thinking through some of the challenges we face in the breed today, and it seems a lot of the things we want are in opposition to each other.  (a lot of the following statements are broad generalizations)  When we’re trying to sell a horse, we think the horse is worth loads of cash.  But when we’re shopping, everything costs too much.  On one hand we say “what happened to the do-it-all Morgan?” and “we should make the breed and our shows more ‘back-yard owner’ friendly”, and there’s a lot of talk about making the breed “more accessible” (I should note here that I’ve heard from multiple people involved in other breeds that they do consider Morgans to be an affordable option for people who are new to horses).  But at the same time we say we want people involved in the breed who have deep pockets to contribute, and those same people are the ones who will pay top dollar for the “specialized” horse and can afford to send it to a show to only participate in one or two classes.

Perhaps the breed is at a cross roads and decision point between old and new (both in breed “type” and ownership styles transitioning from favoring the “backyard owner” to perhaps favoring the “top dollar” owner).  Or perhaps we’ve already passed the cross roads and there’s no going back to the old.  I personally think there are aspects of value in both the old and the new, and maybe there does need to be a but of returning to the foundations without losing on the good progress we’ve made.  But, the day and age of the horse being a useful and usable aspect everyday of life has passed.  To a certain degree we need to face the reality that horse ownership is not, and has never been, a human right.  If you love horses but it’s too expensive for you to participate, tough luck (I say that with the realization that it applies to me to a certain degree).  Horses are a luxury item.  It may be expensive to buy a top notch show horse, but maybe it should be.  If you can’t pay the upfront costs, how do you expect to be able to pay the maintenance cost?

I’m probably opening up a can of worms here, but I’m curious what others think on this issue.  I waffle back and forth a bit on this all the time.

15 Responses to Breed Direction OR Identity Crisis

  1. Montehorse says:

    Your discussion is pretty random. I think that the value of a horse lies in a simple economic term called demand. If the demand for a particular animal is high, it’s normal for the price to reflect the increase demand of the animal.

    Owning a horse these days in very expensive. I own one that I have to board several miles away from my home. Board prices, shoeing, vet bills, dentist bills etc. can add up. I do pretty well for myself on my own, and enjoy showing at the occasional show. I think many people get into trouble because they have no idea how much a horse actually costs to own. It goes way beyond the actual purchase price.

    I’m fortunate enough to have the knowledge and experience to maintain my own horse. I would not be able to afford to put a horse in training with one of the big name trainers, nor would I want to at this point in my horses life.

    If you are inexperienced, and just getting into the breed, leasing a horse, and taking riding lessons can be a great experience to help build knowledge and experience at a reasonable price. I would “not” go out and buy just anything.

    Owning a horse, like a boat, is a luxury. Some of us may have the money to purchase a yacht while others may have to stick with the Jon boat.

  2. Montehorse says:

    My previous post is slightly redundant. I accidentally hit submit before editing. Sorry, I’m usually not this bad at writing :(

  3. RaeOfLight says:

    Sorry if I was rambling and random. My point became more clear in my mind as I wrote, but maybe I should’ve started over from scratch once I figured out what I was trying to say.

    It’s just that there seem to be a lot of opinions concerning what the future of the breed should look like. We need to do “this” or “that” in order to “return to our roots” or “expand participation in the breed” or what have you. I can listen to a lot of the opinions and agree with them. But we can’t do it all, partly because it would just be too big, and partly because some of those good ideas are at odds with each other. Not that they lead to arguments, but that in implementation they would cancel each other out.

    In many ways in the past I have heard people refer to the history of the Morgan breed as a parallel to the history of our country. Without getting too much into politics, perhaps the same thing is happening now.

    So what do we want the direction/purpose of the breed to be? How do we want the future to look?

  4. Janie says:

    Well, in my opinion it’s not “broke” so why fix it? What other breed can say that their horses are successful in saddle seat, hunt, western, dressage, jumper, trail, “backyard” and etc.? Why must we always have to search for change, even when it’s not needed?

  5. rsmorgans says:

    Its like anything else in life, there is high end and low end. Why would want to be just one side, that certainly limits the market and the opportunities.

  6. leslie says:

    Janie, ALL of the other breeds say that same thing! At least all of the American breeds (I doubt the KWPN would want anyone thinking of their horses as backyard trail horses.) Of course, they’re all stretching the truth a bit, but it’s not like our claims of versatility are anything novel.

    But, I agree that we don’t want to move in just one direction. We want to make sure that the show, sport, and trail/pleasure horses are all valued as important segments of the breed. I think we’re doing okay with that right now. I just worry about divisiveness. It exists in all breeds, but ours is relatively small, so when a chunk of Morgan owners splinter off and form their own group, it hurts us more than when the same thing happens in the QH breed.

    Is there a way to keep the die-hard foundation Morgan people happy without kicking out the saddle seat Morgan people? I think working on judging so that the Morgans that look like Hackneys aren’t the ones that win in every division, but I also think there are some people who will never be happy with the show side of the breed. We probably just need to accept that we can’t please all of the people all of the time.

  7. empressive says:


    This is a very good thread. I am sad though that so many people will not look to the future. It’s nice to be in a comfy place and sure we all want to stay there, but that is not likely to happen. When I die I would love to leave something to the Morgan breed. Thus I look to the future and how exactly I can do that.

    When *I* look to the future that does not mean that everyone else has the same dream, perspective, or idea. So be it. But if we do not have a goal, a mission statement that not only says who we are, but where we are going we will be forgotten.

    What works now will not necessarily work later.


    My poor, dear, lovable, and scary father sells extrusion for a German company called REHAU. (Who although not being in America is a Global company and while hit by the Economic lows, thanks to it’s goals and vision is emerging as the top leading company in the commercil construction business after being a complete NOBODY after 15 years; (LOL) Headed by MY father who is lead by J.C./ props where props are due)

    Now there is a company in Kansas that has been in the window business for many years, it’s family owned and deals in aluminum “windows” (keeping terms easy so you all can understand) Well aluminum is old and outdated. They have contacted my Father to buy REHAU’s product. Now if they buy my Dad’s project they are guaranteed projects because REHAU’s stuff is not only in demand my Dad has a few project managers that contact him for companies to go to. If they do not buy REHAU they will go out of business and over 900 jobs will be lost, an entire town will disappear.

    Of course this company could go with another extrusion company, but they chose REHAU for some confidential reasons.

    NOW… this is where VISION, GOALS, and PERSPECTIVE are important to the Morgan breed. This company did not look into the possibility that their aluminum would be outdated. Are we looking to the possibility that Morgan’s will become outdated?

    There are MANY new registry’s and breeds being created. Crossbreeds are quickly becoming more expensive and better advertised than purebreds. Do we have the vision to compete against that?

    Many breeds are simplifying their programs and taking away while making things easier and more fun for new owners to come into their breed. Like Meet the breed, showing together at multi-breed shows, getting into BIG breed shows and sharing venues. Even ranch visits are advertised by the associations. Where is our Perspective? Where are we going what are we doing? What are our goals? What is the Morgan breed trying to achieve together?

    Sure QT’s are the athletic ones that work on the ranch. Well their breed has incentives for all of that jazz.

    While money is a big issue to it all, if we do not have the perspective and vision to reach our goals we will never be able to accumulate and save the money to reach a status.

    Yeah go ahead. COMPLAIN about monetary issues. Well if we get our perspective and vision together, our goals straightened out then YES. More than likely funds will get where they NEED to go.

    But then again maybe like Rae said we are simply too far gone. Is that ok? Yes as a matter of fact it is. All good things must come to an end. Look at all of the great horses that have passed. Look at all the stallions and mares and gelding that go to the kill buyers each day to meet inevitable fate! Look again at our best friends even in this breed and family that we have mourned for this year alone.

    Maybe we need to ride out this last hurrah and say good bye to the Morgan breed. At least we, this current generation, had the chance to enjoy these great horses?

    Is this the end? Or maybe the ramblings of a tired college student? Yes/ no it does not really matter. Have I made a point? TO everyone that has been able to even read this… did I make sense? Can you see what I mean?

    It does not matter where we are now (in a sense) BUT it does matter as to where we are going.

    Hopefully not to the grave! Ladies and Gentlemen, if you walk away with something from this please let it be this. That the Morgan breed is a physical, breathing thing. It can though be managed just as busines can or even a marriage (leave you with something to think about). What business needs and even marriages is perspective, vision, and goals.

    Now I do not know how we will get perspective, vision, and goals. LOL I do know though that the idea must be passed on so that others may think and add to the perspective and vision that will create OUR goals. So think, know, and pass it on. Be it on the trail, in the showring, or in a Supermarket in California!

    And most of all… have fun with your Morgans no matter what you do. Know that someone else has a Morgan and is doing something different with their horse, but enjoying them just as much.

    Empressive/ aka Monique!

    I cannot

  8. empressive says:

    LOL the P.S. meant to read… I cannot find it in myself to check for grammatical errors. Lazy, tired, you name it. At least my tummy is full.

  9. jns767 says:

    As someone who does not participate at the regional or national level of showing Morgans (don’t have that kind of $$), I have a different view I suppose than many on this forum/blog. I grew up in a very middle class family and we were only able to shell out less than $3,500.00 for our show horse. We ended up with a nice, older and very experienced *high stepping even* gelding. We had no money to go out of state for shows, so we stuck around town and hit up many open shows and even a few local A shows.

    We were awesome representatives for the Morgan breed at the open shows we attended. Most people had no idea what type of horse he was…almost everyone thought he was an Arabian. He had circles of admirers that would stop and ask many questions about his breeding, temperment and more. We even allowed some curious kids to hop on for a real “Morgan experience.” That horse most definitely stuck out against the sea of stock horses and T-breds; he had that real Morgan flash and presence (even at 16); curvy neck, chiseled face, with a bit of motion up front. We entered hunt seat, stock seat AND saddleseat classes – bareback and equitation too. I like to think that we had a few of those QH people switching over the Morgan breed.

    Anyway, enough about that. For me – I’d love to see more people buying Morgans to compete in the open show circuit. It feels like people have a mentality that they can’t compete against the stock horse themed open circuit shows. That’s not necesarily true – my Morgan and I often beat huge classes of 30+ QH’s with a QH judge…sometimes we placed in the middle of the pack, but so what…it’s not always about the blue. I feel that one of the only ways to really get people interested in Morgans, is to showcase the breed at open shows where stock horses/t-breds are the majority. Honestly, people just don’t seem to know much if anything about the Morgan breed right now, it would be so easy to bring some of these QH owners over – they simply just don’t know about Morgans to make the switch.

  10. jns767 says:

    As a sidenote – forgive me for rambling a bit off topic. I have a bad habit of reading something and then responding with something entirely different :)

  11. RaeOfLight says:

    I agree with you COMPLETELY jns767! I feel like a lot of people in the breed have gotten so breed-centric. Of all the people in my local Morgan club, there’s a couple who are competing on the local circuit, participating in speed events and doing summer camps with kids on their Morgans. They have other breeds on their farm too, but I think they’re much better ambassadors for the breed than any big name, nationally competitive, Morgan-centric barn.

    I would also like to say I do think we are functional as a breed right now, and I don’t think we’re in danger of dying. But someone with walking pneumonia is also “functional”. I don’t think we are thriving. Just take a look at some of the conversations on this blog right now. Maybe it’s just human nature, needing to gripe about something, and probably there’s no way to make everyone happy. But there are so many opinions on what’s “wrong” and how to make things “better”.

    Because of the versatility of the breed, I think that goes hand in hand with a lack of specific purpose. And as leslie said, because we’re not a large breed, I have to say I don’t know if we have the capacity to accommodate everybody.

    I wonder if there’s a way we could easily label the factions within the breed? By doing so I think we could maybe better define how to best accommodate as many as possible and avoid flailing around with the same old “we do it all” mantra that really gets us nowhere.

  12. jns767 says:

    There is nothing wrong with the breed at all, in my eyes. Sure, we have the newer refined “saddle bred” looking fire breathers, but there are still tons of the older looking, useable horses. THere are the Lippits, the working ranch type and so many in between. Just look on Morganshowcase,, or Dreamhorse – there are so many different TYPES of Morgans, and that is awesome in my eyes. If the “newer” style of Morgan is cleaning up in the A circuit, then show at the open level – what is so wrong with that? THere is something out there for EVERYONE in this awesome breed of ours. I wish people weren’t so streamlined and focused on the Morgan in the Morgan A circuit show world only – that, to me, is what is killing the breed.

  13. snerland says:

    Perhaps we need to bring back the barefoot class. That always was a treat to watch. The horses had to have a 4 1/2 ” toe and had to ride in a snaffle only. Better yet…why not a costume class and I do not mean a groom’s class? Let’s let our hair down; everyone is just getting too worked up over money, prestige, and the future. I agree, let’s have some fun and enjoy our Morgans. Let’s show at more open shows with our finest. Let’s have classes for our “open show” participants. Let’s take the money we are giving for futurity to a selected few and divide it among the masses so we all can participate. After 52 years of breeding and showing Morgans horses both by myself and with professional trainers, I look back on the open class smaller horseshows with great affection. I loved how people came up to ask me what breed I had and I loved when the judge asked me what breed I had. Over the years I have sold more Morgans to people who saw me at open shows then in the specifically designed Morgan shows. So we have to sell our horses for less but for every one we sell, we have a convert. Each convert goes forth to tell the story of our breed. That’s where it is at folks and Mary Jean knows that well.

  14. Vintage_Rider says:

    I posted this on the “backyard” thread… QH have an interesting development to be more inclusive..

  15. leslie says:

    Rae, if you ever want to feel better about the seemingly negative attitude of people in the Morgan breed, take a stroll over to the nearest forum or blog of some other breed and you’ll find it’s the same crap, different breed. Really anything that a group of people can be passionate about will probably lead to in-fighting to some degree. Well, maybe that won’t actually make you feel better, but it will demonstrate that we’re not freakishly argumentative here in Morgandom. We’re just normal.

    Honestly, I think people on this blog (even me) have a sense of humor about this stuff and do realize that showing horses is not exactly curing cancer, no matter how seriously we may take it.

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