Revival of the Morgan Horse

How about some comments on the amazing combined TMH that just arrived?  Looks like the Sport Horse people heard the challenge of “put up or shut up” and bought some ads.  What a thrill to see a huge magazine again.  Great articles, something for everyone. 

I was particularly intrigued by Steve Kinney’s suggestion of a “Traveling Show” of Morgans to tour the major horse expos.   How much better this would be than sponsoring a 4-in-hand to travel to Europe! (There is nothing wrong with 4-in-hands, but the market is tiny and is, for the most part, already dominated by European Warmbloods.  It is a rich person’s game that does little to grow the market for the rest of the breed).   We would be marketing the Morgan to an audience which we already know loves horses, has money and wants to be entertained.   Yes, the market can be fickle (Gypsy Vanners, anyone?) but we all know that once you have a Morgan, you tend to stick with them. 

I have said before in these pages that the Morgan horse should be the most popular horse in America for the 40-something amateur rider who wants a baroque, kind, pretty and athletic companion with a genuinely American backstory.   The Frisians are stealing the spotlight that should be on the Morgan.  The Sport Morgan people can lead the way in this.  This is the same opportunity that existed at the start of the carriage driving era, an opportunity to see the Morgan Horse in a new way.

12 Responses to Revival of the Morgan Horse

  1. Flmorgan says:

    Great News. I think promoting in the US is a better idea. We have to market to a domestic market we can sell horses to and then train and teach the owners to ride etc.

  2. leslie says:

    Chris, could you explain more about the traveling Morgan show for those of us who don’t get TMH? And those of us who swear we’re going to get around to subscribing one of these days…

  3. Leslie: Steve suggested that a wealthy Morgan owner could have a lasting influence by financing a Morgan Equine Entertainment group which could tour the major Equine expos like Devon and the Toronto Winter Fair. What prompted this was discussing how rapidly interest has grown in “Cowboy Dressage”, and also the great popularity of the Morgan “circus-trained” horses that appeared at the World Equestrian Games.
    Visualize something like the “Royal Lippizaner” tour at a level of professionalism and presentation. We recently saw the Royal Lippizaners in Knoxville and they had a great visual/audio presentation on the mediatron in the venue where they appeared. I have not been to any large horse expos, but I think they would love to have a professional presentation to entertain the audience. You can only have so many “horse whisperers” before you get burned out.
    Imagine a big-screen short film of “America’s horse” followed by a Cavalcade Americana with top-quality costumes, beautifully presented horses and an experienced emcee. You could then split off the horses and show them in short vignettes of everything from dressage to jumping to carriage driving to reining to park saddle , with a catchy theme (Morgan Horse Trot?) playing in the background and dramatic lighting. Smoke machines might be a little too much I suppose.
    The cost of this whole hoo-ha probably would not be much more than the usual cost of a show season campaign. I bet you could get donations of horses, tack, carriages and even a horse van. I do think it needs to be staffed with professionals or at least with people whose sole purpose is to present the show, with volunteers playing a support role.
    How many expos per year and what do we do with the equipment and horses when there are no expos are big questions, though.

  4. jmorse says:

    “The Morgan “Circus trained” horses at the World equestrian Games’???? I was there and there was ONE Morgan who was part of group of about 8 or 10, depending on the day, who did two tricks.

    You do a disservice, as even Jeff Wilson, the owner of said Morgan, would be quick tell you, to the other horses and people in this group who we ALL popular.

    Having been part of several of these kinds of Morgan presentations on my own nickel over the last 20 years, I will say it would be nice to actually be PAID to do it. I always thought the formula was upside down when the circus acts had to PAY to be in the circus.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I enjoyed the sport horse segment of the magazine, however, not all the breeders/farms had ads in that section. While it is nice that they support that issue it would be of greater benefit to the breed if they provided continuous support and visibility for the the sport aspect of the Morgan breed.

  6. Jeff: Circus-trained was the term used by Mr. Kinney in the article. I didn’t see the performance. I thought he was referencing another presentation by a pair of Morgans. He didn’t mean anything negative by the reference, and I certainly didn’t. If Wilson was part of a larger group, all the better. Also, I wasn’t criticizing all the volunteers who have presented Morgans over the years other, but I don’t think many volunteers, however dedicated, could travel from Equitana, to Devon, to Toronto, etc without some compensation and costs being covered. The clubs cannot do it; most of them are barely hanging on with maybe 1/4 of the members they had in the 80s.

  7. jmorse says:

    I did not read Stephen’s article. The point I wanted to make was that there was MUCH more to the Morgan demos at WEG than Jeff Wilson’s horse. He and his horse did a great job and were great crowd pleasers (both at WEG *and* at 20111 Equine Affaire) but he was not alone in either situation by a long shot nor were “circus tricks” a major part of the presentations. ….and, knowing Jeff, he would be the 1st to agree with that.

    And you are absolutely right: compensation to do these kinds of things is non-existent and bay far the bulk of costs are very generously coming directly out of the participant’s own pockets. At Equine Affaire, I had to pay to participate (almost as much as it costs to enter a breed show), and pay for daily passes ($100) as well as pay to get there and back for 4 days. Fortunately I live close enough to stay at home and the New England Morgan Association donated stall drapes and Nancy Caisse donated hay for everyone. But I bet the total true costs for *each* participant was about $1000.

  8. leslie says:

    I’d guess Steve was talking about Carole Mercer and her dancing Morgans:

    I didn’t see her performance at WEG, but I did arrive at that arena just after she’d finished and was talking to spectators on the rail. Unfortunately, I never saw the other demo.

    I appreciate anyone who uses their own time and money to participate in these kinds of things. I’ve ridden in a couple of breed demos at the Ky Horse Park, and I do think people walk away with a positive impression after they get a chance to meet the horses up close. But I have to wonder what the actual return is in terms of bringing new blood into the breed. Plenty of horse-crazy kids go to see those touring Lipizzaner shows, but do they leave begging their parents for a Lipizzaner? Even if they did, would their parents be able to find a riding stable that offers lessons on Lipizzaners?

    I think that kind of stuff is good for getting people interested in horses in general, and after that, the horse they end up on depends on what riding stable is nearby, offers reasonably-priced public riding lessons with a friendly instructor. Probably showing up near the top of the Google results for “Horseback Riding in Town X” is a key factor, too.

    So, this was a roundabout way of saying that while I don’t think Steve’s idea is a bad one, I do think that any promotional efforts have to be backed up by quality public lesson programs. Where I live in Kentucky, even if I get someone super excited about the breed, I’ve got nowhere to send them. I can tell them to use the farm finder on, but I know exactly what they’re going to find: breeding farms and private training barns. If I were that hypothetical rich person looking to promote the breed, I’d probably set up some kind of riding instructor’s incentive fund before funding a touring troupe of Morgans.

    Details to be worked out after I win the lottery.

  9. Hi this is Carole Mercer and the Dancing Morgans.

    Well…a circus act…that would be fun to be part of a circus… Maybe I should have run off and joined the circus….they pay their acts.

    My performace is technically called a “sidesaddle tandem ride and drive” .

    There were other tandem ride and drives at WEG, but I was the only SIDESADDLE Tandem ride and drive there and was the only sidesaddle one in the world at that time.

    I have taken my Morgan mares all over the country . I drove over 7000 miles round trip to take them to WEG. We were one of ten performers chosen by WEG to represent the United States at WEG.

    One day when it rained…no one else wanted to ride in the rain. I was asked if I could fill in 6 times in three hours.. My mares and I are from Oregon . We can perform in the rain. We did six performaces in three hours. My performance is 8 minutes long. Then the rest of the time is slotted for meet and visit. We worked the entire three hours.

    The mares never missed a mark – nor did I. We are true professionals…the show must go on and it did.

    I loved every minute of WEG. I met wonderful people and made many new friends. I stopped at the top of my game. I have been 65 years old now for five years. The mares are 18 years old….but now it I hear talking that we were a circus act and a wonderful seed has been planted.

    I have two more young horses that are coming up…I am just having a wonderful time playing with them…I am working with them at liberty….hmmmmm- a circus act…hmmm. I don’t want to travel…I’ll just find a big tent here at home…hmmm… I have a covered arena…hmmmm Mercer’s Circus….I could have acts right here…no travel…sell popcorn…what a great idea. I need more people to be in my home based act…What a great idea….a circus act – imagine that.! What fun!

    Visit my web site at

    Smile more, laugh often and be kind.

    Cheers,Carole L. Mercer ( and yes- I am a terrible speller….but I can still really ride. smile)

    I raised the moneyy to get to WEG by selling miles for $5.00 a mile. All sorts of friends, Morgans owners, non Morgan owners, friends, some not so friendly people and tons of grass roots people helped me get toe WEG and back home.

  10. I rushed subscribing to TMH specifically for the Sport horse section! I have been encouraging the New England clubs to offer a Versatility Award (beyond the Two Phase and Ride/Drive) to entice those great Equitation, Classic, Jumpers, and Carriage horses to try a new class and show us what a Morgan can really do. I am hoping it will please the Sport people, and encourage them to sponsor classes and advertisements while rewarding them for their cross training hours and bringing their open horses to a breed show. The award would be based on a horse/rider performance in classes such as In-Hand, Dressage, Over Fences, or Youth Pattern, Equitation and Driving. I originally made a big packet with my ideas (and offered to sponsor/coordinate the whole thing!). I will reinvestigate and possibly present it here so you can offer me your thoughts. I have a feeling those Western Dressage riders will be chomping at the bit for this!

  11. OMG. 6 performances in three hours? Only a Morgan can do that!

  12. Plus the little old lady who travels with them can do 6 performances in three hours. We are a team…Of course, these mares also drive…single and pair, work cattle single and as a tandem. I trail ride them and used them to work cattle in the feed lots when it was in business….These mares can do it all…now they are retired. …rightfully so. I still trail ride , but just think…I have young horses coming along. Big smile…who knows what wonderful trouble we will find to get again. Cheers, Carole

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