Morgan Trotting

I have read through much of the recent TMH issue the last 2 days. My hat’s off to the magazine staff. There’s some excellent content this month (to be completely honest I could care less about the show write-ups, but the feature articles are great). I particularly enjoyed Stephen Kinney’s article on the trot. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

After having read the article last night I continued to mull over some of the implications of the points he made. I really liked the distinction between trotting and galloping horse breeds. I’ve often noticed the difference in a desired shoulder on a Morgan in contrast to the shoulder you typically see in a QH or Thoroughbred. I can’t find the references now, but I believe I’ve noticed in the past that all these breeds refer to the correct shoulder being “well angulated.” Whenever I’ve tried to give meaning to that phrase by comparing pictures I get such different images it has only led to confusion as they’re obviously not all striving for the same thing. Shoulders on trotting horses are supposed to be more laid back. Shoulders on galloping horses are more vertical. Neither is correct or incorrect in and of itself, it just creates a different kind of horse.

In the current climate it’s impossible to read something about trotting and not extrapolate the consequences in the context of the Hunter division. Traditional hunt/sport horse breeds have been galloping breeds. Let’s face it, no one wants to take a horse through a jump course at the trot. As a result the horses chosen are going to have that “low sweeping trot” which has now become the standard on the open circuit. But as pointed out in the article that is not the most efficient way to move at this gait. Training methods and shoeing aside, we are taking an efficient trotting breed of horse and putting hunt tack on it. We’re going to have higher trotting horses because they are bred to be efficient (therefore high moving) at this gait.

I hope I didn’t steal any of Stephen’s content for articles that are coming up in this series. I really can’t wait to read what else is coming. I encourage all of you to pick of this month’s issue if you can. There are articles on Funquest horses, Westwold Dona Resa and Civil War Morgans, all well written and thoroughly enjoyable reads.

7 Responses to Morgan Trotting

  1. Jennifer says:

    The angulation of the shoulder is only one portion of the conformation of the trot/canter. I would counter that the hind leg confirmation has more to do with way of going than the front leg. A straighter shoulder also correlates to a straighter hind leg making for a low sweeping canter. This conformation also makes it difficult to keep the horse off the forehand and more balanced.

  2. gixxer says:

    Equilink wrote:

    “Fresians, also a trotting breed, trot high when shown saddle seat and in a beautiful round motion when shown in sport disciplines”

    Every Freisian I’ve ever seen moves pretty much the same way – level or almost so, whether they’re pulling a rig, doing a dressage test or going through a cross-country course. Not my first choice for X-country, but have seen it done. They’re built the way they’re built which is what determines how they move much more than how they’re worked and in what tack. Yes you can encourage or discourage, but you can’t fundamentally change the limits of the way the forehand is built.

    “Just that we use the correct technology to produce the correct way of going for the breed in the different divisions.”

    Again, a horse moves the way it moves. Just as you can’t make a horse move level by adding weight to the shoe and length to the toe if the animal isn’t built to move level, you can’t make a horse move round if it’s built to move like a sewing machine (SB) or a daisy-cutter (TB). The main difference in the fore of those two breeds is the length of the humerous.

    “Take the very same winning hunter Morgans looking very “saddle seaty” and work them on circles instead of on the rail, in long and low frame over their backs instead of tight and rollkurishly behind the bit, with short hoof and aluminum keg shoe and once they are picked up for the show ring you’ll have beautiful, round moving sport horses.”

    Those winning hunter Morgans that look “saddle seaty” look that way for a reason – that’s how they’re built. My WC English Pl. and Park Horses are all worked in circles both under saddle and in lines, they jog miles in a corn field pushing off their hindquarters, through the back to the bit in as long and low a frame as *their build dictates is possible*. That behind the bit thing we’re seeing in the hunters (as well as some western horses) is incorrect no matter the discipline and one of my personal pet peeves. But the fact remains, a horses body will move the way it’s built to move. My park horses are most certainly not candidates for hunter pleasure, yet they’re worked almost exactly like dressage horses.

    “If an efficient trot is a high trot, why don’t Standardbreds trot higher?”

    Having spoken to Steven in the past about this issue, I don’t think he meant this as it was presented, though I haven’t read this particular article. I beleive the issue he is addressing is that a high trot *is not necessarily* and in-efficient trot like it is assumed in some quarters. For example, SB’s generally travel like a sewing machine(and yes, some Morgans) because of the angle of their shoulder compared to the humerous. There’s a whole lot of energy expended but it doesn’t get the horse anywhere. On the other hand, a properly built Morgan with a different angle between the shoulder and the humerous produces that beautiful round motion. Combine that with sufficient length of the humerous and you get round and high – a ground covering and high trot.

    “Lusitano, andalusian, and Friesian sport horses don’t look saddle seaty when doing hunter and nothing about our Morgans’ confirmation requires them to either. It is our avoidance of sport horse training techniques that creates confused look.”

    Lusitanos, Andy’s and Friesian’s aren’t saddle seat horses. They’re not built for it whether they show under that tack or not. My personal feeling is they couldn’t look saddle seaty even though, in the case of Friesans anyway, they try. They all may have bits and pieces of it, but that’s it. As I stated earlier, my SS horses are worked much like any sport horse, albeit they’re not required to do *endless* 20 meter circles. But they certainly know how to bend, push off the hind, they can perform renvers, transvers…all of it. It’s what we use to teach them to use their whole body. I don’t know that it’s a *confused look* so much as there are horses that should rightfully be shown in the Classic division as opposed to hunter, and there’s the issue that a Morgan will never, no matter what shoes or how many circles it does, look and move like an open hunter. If you want a horse to daisy-cut, get a TB.

    “The real debate… Is it an acceptable fashion trend or done due to lack of education about hunters (of an Iberian build)”

    Morgans aren’t descended from the Iberian breeds. There are similiarities to be sure, but they are not the same thing at all. As for your question, I think the basic misunderstanding is that *in some cases*, there are hunters in the wrong division, plain and simple. But there’s also a basic misunderstanding of the bio-mechanics at play. A properly conformed Morgan is going to take a long stride AND move level or close to it due to the way the fore is built. He is going to have higher head carriage than a Friesian or Lusitano due to the angle of the shoulder and how/where the neck meets it. And we haven’t even touched on the hindquarters…that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish in differences.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Both well thought out responses.
    Gixxer – I ride dressage and don’t do endless 20 meter circles. The whole point of dressage is obedience and relaxation so you may be doing what you think is dressage, but if they are not relaxed and supple, you are not. I know even my former classic/hunt horse who has no desire to pick up his feet gets tense and unsupple at times. Thank you for allowing your horses to work comfortably and finding a job they like.

  4. gixxer says:

    If you don’t do endless 20 meter circles, good on you. In my experience that is not the norm.

    The BEGININGS of dressage *or any training* is soft and supple, certainly not the end point. What’s the point of a supple horse if you don’t do anything with it? My point is that saddle seat horses are not by definition not supple. Some most certainly are hot, tight things. Same goes for any other division. In order for a horse to perform a renvers, it has to be supple and bend through the body. Another way to look at it – a proper park walk is the same thing as passage with more forward. Not happening with a horse that isn’t working off the hindquarters and through the back. We may use different words, but we use the same concepts and methods. Your goal is to perfect what we do to warm up.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Nope, I do one circle each direction at each gait and stretchy circles at the end, he loves to stretch :) I’ll add in bending lines, but no endless repetition, he gets bored easily. He is a Morgan :)

    I think working off the hindquarters is a bigger difference in the way of going for Morgan hunt horses and hunter/jumper horses. The HJ horse is just too straight in the back end to sit down and lift the withers to get any motion with the front end :). I know it would have never been possible with my TB.

    Warmbloods breed for uphill conformation for dressage with the elbow higher than stifle; but TB’s breed for downhill conformation, stifle higher than elbow. As with any discipline/breed (warmbloods are registry’s not breeds) there are different lines that produce the desired effect.

    What makes the Morgan breed unique is that just about any individual can go in any division. There are several Mizrahi get that are very successful Dressage horses, Cindy Nord has bred a few too I believe and my horse is from Tara Farm by HVK Belle Flaire.

    If you judge HP classes by the victory pass they all have too much motion, but then they are excited and doing an extended/road trot. During the class I was hard pressed to find individuals that did NOT exhibit an elliptical motion. Expressive, but still elliptical with the hind end coming undearneath the horse.

    Yes, there is a difference between HP division and the working hunter division. Is that such a bad idea?

  6. sportymorgan says:

    Will repeat myself over and over again… What needs to happen in HP is to take away the long toes, pads, heavy shoes etc. All these things make a horse’s stride shorter and higher, which isn’t what is supposed to be pinned in HP. Note I am not talking about therapeutic or corrective shoeing to make a horse more comfortable. Morgans will still trot higher than your open-ring hunter even when barefoot or shod in plain shoes, with normal toes and no weight or pads.

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