Monday, June 15, 2009

Arabian and Morgan breeding

Ran across the following youtube video of a bullfighting horse, Merlin:

Still not quite sure how I feel about bull-fighting yet after the research I've done so far (I think I will need to actually see it for myself to adequately judge it), but the horse in the aforementioned video is absolutely amazing! Very talented and athletic and an absolute joy to watch.

So I've got a bone to pick with some of the Arabian and Morgan horse breeders as well as those halter QH breeders. Now, I do not breed either breeds and so have to admit my full knowledge of the situation is limited, and my knowledge of bloodlines is...well, mostly absent. When people rattle off a particular Arabian's bloodlines to me, my eyes just sort of glaze over. I contemplate whether or not I appear to be listening or not. Should I smile now? What about nodding? Oh, I think that was my cue to look impressed. ... ;)

So anyway, with that in mind, I still have a bone to pick, because we've owned part-Arabs and Morgans before, and I would love, in the future, to have a couple of full-blooded Arabians and Morgans. I actually still have my two partbreds, though the Warmblood cross gelding throws more to the Warmblood side. Interesting enough though, I traced his bloodlines, on the Dutch WB side, back to the Byerley, the Godolphin, and the Darley. My Quarab, I'm told (by individuals who have bred Polish's), looks like a Polish Arabian. He's got a sturdy build but has the refinement of the Arab, huge-ass eyes inclusive. I am not sure what his Arabian bloodlines are, his parentage papers are hidden away somewhere.

It used to be, and well I guess still is, that this is the type of Arabian we were proud of breeding. Check out Sundance Kid V, specifically. Turning Point Arabians also has some nice ones. As does Spirit of Texas Arabians and High Meadow Arabians. If I had my way, they'd all look like this (or some variation thereof):
This fellow has got substance (bone) as well as the refinement and uniqueness of the Arabian. That, personally, is how it should be (in fact, more bone on an Arab is definitely a plus in my books). Yet - and my untested theory is that breeders not knowledgeable about the breed or bloodlines, and perhaps not all that serious on preserving the type of Arabian that originated from the desert, are the primary culprits - I continue to see these Arabians advertised that look more like Saddlebreds. Hey, just throwing it out there, but if you want something that looks like a Saddlebred, why don't you, oh I don't know, y'know, actually buy say a, well a, a Saddlebred? Why breed an Arabian to look like one instead? Oh, and what's with these Arabians with absolutely no stubstance? They're like stick figures. Last I checked, stick figures were rather difficult to ride.
A couple of years ago I was boarding at a place where two Arabians also resided. Of course, I didn't know this yet. I mean, I had the sneaking suspicion that they were Arab-something, but I figured there was no way they could be purebreds. Turns out, they were. I met their owner one day and she managed to ramble on and on to me about one of the horses (bloodlines inclusive), a gelding, whom she was hand-grazing that day. Turns out he used to be her prized stallion way back when she bred Arabians. That little mare out there in the paddock? Yup, his daughter. These horses were somewhere in the 13hh mark or so. They were half-decent looking horses and apparently she used to show and such. Stocky little things that clearly had Arabian influence. But purebred? Is this what people are breeding? Why?? I'm not sure what is worse, an Arabian that looks more like a Saddlebred, or one that looks like it could be a Welsh pony (no offense to Welsh ponies, I had a part-bred growing up - a Welsh/Morgan, and they're fantastic).

As a result, I have grown pretty picky of my Arabians. I want them to look, well, Arabian. They should have enough substance that you aren't questioning when they might keel over, and they should not (yes, that was code for: not) look like Saddlebreds!!
Now, for both past and future reference, this is what a Saddlebred stallion looks like:

Jasluca, of TRR Sporthorses and Saddlebreds. He does have a bit of that classic Saddlebred long back (that is often swayed, even at the National levels and on young horses) and unbalanced front-to-hind ratio that I dislike, but he's alright. I just noticed, are those soring chains on his rear pasterns? We're going to have to have a blog about that soon too. That's ridiculous.

CH Shoobop Shoobop is another Saddlebred stallion, of Bluebonnet Farm. Your classic Saddlebred stallion and a pretty nice looker as well.

Heir Delivery, of Three Ridges Farm, has got to be my favourite Saddlebred stud yet (of these four). He is very well-balanced, which seems to be rare in the Saddlebred world. He's got a short, strong, back and I love that hind end! He's got substance and beauty and yet still looks like a Saddlebred (look at that head and neck!), and he's got the world-class bloodlines to prove it.

Here's another representative of the Saddlebred breed. Shamrock's Firestarter, from the same farm as the above stallion.

Alright, so now that we've seen what a Saddlebred looks like, it's on to the Morgans:

FCF Esprit De Lark, of Rendition Morgan Farm. What, you say? A Morgan? Y'know, because for a minute there, I almost thought it was a Saddlebred! I mean, he looks almost identical in type to the Saddlebred stallion above! Okay, so I'm being a little exaggerant (new word?) here. If you study the photo enough, preferably until you go cross-eyed, you can actually tell it's a Morgan, and not a Saddlebred. Save for a few minute differences only a trained eye can see, this horse could (almost) be a classic Saddlebred. He even shows in saddleseat classes. Hey, it's like a Morgan, in Saddlebred clothes! Here, I've got a few more (all helped along by that retarded pose Arabian, Saddlebred, and Morgan breeders all seem to think is so absolutely necessary, lol - no offense meant):

I want to say he's gorgeous, but on the other hand, that's a pretty long that looks like it might be swayed when he finally straightens those legs out. War and Peace, of Sebring Stables.

Hey, here's another Morgan in Saddlebred clothing! Hillock Showson, World Champion Morgan (he's 2/3 of the way down). World Champion, even with a back like that. One of his daughters, Mariah, has the exact same terrible back...though is it the back, or just the way the shoulder and neck is situated on the back?? I'm not so sure anymore... *sigh* why can't horses just have normal conformation?

Whatever happened to the real Morgans, the ones that looked like this:

Justin Morgan, also known as Figure, the founding sire of the Morgan breed. I realise this is just a painting...but there's no way in heck that little horse was able to pull logs and such looking like a Saddlehorse. No way. He had to have been a stout-built horse - the Saddlebred look that breeders seem to be going for nowadays is (from what I understand) the result of crossing Saddlebreds and Arabians into the lines. Now I have nothing against those crosses, and I have to admit I particularly love the Morabs, but they're Morabs, or Saddlebred/Morgans...not Morgans! I'm not sure how the registries work though, if they're allowing these crosses to be called Morgans? I am not all that familiar with the Morgan registries and their associated rules. Or is it just a matter of particular selective breeding, of people breeding for that Saddlebred look?? Same follows for the Arabians, as mentioned above. I'm not sure how the registries all work and so how we're getting these Arabians that look nothing like the original desert horses. I have a feeling though, with Arabians, it has more to do with selective breeding than the infusion of outside breeds though. I do have to admit that I think there is less of this type of thing going on in the Arabian world than in the Morgan world. Most Arabian breeders seem to actually be breeding quality horses that follow the breeding of the Arabians on the other side of the world (though, just to point out, I doubt any North American can do it like the Bedouins, Poles, Syrians, Egyptians, Russians, etc do - they've been breeding those horses for centuries within their families and have careful plans and books for doing so). But anyhow, back to the Morgan. Here, in my opinion, is what a real Morgan should look like:

A Morgan mare - Shock And Awe (Cedarcreek Harlequin X Bef Cece), at Skyloft Morgans in Maine (photo credit to Rendition Morgans, WA.

THI Cherokee, of Jericho Creek Farms. He's about 2/3 of the way down the page and you can also click on his info to see more outstanding photos of him. He's also not their only fabulous foundation-bred stallion! Here's a little clip of what they say about this outstanding stallion:

"Critter" is a wonderful blend of the old Morgan bloodlines that are hard to find these days."

They seem to be right. Hopefully more like them keep up the old bloodlines that result in horses more akin to Figure than the Saddlebred-lookalikes that are running around these days.

Here's another good one, CL's Ready to Run.

So, that's my rant on those two breeds. As I said, I'm not too sure how or why these two breeds are being bred in such a way, and I greatly feel that Morgans are the worse off. It seems that Arabian breeders are, for the most part, keeping to the original Arabian type. The associations are sure trying to do so and I think the judges are keeping to the original Arabian type - the horse with substance but with the level of elegance only the Arabian can have.

The Morgans though, seem to be changing. Obviously some of the "old-type" Morgans are still winning (Cherokee, above, has won in halter), but obviously these newer Saddlebred-types (or Arabian-type, I mean some of them even look a lot more Arabian almost than Morgan!!) are also winning. I hope the breeds stick to the original horses overall. Keep the Saddlebreds (lovely horses when bred correctly) within the Saddlebreds, and the Morgans and Arabians within their respective breeds. Obviously cross-breeding is essential to developing a new breed or sometimes particular crosses just make fabulous crosses themselves (even if not to develop a new breed, specifically), but I strongly believe we should be maintaining the original breed - if developing a new type of Morgan (for example), is a specific goal, then it should be developed as a new breed, not as the old breed, but changing.

Just as a related side-note, if you take a look at the portrait of Figure, you can still see even the "newer" Morgans in him - just look it his shoulder/neck and how it blends into his back, and his hinquarters, as well as the head. They all still have him in there and are all still Morgans essentially, it's just that it's like people have taken that horse - Figure, and made extremes of him. Perhaps through selective breeding (rather than the infusion of Saddlebred or Arabian). To really know how or why the breeds have changed would take some in-depth research and knowledge of these breeds and their bloodlines. All I can personally really say, is that I do not like it, regardless of how it's done.

Maybe I'm just stuck in my ways, but I absolutely love those old Morgans, they're absolutely gorgeous. They've got the substance to do anything yet also a little refinement. I just feel like perhaps these "new" Morgans (and some Arabians) are being developed much the same way the Quarter Horse halter horse is: a horse that is developed more for show than for use. That would be a shame.

On another related note, I hope the same is not following for the Saddlebreds and Tenessee Walkers (etc). It seems a lot of the gaited/saddleseat horses are coming out with these long long backs. Long backs that eventually (if not from the very beginning) sway! There were a few Saddlebreds boarded at one of the places I used to board at; one bay mare in particular had competed at the National level in Canada (and US??). She wasn't all that old, approx. 14, and her back was swayed beyond belief, as well as very long. Yet she'd been winning! On the other hand, perhaps those types win in the performance classes but not in the halter classes? Anyways, the Saddlebreds I posted above, while (2 of the 4) throwing perhaps a bit to that long back and disproportionate front versus hind end, are still pretty good representatives of the breed. That, to me, is about whereabouts the breed should look. I'm not sure how much curvature in the spine is acceptable to a horse, where or when, or even if, pain and discomfort would begin to play a role when ridden due to such a swayed back, but I doubt it's something we should be breeding for (and some obviously are).

*sigh* sometimes you just wish you could shake some people and restrict others from breeding. On the other hand, this is a free country and they are certainly entitled to their opinion too. I just wish their opinion paralleled mine sometimes, LOL, but then where would the fun be in that? And, as difficult as it is to admit it, really, who says they're not right, with their long-backed, disproportionate Saddlebreds and Saddlebred-looking Arabians and Morgans?? *sigh* I suppose we'll never know, haha.


jennybean79 said...

I agree on some level with what you're saying. I show Morgans and have noticed that the horses are being bred for what they do in the show ring instead of for function. One horse in particular "Centerpiece" also has Saddlebred looking get. He won a world championship. Though the horse is gorgeous and is definately a Morgan, he also has a keen saddlebred look to him which worries me. I am a western pleasure fan myself, and love the old type Morgans with the typey heads. However, I've also noticed some tall, lanky Saddlebred looking horses in the WP ring as well. It's somewhat worrisome to me :(. BUT, if you look you'll see that for every Saddlebred looking Morgan there are ten Morgan looking Morgans. The breed has been somewhat refined in the past 20 years, but I feel that most breeds do this to an extent. There are many Morgan enthusiasts dedicated to foundation Morgans as well. Bleh, this is ranty, sorry :)

quietann said...

another comment on Morgans (I am a long-time fan of the breed and have owned a Morgan mare for just over a year): Look to the Morgan sport horse breeders for more "old fashioned" Morgans. See . A lot of people with more "Foundation" bloodlines won't be found in the Morgan class A show ring, which is in a decline as fewer and fewer Morgans meet the Saddlebred standard. There are Morgans out there eventing (they tend to be overachievers about jumping!), doing dressage, CDE, endurance, you name it.

If you poke around on the web, you'll find some info about Saddlebreds crossed into the Morgan lines, both legitimately (before 1940 or so when the studbook was closed) and non-legitimately, later on.

It's very sad, as I know so many middle aged and older horsewomen who had a Morgan as a first or second horse in their teens, took them everywhere and did everything with them. Now, people roll their eyes and say "too hot!" when one enthuses about them.

OldMorgans said...

There are Old Type Morgans out there, but they are not as easy to find as the much more promoted show lines. And finding Morgans with pure Foundation pedigrees is harder yet, sad to say. The Old Type breeders are passionate and sometimes strident about their chosen Morgan families, but most also are good on conformation, athletic ability, and other attributes that make a good horse, not just a good Morgan.

Equus said...

"There are many Morgan enthusiasts dedicated to foundation Morgans as well."
I hope so!

Thanks for the link! I checked it out to find some fabulous Morgans. Caduceus Denver, Raynyday Squire Jack, those Statesmans stallions - WOW! That makes sense to see that type of Morgan being bred as sporthorses, since they naturally have that warmblood-y look.

We had a Morgan cross gelding who threw to the (old-style) Morgan side - I can't imagine him being labelled "hot", lol. I have to admit, I can't wait for the day to have a Morgan in our barn.

"The Old Type breeders are passionate and sometimes strident about their chosen Morgan families"
I hear 'em!
Nice blog btw!

quietann said...

Unfortunately, I don't think Caedecus Denver is with us anymore... His owners were involved in a MAJOR neglect case last year and last I heard all their horses had been placed elsewhere... and I am pretty sure that somewhere along the way, Denver died.

(OT, my favorite gripe about the Internet is people not updating their websites!)

The Statesmans horses are very well-respected as are the others you mentioned. Mythic Aladdin, my mare's sire, is a little coarser but is absolutely the sweetest stallion I have ever met, and his son Mythic Hyperion is gorgeous and has great action, but sadly under-promoted.

Equus said...

That's too bad about Denver!

Haha the worst is when you get all excited about a horse (or other) on the net, only to call and find it was sold...a year ago...

Jenn said...

Re:On what a REAL Morgan should look like...the Bay Morgan mare with blaze and 4 whites belongs to me- thank you! She is a doll. Shock And Awe (Cedarcreek Harlequin X Bef Cece). She lives here at Skyloft Morgans in Maine since 2008. Happened upon this looking for something...Photo credit should go to Rendition Morgans, WA.

Anonymous said...

I have been watching a Morgan World Champion show for the last three days, and I see a ratio of 1 in ten short backs, the rest are really really long, looking like sore backed long.
There may be some old lines in Morgans, but they are not at the show, because they are not winning. Even the English pleasure with hunt seat horses are doing a high saddle bred trot.

Equus said...

@Jenn - thank-you for your info! I've adjusted the blog and credits accordingly.

@Anon - I hate hearing that! Hopefully the breeders out there with foundation Morgans continue their hard work so we have some left when the rest of the Morgan world wakes up and realizes the need to breed for function over form.

Anonymous said...

I am a Morgan owner in Britain and have to say there are not many of the long backed Morgans over here..
The only thing I have a gripe with is the "morgan in saddlebred clothes." Morgans (along with thoroughbreds and pacers) did provide the basis of American Saddlebred breeding in the 1800 so in actual fact it is the other way round! I'm sorry for the seeming rant, I just thing the Morgan is a largely under rated breed, especially in England.
A very interesting post nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

On some level, I have to agree with a lot of what you're saying. Some of these Morgans have so many non-Morgan appearances, but as Morgans are one of the bases of the Saddlebred breed and it's thought that Arabians are one of the bases of the Morgan breed, it's bound to occur that the breeds will look similar. I like the way you present your points- giving examples and visuals, etc.

I've been around Morgans (working with and riding them) for four years. Foundation-bred, Lippitt, show strains. They're all truly beautiful horses. The statement about hunt seat horses having 'saddlebred' trots, though, is wrong. You have to admit that often, thinking of a Saddlebred in the show ring conjures images of a high-stepping, fast, flashy horse, and many champion hunt seat horses aren't like that.

I've been around horses in every discipline, and I have to admit that yes, many Morgans are being bred with longer backs, but many are being bred back to the foundation lines, creating beautifully compact, proportional horses with nice movement.

I have to admit that I don't like seeing very tall, leggy western pleasure Morgans. WP Morgans, in my opinion, should be more compact, and I feel a similar way about saddle seat Morgans. However, when watching a hunt seat class, it's evident that it's often the larger horses that are noticed by judges.

One of the reasons for this is that Morgan judges only watch one rail, traditionally. If you want to be noticed in your class, a larger horse often becomes more noticeable. Smaller mounts are often separated from the crowd by their rider in order to make themselves more visible.

So...yeah. I know this is basically just a rant about my thoughts, but just...not all Morgans are going that direction. Last winter I spent a few months riding little, compact Morgans who loved to jump. Now, I'm riding an itty-bitty, compact, well-built gelding saddle seat.

Anonymous said...

Here's a really great article that details the evolution of the Foundation Morgan lines.

Anonymous said...

Do you have written permission to from Howard Shatzberg (the photographer) or Ann Hailey (owner of the horse and Copper Beech LLC) to use War and Peace's photo on your blog? Considering the context in which it was used, I doubt that very much. The photographer does not joke around about copyright infringement, and the owner does not joke around about anything. I doubt very much that your little blog will amuse her when she sees this. Both the owner and photographer have been alerted.

Anonymous said...

The Morgan Stallion War and Peace actually has a very short back; you have to consider how laid back his shoulder is [something usually quite lacking in Arabians] and where his hip starts, then you can see that his back is really quite short in comparison to his very deep laid back shoulder and long flat croup...... one of the most beautiful Morgan Stallions ever bred and for those who understand the mechanics behind this type of conformation, a real example of perfection.

Another point you make regarding Waseeka's Showtime, he was never shown and the Morgan world champion horse show.. he was only shown once at the Gold Cup in Ohio, where he was Show Champion Stallion.

Anonymous said...

Hi! born and raised in the Morgan community. I might be able to answer some questions. First, like a few have already said, the Morgan was a foundation for the saddlebred line so you are going to see some similarities. In the breed standards they look for some slightly different things in the overall look of the horse. Saddlebreds are generally taller, longer necked, longer ears and big movers. Because you have a loooong neck, and looong legs, you tend to also get a longer back to keep the horse from injuring themselves when they move. They are sometimes shorter in the hip which doesn't balance things out but there you go. Morgans require the very pretty, almost dishy head with big eyes like an Arabian but with more substance to them - not as delicate. They should have a short, strong back but again - if you get a leggier Morgan with a strechier neck, their back will also have to balance out. You also want a nice long hip on a Morgan to create a more round rump to balance things out. In recent years in order to be competitive in the show ring, Morgans are being bred for the discipline they are expected to show in. You have more money in the saddleseat Morgan so I there was a little cheating there. I know this because my mare is the daughter of a highly used mare who always threw very saddley looking Morgans and it generally expected to be an outcross (this was a breeding from 20 years ago or so). While it gave the breed a little more size and stretch, it did change the overall silhouette of the newer styled Morgans. I'm ok with the size so long as we say true as breeders to the silhouette and mannerisms we pride ourselves in. Now that DNA blood typing is required we will see much fewer illegal out-crossings but has the damage already been done? I don't know. I like my mare, I think she looks very much like a half Morgan, half Saddlebred. As a responsible breeder I would only breed her back to a more traditional Morgan to retain the size and the type. Not everyone thinks that way though.