I read a couple of really great quotes/opinions about Morgans over on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums today. These quotes inspired me to share them, as well my own thoughts on Morgan horses.
Morgans are pretty special horses, and as much as I love them and think they're the best horses in the world, they really are not for everyone. Morgans are thinkers, and can't be pushed around. Working with Morgans requires having a partnership, rather than taking a stance of, "I'm the boss."
This was posted on the forums recently: "I'd say Morgans are craftier, a little more sensitive, and require a little more finesse... they have an acute sense of justice and will tell you in no uncertain terms to F-Off. I wouldn't try to muscle one around or you might end up in trouble." Case in point: I guess someone tried to take the "I'm the boss" stance with Star at this past weekend's IEA show. Honorary Big Sister Jen couldn't figure out what the rider was trying to achieve with Star, as the mare was being perfect (as she pretty much always is). But this rider trying to push her around pissed off the mare, and they didn't have a good round. Her other riders, who have been willing to work with her don't have these issues. As is always the case with Star, her IEA riders place exactly where they deserve to place. She will do anything you ask of her... but you do have to ask!
Morgans kind of need to understand the "why" behind doing something. They are pretty quick learners, and are easily bored with repetition. They also have a strong sense of self-preservation. This is another quote from the forums: "The Morgan is usually a big thinker, and a lot of that though is about putting forth no more energy than is necessary to get the job done. That's why they last all day!" It's funny as hell, for sure, but if I were Politi-Fact Georgia, I would rank this statement as only "half-true."
The thinking about how to expend the least amount of energy possible applies in a manner relevant to the conveyed and percieved importance of the task to the Morgan. If you don't treat the task as important, then of course a Morgan will put forth the least amount of needed effort! If you treat the task as important and ask the horse to perform the task, then the horse will keep going as long as you want. And if the Morgan truly loves what they are doing, they will do it all day, no questions asked, for anyone along for the ride.
Another IEA example (and I've referenced this before): if you are just a pretty eq picture when riding Star, rather than being effective, then Star goes around doing her own thing. She'll walk, trot, canter, and reverse on command, but she's not going to give one iota more than asked. If you are an effective and pretty eq picture, then Star will come onto the bit, lift her belly, use her back, and step under herself. And if pretty much anyone or a monkey is jumping with Star, she'll keep going all day... but if the fence is 2'6" or less, she still only gives it the minimum required effort.
And to quote the movie Seabiscuit, "Though he be but small, he is mighty." Morgans are definitely a big personality in a small package. They are very strong for their size, and often far more athletic than people not familiar with the breed give them credit for. People are surprised when I tell them Star can jump a 3'6" course no problem, and that she has jumped 4'3". And even Honorary Big Sister Jen seemed surprised when I told her that Sparky is, in every way, even more athletic than Star. And Bumble Bee, one of the Morgans I rode back home and who was about the same size as Sparky, was able to outpull a Jeep CR-7 back in the day.
And the final quote (and this one I liked well enough to put on Facebook): "You can ask most horses; you have a conversation with a Morgan." While a Morgan may not initially come across as a horse with lots of energy and a great desire to please (a comment made about thoroughbreds), they really do have great minds. If you get into these thinking minds, and have that conversation (rather than bossing around), the Morgan will step out of their energy-conservation mode and you will have a willing partner who is eager to please and who will go to the moon for you.
For more information about Morgan horses, go to http://www.morganhorse.com/. The Morgan horse - the horse that chooses you!