There are many reasons for buying many kinds of horses, but the one major reason for buying a Morgan horse is his beauty. Short-backed and compact, his neck splendidly arched, his head finely shaped with a nose straight or slightly dished but never Roman, the heavy-boned Morgan looks like an idealization of the horse.
Morgan horses can now be found all over the U.S., and it is possible to buy a fine example of the breed in the Midwest or the West, but the best place to buy a Morgan is Vermont. Just beyond Middlebury in the village of Weybridge, over an old covered bridge and down a country road, there is a beautiful barn as large and towered as an Italian villa. Set far back from the road on a green slope, it is the center of the University of Vermont's Morgan Horse Farm. The grandeur and dignity of the structure is a delight to the visitor—and an indication of the pride Vermont takes in the beauty and lineage of the oldest distinctively American breed of horse.
In the late 18th century a schoolmaster named Justin Morgan moved to Vermont from Massachusetts, bringing with him a 2-year-old colt. It was rather small—only 14 hands high—but prodigious in almost every quality one could ask of a horse. In pulling contests, in races against trotters or saddlers, it always excelled. More important, it was prepotent as a sire so that its characteristics always prevailed over those of any mare with which it was bred. Over the years it became plain that a new breed had been developed.
Any prospective buyer should first go to the university farm. It will give advice to anyone on the purchase of a Morgan from dealers. Prices tend to be high. Expect to pay between $2,500 and $4,000 for a registered Morgan mare and from $750 to $1,500 for a weanling. Although a Morgan can pop over a fence, it is not at its best as a jumper or hunter, but it is ideally fitted as a family horse.
At a breeding farm called Ledgemere, just outside Shelburne, recently I saw a beautiful young mare named Pixie, with small elegant ears and a carriage that would credit a centaur. The breeder led her at a trot down the road to show off her high-stepping elegance, while his partner pointed out to me her good points and what few faults he could find. Within a pasture a colt and a yearling trotted freely after the mare, their necks in the same regal arch, their legs moving in precise flashes. Suddenly they reared and plunged in pride and delight. Whoever owns them someday will feel that same joy in their beauty and grace.