I may have owned my first Morgan horse—Quintessa (Q for short), a sweet, sweet liver chestnut mare, aged 4—for almost a year, but it only took me a few weeks to figure out the similarities between her, and my favorite dog breed, the Labrador Retriever.
To my mind, Morgans are the Labradors of the horse world. I apologize in advance to anyone who finds it weird to use a canine frame of reference for a heritage equine breed, but long before I owned and loved a Morgan, I owned and loved Labradors.
In case you haven’t spent much time with Labs, they are food-oriented, biddable (i.e. willing to learn), trusting, playful —almost goofy—and known for their tireless energy, especially when at the park or retrieving in the field. They love to be around people, and given an inch will sit in your lap as if they weigh a mere 8lbs.
I’ve yet to meet a Morgan who wasn’t all of these things. They personify the “in-your-pocket” personality descriptor, not least because they need to ensure you didn’t overlook a sliver of carrot, or crumb of cookie, that might be lost in the lining of your jacket.
Just like a Lab, Q comes when called, often 800 yards or more, and I don’t need to tell you that there is nothing more endearing than a horse that saves you trampling through boot-sucking mud in the depths of winter.
The very first thing she does when she meets me at the gate is shake me down for a treat. And while my trainer has advised me not to hand-feed my young mare, I have to be honest and say it’s impossible not to reward her for coming when called. And let’s face it, Q probably thinks that it’s the carrot calling her name, not me.
One of the things that has blown me away with this breed is their willingness to trust and maintain a level head, even when faced with something they clearly find scary. In our case, that could be a tarp on the ground, or a teeny tiny puddle. So teeny in fact, that you’d be hard-pressed to see any water.
Despite the fact that Q is very clearly NOT A FAN of stepping in or on anything alien, she doesn’t turn tail and jump sideways, like many breeds would. She’ll approach it, sniff it, think about it (sometimes for what seems like hours), and then gingerly walk across or through the offensive matter.
Same with umbrellas, scary bags, and flapping bits of paper. Freaking out looks like a couple of steps sideways and a few loud snorts, before facing down her demons. I’m sure that all Morgans aren’t created equal, but it does seem for the most part that if they trust you, they’ll willingly check out the unfamiliar.
Last year, the property where she lives was surrounded by firefighting helicopters, she didn’t bat an eyelid.
Labs are known for being great family dogs, super social and get upset if left outside a room. My mare wants to talk to everyone: horses and humans alike, regardless of their desire to be talked to. She has a sweet, in-your-face nature, so it’s a plus, if you actually like horses when you’re around her. My son and I joke that she would be quite a home sitting on our sofa watching a good movie, like say War Horse or National Velvet.
She loves the marmalade barn cat, Jacques Cousteau, wanting to follow and nuzzle him whenever he appears. And when we got all my family members together for the first time for our Christmas photo: two black Labs, one Morgan horse, and a teenage Monkey, it made my heart full to see our four-legged friends together for the first time. They seemed to know that they’re all part of the same tribe. There was no barking or snorting, just nose-to-nose hellos and a lot of calm energy.
It seems that you never forget your first Morgan. I’ve met people—strangers—happily regale me with tales of their first Morgan horse from decades ago, and I’ve no doubt it’s their affable, curious, playful and willing personality and strong work ethic that makes them so memorable. I plan to have my Morgan in my life for as long as I live, her spirit teaches me so much.