The versatile Morgan Horse! We are celebrating this breed as our June Breed of the Month on YourDressage! We asked our social media followers what makes Morgans their favorite breed, and got an overwhelming response.
Did you know that dressage riders who choose Morgans as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the American Morgan Horse Association Inc. (AMHA) is a participating organization?
Here, a long-time Morgan enthusiast shares her transition from hunt seat and western pleasure to dressage with both her own Morgan gelding, and her mom’s small-but-mighty Morgan mare, and how both have become excellent ambassadors for their breed.
By Robin McNabb
Morgan’s are truly a breed that can do it all and do it well. In 2015, before trotting down my first centerline in Western Dressage (where my dressage journey truly began), my mom and I enjoyed showing our Morgans in hunter over fences, saddleseat, and western pleasure. For about 15 years, we showed all over New York with our Morgans. Then, in 2014, we attended a small dressage clinic. This clinic sparked our interest in dressage and we never looked back!
Fast forward almost 10 years and countless hours converting our seats from hunt seat to dressage (the struggle is real), and Morgans are still the center of our world. Chandelle Hi Tesseract (Tessa) – (Shazam’s Legacy X Chandelle Hi Gail Force) bred by Chandelle Farm, Bloomfield NY, is a small but mighty 9-year-old Morgan mare owned by Susan Barkman, my mom. My mom purchased Tessa in the fall of 2017 as a green-broke 4-year-old, after the loss of her 23 year old Morgan. Tessa fit right in with our little three-horse herd, immediately becoming fast friends with my palomino Morgan. We went right to work over the long upstate NY winter, in hopes of being under saddle by the spring. In true Morgan fashion, she caught on quickly and took everything in stride, with elegance and grace.
Tessa has proven herself time and time again. In 2021, Tessa and I qualified for the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 8 Championships in Training Level open (my first Regional Championship experience). She was the only Morgan in a competitive group of wonderful horses. She placed just outside the top 10 and we could not have been more pleased! Tessa is the 2021 Adequan®/USDF All Breeds Training Level Open Champion from the American Morgan Horse Association, American Morgan Horse Association Open Competition-Training Level Champion, Morgan Dressage Association -Training Level Reserve Champion, as well as Hi-Point Mare and Overall Hi-scoring Horse at a number of USDF-recognized competitions.
Tessa is a wonderful ambassador for Morgans in dressage. She is always the first at the gate, always greets you with a kind expressive eye, and is always receptive to learning new things. Her ability to learn and excel in dressage has truly been an exciting experience. I am excited to trot down centerline at both First and Second Levels this year, as well as cheer on my mom at schooling shows!
Tessa’s partner in crime, Amberfields Crest of Gold (Hercules) (Amberfields Desperado x Mocha of Cinnamon), bred by Amberfields Morgans, West Edmeston, NY, has also proven himself as a sport horse. I purchased him as a lanky, cream colored five month old in 2003. Now retired at 19, he is a big bodied, 15.3 hand palomino that I originally trained in Morgan western pleasure. We jogged and loped around arenas for five years before finding dressage and western dressage, which is where Hercules was at his best.
As you can imagine, after ten years of Morgan western pleasure, retraining Hercules for dressage was not an easy task. Countless hours spent together; training rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, and straightness. I never lost faith in him or the breed.
Upon his retirement in the fall of 2021, Hercules was nationally ranked 3rd in Morgan Versatility (which includes Western Dressage), 3rd region 1 Morgan Dressage Training level and Reserve Champion Region 2 Morgan Versatility.
Perhaps Herculeses’ greatest accomplishments, and my proudest moments, have nothing to do with ribbons or rankings. He is now teaching the next generation of Morgan horse lovers and dressage enthusiasts. He is careful and kind to the little dressage rider on his back. Morgan’s have the strength and suppleness to compete in all levels of dressage, all while maintaining an agreeable and calm demeanor. Big things truly come in small packages!