Legendary Road Where A Do-It-all Breed Sire Raced; Or Go See Wild Ponies

Justin Morgan had a horse he called Figure.

“Nope, that little feller don’t look like he’ll amount to much.” That’s what almost everyone said about Little Bub. But young Joel Goss knew that Little Bub was a special colt, even though he was a runt. When schoolteacher Justin Morgan asked Joel to gentle the colt, Joel was thrilled.

“Little Bub proved that size and breed weren’t everything. Soon word spread throughout the entire Northeast that this spirited colt could pull heavier loads than a pair of oxen and run faster than thoroughbreds.”
Morgan print.

Figure could do it all. The foundation sire for the Morgan horse breed put his stamp on all his get. Image is linked to the official site for the whole story.

Figure could do it all. The foundation sire for the Morgan horse breed put his stamp on all his get. Image is linked to the official site for the whole story.

Read the rest of the story inside a book called Justin Morgan Had a Horse written by Marguerite Henry, illustrated by Wesley Dennis (if you haven’t already consumed it as a child). Then go see some of his offspring giddy-up go on the famed Morgan Mile Trotting Races, Brookfield, Vermont, on Saturday, Sept. 5.

The Morgan Mile Road is where legendary Figure (a smallish bay stallion owned by Justin Morgan; he became the foundation sire of the Morgan horse breed and later is called Justin Morgan) showed a clean pair of heels to other horses in races on this old Vermont Road in 1796.

Figure won, by the way. And people are still talking about it.

Vintage UVM postcard, driving with a Morgan in the traces.

Vintage UVM postcard, driving with a Morgan in the traces.

Races will be at a trot, under saddle as well as in harness; all starts at 1 p.m. Free. For information call (802) 763-2516.

Think on this – that one stallion left his imprint in the generations of colts and foals competing and performing in nearly every discipline in the equine world. There are those who love the Lippitts, and others who adore a much different-looking Morgan.

Personal preference aside, a Morgan is a breed worth knowing.

UConn Morgan mare and foal

UConn Morgan mare and foal

One place to see Morgans is the horse barns at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. A self-guided tour is free and the public is welcome. Stop at the main visitor center on campus to pick up a map and more information about the animals barns, or just hone in on the horses. Remember to be respectful around any large animal. Don’t intrude on the daily rounds by the staff and students, but when there is an opportunity, do ask about their Morgan program and other happenings where you can watch them in action.

Broodmare going to be weighed, seen at UConn in spring.

Broodmare going to be weighed, seen at UConn in spring.

Another road trip leads to the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm, dedicated to the “preservation and improvement of the Morgan Horse through breeding and selection.” Open to visitors for a small fee, be sure to call ahead to verify hours and dates for your visit. Then think about this on the drive: the economic impact of equines in Vermont is more than $27 million per year, making it the second largest agricultural industry in the Green Mountain State.

Vermont barn and mountains.

Vermont barn and mountains.

Now for anyone who loves horses or has a horse-crazy youngster in the family, there is one destination famous for wild ponies, especially one beloved equine known as Misty as in Misty of Chincoteague, a book by Marguerite Henry, illustrated by Wesley Dennis.

Chincoteague and Assateague are islands off the coast of Virginia. The book tells the story of how the ponies came to live there and how these sturdy equines connect to life in a what used to be a small seacoast community. The purpose of the annual pony swim (July) is to get the herd from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island so that foals can be auctioned as a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, and also to check the ponies over and limit the size of the herd. Some of the auction proceeds help to provide veterinary care for the ponies in all seasons.

Mare and foal of Assateague Island.

Mare and foal of Assateague Island.

The story of Misty and the auction helped launch a dynamic tourism industry as visitors flock to the islands nowadays by the thousands to watch the ponies swim, as they were portrayed in the story that was published in 1947. There are now hotels, motels, all sorts of places to stay plus great hospitality, sunset cruises, bike and hike excursions, guided tours and kayak rentals to view the wild ponies and wildlife such as eagles, migrating birds, and more who live in the natural beauty of this place.

Swim ponies.In we go.

Don’t fret if you missed the annual July Pony Penning Round Up. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company also do a spring and fall round up to check on the overall health of the ponies, look them all over, and check for any foals. The Fall Roundup is Oct. 16 and Oct. 17, 2015. (Before hitting the road, confirm dates with the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce.)

Or visit anytime as the ponies live on Assateague Island National Seashore, across the water from Chincoteague Island. Assateague became a national park in 1965 and together with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuge and state park holdings, land and water boundaries of Assateague Island total more than 48,000 acres in Maryland and Virginia. The best way to view ponies is with an experienced guide. Here is a link to a wealth of choices, depending on your own preference for transportation.

Assateague.

Assateague.


This is a great place to unwind. Here’s the link to the official site where there are details about decoy, seafood, oyster and blueberry festivals. As some of the best fishing grounds on the Mid-Atlantic Coast are found in the area around the Island of Chincoteague, visitors can view the ponies in their natural habitat and then enjoy the incredible bounty of the sea later in the day. Don’t miss the blue crabs.Blue Crab Wikimedia Commons

This is Riptide. For details about the herd, his image is linked to the site which lists ponies by names, along with tidbits about their lives.

This is Riptide. For details about the herd, his image is linked to the site which lists ponies by names, along with tidbits about their lives.

Interested in a pony of your own? Visit the Chincoteague Pony Centre, which sometimes has foals and young Chincoteague ponies for sale. Their website at www.chincoteague.com/ponycentre. Or look at the beauty from a computer via a live Chincoteague Bay web cam or Chincoteague Pony web cam. The links (to the far right, top of the page) are featured on the official home page.

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