Platinum and Beau think they’re hot stuff because they’re related to famous racehorses. Big deal! What’s their claim to fame? Running fast? They’re lucky I wasn’t there. I would have left them in the dust, crossing the finish line miles ahead of the whole pack.
Sonny’s always yapping about his famous great-grandsire, Sonny Dee Bar. Oooh! A show horse! Whatever. My ancestors are famous for much more important feats than racing or winning blue ribbons—although we’ve done that too.
The entire Morgan breed was founded by one stallion named Figure. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1789, he quickly gained fame as an intelligent, versatile, and spirited horse who excelled at every task put before him. Today, there are over 150,000 registered Morgans who resemble their famous ancestor in appearance and ability.
We’ve earned our racing reputation as great “trotters”. Trotters pull a lightweight cart and driver around the track. We’ve also made our mark in both the Western and English show worlds; competing in Pleasure, Hunter, Jumper, Eventing, Dressage, Reining, Cutting, Endurance and Competitive Trail classes.
Even better, Morgans have earned a place of honor in our country’s history by serving as cavalry horses. In the Civil War, the First Vermont Cavalry, an impressive fighting unit, was mounted entirely on Morgans.
Rienzi/Winchester – General Sheridan’s mount
One of my famous Civil War-era ancestors was named Rienzi. He was tall for a Morgan—17 hands—high-spirited and black as the night. He carried the Union general, Philip Sheridan, through many battles. Rienzi was braver than many soldiers; never failing his master even though he was wounded four times. His name was changed to Winchester after carrying General Sheridan to victory in the battle of Cedar Creek, near the town of Winchester, VA.
After the war, Rienzi was put out to pasture for a well-deserved retirement,until his death in 1878. He was so revered, he was mounted and placed in a museum on Governor’s Island in New York. Today, he can be viewed at the Smithsonian Museum.
Little Sorrel – Stonewall Jackson’s partner
Rienzi wasn’t the only famous Morgan to serve in the Civil War. In the spring of 1861, Col. Jackson—who later became a general known as Stonewall Jackson—captured several horses from the Union army near Harper’s Ferry, VA. He gave a small chestnut Morgan to his wife and kept a bigger horse for himself. Unfortunately, being big doesn’t automatically make you better, smarter, or braver. The big horse turned out to be a major wimp on the battlefield—although I don’t blame him. War must be horribly scary.
Desperate for a replacement, Jackson took back the horse he’d given to his wife. (I wonder if she was angry at him or if she understood that everyone has to make sacrifices during a war.) Little Sorrel bravely carried the General through many battles without ever showing signs of fear or fatigue. His aide often had to remind the general that the other horses needed a rest. Ha! See I told you Morgans are awesome! Jackson earned the nickname “Stonewall Jackson” when, mounted on Little Sorrel, he stood “like a stone wall” during a heavy Union onslaught at the battle of Bull Run. Can you imagine how quickly Sonny or Beau would have left a battlefield. That would probably be the only time he’d be able to run faster than me!
Although General Jackson did not survive the war, Little Sorrel did. He became a celebrity appearing at hundreds of fairs and exhibitions. Many Southern women would snip little pieces of his hair as a souvenir. Eventually he was sent to live out his days at the Confederate Soldier’s Home. After he died, he was mounted and put on display at the Virginia Military Institute.
Commanche – Survivor of Custer’s Last Stand
Commanche was the only cavalry horse to survive the Battle of the Little Big Horn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand. He was found badly wounded two days after the battle by troops searching for survivors of the battle. He was brought back to Fort Lincoln, headquarters of the 7th Cavalry and nursed back to health. He was given the honorary title of Second Commanding Officer in Chief of the Seventh Cavalry and retired from further service. No one was ever allowed to ride him again and it became every soldier’s duty to see that he was always well-cared for. When he died, he, too, was mounted and exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair. Today, he can be seen in the museum at Kansas University.
As impressive as our military records are, we’re also gentle. We’re used in 4-H Pony Clubs and therapeutic riding programs. Obviously we’re gentle and kind because I rarely took advantage of Mom when she was learning how to ride me. Trust me; if I wasn’t willing to be cooperative, she would never have stayed on my back for more than a second. In fact, she would never have even gotten the chance to mount up!
If my brothers weren’t impressed already by my stories of Morgan fame, I reminded them that I was Mom’s inspiration for Midnight Magic – Be Careful What You Wish For! I felt pretty proud of myself as I watched Sonny, Beau, and Platinum hang their heads, although Cherokee didn’t seem all that impressed. I guess I convinced them that Morgans are by far the best horses on the planet. Then Cherokee spoke up. “Don’t let that little squirt make you feel bad. We can all be proud of who we are and where we come from. Trinity, I think you forgot to mention something else you’re good at.”
I was surprised. I thought I’d just about covered it all. “Really? What’s that?” I asked.