Saddling the Morgan
I never thought Morgans would be in my life. Like most who have seen the movie, "Justin Morgan had a Horse," it didn’t seem an aspiration I could ever achieve.
Then came college, adult, and married; but if I wanted my degree I had to add one credit of P.E. aka Physical Education to my course work. I railed and ranted and got nowhere with the administration. Sullenly, I looked over the almost endless choices of this one credit pain in the rump.
Horseback Riding? What? They had to be kidding. I can do that. (Being the same child who made her own stick horses and would have spent every dime she ever made on riding lessons had her mother permitted.)
I signed up and showed up at Morningstar Farm in Oshkosh, WI. Guess what? It was a Morgan farm, with what seemed like a hundred pure bred Morgans.
One credit became four credits, (I know—quell surprise) and a weanling Morgan colt sired by Applevale Storm King came into our lives. And thus began the downward (or upward spiral depending on your point of view) of the farm that "Dancer" built. First a truck, then a 40 acre farm, then a barn with an indoor, then our first mare, Hillside Cindy and then breeding her—you get the picture.
(Pictured left: Applevale Storm King and Doris Norton, owner of Big Bend Farm in WI)
Along the way, I became obsessed with the reality of Morgans—there isn’t hardly a saddle that will stand still on their backs. Either they are riding forward or rolling around. Why is easy—this breed has the distinction of being perhaps the hardest to saddle, especially if they are of the classic Morgan type. And if they are not correctly saddled, they will never lift their withers and actually conspire to keep a saddle in place. And thus began my saddlefitting education which has led me to where I am today--a Society of Master Saddlers Qualified Saddle Fitter.
(Photo right: Cora Barr, Morgan Mare Avatar Morgans. Photo by Cordia Pearson)
You see how round she is. This mare came into our lives purchased at auction for a walloping $875. By the time she was done growing and happily saddled, I went through $8000 worth of saddles! So I have a huge appreciation of the distress and strain many Morgan riders go through getting their horses correctly saddled.
All of these horses demand a hoop tree--one with tree rails that will lay parallel to their backs. They also need a lower pommel and frequently a shallow rear panel configuration. Some of the saddles that work well with these horses are the Thornhill Klasse, the Laser 747, the L & R Concord, and the Strada. In the Western saddles we have had considerable success with the Meleta Brown Freedom saddle. Every so often we do run across horses that need even wider gullets and flatter bars, but take heart, these Western saddles do exist and not every one of them has to be custom built.
Morgans, can be of two types, the classic round ‘saddle" type or the more pronounced wither and longer back driving type. This does not mean one excels over the other in either discipline. They just take a different shape of tree.
(Photo left: Suzette Sontag on PromisedXen, Morgan gelding owned by Stacy Ernst. Sired by Otterbrook Xenophon.)
Xen is a big boy, almost 16 hhs and his saddle is the Thornhill Zurich, which accommodates his wither (yes, he actually has one!) and more triangular back shape.
On the other side of the street, we have Morgans as round as most Arabs. Our herd is of this type, with short backs and withers well deep in muscle.
This is Avatar’s Illumination, sired by Funquest Bosquejo, a Flyhawk grandson and out of
Laraco’s Foxfire, a Wil-O-Mor Spitfire daughter. "Casey" is a stallion and has the mass and shape of the round Morgan. He is being ridden in Cora Barr’s Laser 747.
This particular saddle has started seven horses on our farm and continues in use, at times helping out my clients while their saddles are away, being adjusted.
So if you have a Morgan to saddle and they are giving you fits, contact me!
Society of Master Saddlers Qualified Saddle Fitter