The All American Colonial Horse Breeds

Horses were high on the list of what the earlier settlers needed. They were needed to pull the plow, take the family to church on Sunday or go to market. They were also the means of entertainment, giving rise to the challenge of which horse was best at his job. Which horse is fastest? Which pulls the buggy or runs under saddle fastest? Which does the fastest and best job pulling the plow.

Which breeds began first in America?

The Morgan was one of the first. He hailed from Vermont and the prolific little stallion became known as ‘Justin Morgan’ after his owner. He was also called Figure.  He was described as a tough little all around horse, able to pull the plow during the week and participate in races on the weekend. These were both in saddle and in harness. These days he’s still a strong show horse, and many other American breeds show traces of him in their ancestry. During the Civil War, they were used as calvary mounts.

The Quarter Horse is one of the most popular breeds in the world. This horse is often synonymous with western events. But did you know his ancestry starts in  Virginia? His ancestors include the thoroughbred and the morgan. The most famous thoroughbred sire for the breed was Janus. Eventually, he moved west and met up with the mustang, which contributed to his lineage. The breed was standardized out west.

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Plantation Walker AKA Tennessee Walker
Originally born for the southern plantation owner to ride his land in smooth gaited comfort. This horse went on to become a prized show horse. He is also a wonderfully smooth trail and pleasure horse. His show career however is tarnished by the horrors of a practice called the big lick. That high stepping walk comes naturally, but some trainers use boots, chains and chemicals to make them step higher. It’s a shameful thing, because this is truly a lovely breed, sturdy but refined. The breed is most famous for it’s association with Tennessee, where the breed standard was finalized.

Claims to Fame:
Of Morgans: One of them was General Sheridan’s Rienzi, AKA Winchester. Another one was named Ethan Allen. Rex was a silent film star.

Of Quarter Horses:

Buttermilk (from the Roy Rogers show: added note for those watching the horse slaughter debate. This beloved horse was taken off the slaughter truck!)

Justin AKA Doc’s Keepin Time (Black Beauty, The Horse Whisperer)

Of Walkers:
Trigger Jr. (One of Roy Roger’s horses) and Champion (One of Gene Autry’s) were Tennessee Walkers. Note that there was more than one ‘Champion’ and more than one ‘Trigger’, they were not all walkers.

Of Crosses:

Champion (Gene Autry’s original) was half morgan and half quarter horse.

Obviously, these are only a few of America’s horse breeds. More on the others later.


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