Most Morgans alive today, and most of the horses bred for sport purposes, include in their pedigrees horses from the Government farm. What was the Government farm, why was it created, and why should anyone breeding and using Morgans in the mid-1990's even care about such ancient history?
In 1905, the U..S. Department of Agriculture established a Morgan breeding program at the experiment station in Burlington, Vermont. The purpose of this program was to produce horses with true Morgan type, while increasing size and yet retaining the traditional Morgan virtues: strength, athletic ability, endurance, versatility, temperament and economy.
Two years later, Col. Joseph Battell (first editor of the American Morgan Horse Register), donated his family farm at Weybridge near Middlebury, Vermont. The breeding stock from the experiment farm station was relocated, and the United States Morgan Horse Farm was officially established.
The foundation stallion for the Government farm was General Gates, foaled in 1894. General Gates was a full brother of Lord Clinton (the fastest trotting Morgan of his day). He remained as the primary Government stud until 1920, siring three famous stallions: Red Oak 5249 and Linsley 7233 (both of whom figure prominently in "western working" Morgan pedigrees), and Bennington 5693, who took his place as the primary stallion at the farm in 1925.
Bennington was initially used as a sire of cavalry mounts, but went on to sire many of the most famous of the Government Morgans.. Bred to Artemisia, a chestnut mare of old Vermont breeding, this "golden cross" produced a succession of top quality offspring that included Mansfield, Canfield, Ulysses, and Querido. These horses in turn created their own lines of champions in various fields and extended the influence of the Government Morgan throughout the breed.
The Government Farm also instituted a testing process to ensure that only the best stock was used for breeding. This included 300-mile endurance rides, jumping, timed races, etc. The horses that were successful in the testing passed on their good conformation and fluid gaits as well as their stamina, versatility and good disposition. The long line of champions in the ring, on the trail and field, and in harness bear witness to the success of this program.
Despite the farm's success, the government discontinued funding the U.S. Morgan Horse Farm in 1950. The University of Vermont took part of the herd and continued breeding. The remaining stock was dispersed among four universities and the general public. A number of Morgan horse breeders have based their breeding programs on the government lines and the influence of the U.S. Morgan Horse Farm is felt through out the breed to this day.
In addition to the horses mentioned above, some of the best known names in the government breeding program are:
Stallions: Sonfield, Mentor, Tutor, Trophy, Panfield, Fleetwing, Troubadour of Willowmoor
Mares: Quietude, Redfern, Sheba, Naiad, Norma, Symphony, Romance, Jasmine, Phillipa, Fairytop, Quaker Lady..