National Geographic : 1923 Nov
THE STORY OF THE HORSE be traced with any degree of certainty, al though he continued in the stud for more than 20 years, long after his sons and daughters had added many laurels to his early fame. The second generation of Morgans bred true to type, but many were of slightly increased height and weight. This change was more marked in the third generation; but the Mor gan horse has ever been characterized by his staying qualities and consistent performance rather than by size and fast records. In fact, the effort to cross-breed for speed was a seri ous blow to the Morgan stock, for, while pro ducing a few superior animals, the general run of the breed, not fast enough for racing, were overlooked, and America came near seeing the end of a most useful type of horse which had been originated in the country. Probably no horse ever received more atten tion from the public in his day than Ethan Allen, a son of Black Hawk, he by Sherman Morgan, the son of the original Justin Mor gan. It was the good fortune of the writer, when a boy, to witness a great race by Ethan Alien. Having been brought up in a blue-grass re gion, where only the Thoroughbred was held in esteem for racing, my interest had never been aroused in trotting horses. My father in formed me that the race scheduled for June 21, 1867, between Ethan Allen, with a running mate to pull the wagon, and Dexter would be a his toric contest and that I might attend as a special favor. Ethan Allen and mate won in three straight heats, the time recorded being 2.15, 2.16, and 2.19. Dexter made a great race, but the running mate with his opponent was a serious handicap. The Morgans, while not abundant in the country, are well distributed at the present time and are so much appreciated that there is no probability of their being allowed to lose their identity, especially since'the Government has seriously interested itself in their perpet uation. The Morgans have gradually increased in height and very slightly in weight since the breed first came into notice. They now aver age about 15 hands and weigh about 1,ooo pounds, sometimes, however, going consider ably beyond that, to 16 hands and 1,200 pounds. The Morgans are usually chestnut, brown, bay, or black in color, white marks not being common. They have always been admired for their useful qualities rather than for speed. The breed is noted for smooth lines, stylish action, endurance, easy-keeping qualities, and docility. Their small ears, fine eyes, and crested necks give them an attractive appear ance. They have a fine, natural knee action, which some of them have transmitted to standard-bred and saddle-horse families to their manifest advantage. That the Morgans have lost none of their fine qualities is attested by the performances in the annual endurance rides conducted in recent years under the patronage of a number of associations and lovers of the horse. The last endurance ride was held during the autumn of 1922. Gladstone, a registered Mor gan gelding, won second place under conditions which were rather grueling. Gladstone's half brother is a veteran of three previous endur ance rides. Gladstone was sired by General Gates, for several years at the head of the Government Morgan stud. Gladstone was foaled in 1913 and remained at the Government farm until he was four years old. He was then sent to the Govern ment experimental farm in Maryland, where he was used in the station wagon, making many trips each day. With a record for reliable work, he was selected as one of the pair used in the carriage of the Secretary of Agriculture in Washington. He continued this work for several years. He was returned to the Government horse farm in June, 1922, and prepared to take part in the endurance ride. He was worked during the haying season, after which he was used under the saddle until the date of the endurance ride. Many of the entries which exceeded Glad stone by 200 pounds were among those com pelled to fall out. Gladstone finished the test in excellent condition, with the same score as accredited to the winner and only three points behind in time. The official record states re garding Gladstone: "Sound as when started." When the sire of Gladstone and Castor died, the post-mortem examination showed only five lumbar vertebrae. Similar conditions have been found to exist after post-mortems in other cases. Should the existence of only five lum bar vertebrae be characteristic of all the Mor gans, that would suggest descent from the Arabian (see text, page 496), but it would re quire remarkable prepotency of sire to fix an anatomical change of marked importance in the foals of such an assortment of mares as were known to have been bred to Justin Mor gan and his sons. POLO PONIES (For illustration sec Color Plate XXII) Polo, in its simpler form as hockey on horse back, is an ancient game. The earliest re corded history of polo is found in Persia, from which country the game spread westward to Constantinople and to the east through Tur kestan, Tibet, and China. In its earlier form, polo consisted of feats of horsemanship, in volving skill with stick and ball. The Chinese game was played about the year 600 A. D. with a light wooden ball. Grounds were first laid off in Persia in the sixteenth century, with limits of 300 by 170 yards, and the game was played by four on a side. This method was taken up in India, and the game consisted of dribbling the ball toward the goal. The game was neglected for several centuries, but a revival began in Bengal in 1854, since which time it has never lost favor. Since it made its way into England and Ireland it has become a fast, hard-riding, hard-hitting contest with heavy sticks and large balls.