Morab

  • HEIGHT: 14.3–15.3 hands
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: The United States; the geographical history of the breed extends from New England, to Kentucky, to Texas, to California
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: Steady disposition, strength, sensitivity, excellent free gaits
  • BEST SUITED FOR: Family and pleasure horses, trail riding, driving, jumping, and showing

The name Morab is thought to have been coined by William Randolph Hearst, who bred and used Morabs on his San Simeon ranch in California in the 1920s, but the history of these useful horses predates Hearst by many years. In 1855, L. L. Dorsey, who was interested in developing a national carriage horse for the United States, purchased a spectacular weanling for the grand price of $1,000 from breeder Andrew Hoke, who lived near Louisville, Kentucky. This was the great horse Golddust, who was properly registered, by the rules of the time, with the Morgan Horse Association as #70 and is one of their foundation sires. A closer look at his own pedigree reveals that he was part Arab. His sire was Vermont Morgan MHA #69, but his dam was an unregistered daughter of the excellent imported Arabian stallion Zilcaadi (also spelled Zicaaldi) owned by Andrew Hoke.

Golddust was remarkable in almost every way. He was stunningly beautiful. At 16 hands, his conformation was excellent. His color was said to be pure gold. In addition to conformation and color, he was one of the fastest-trotting stallions at a time when there was heavy emphasis on trotting speed both for roadsters and racehorses. In 1861, Golddust beat the great trotting stallion Iron Duke in a match race for the best three out of five heats, winning $10,000.

Golddust was also a great sire, consistently producing offspring with great speed that were exceptionally successful in the show ring. The Civil War ended Golddust’s career, but by then he had sired 302 foals and left forty-four trotters of record. His offspring were shown, and usually won, at all the biggest shows and fairs in the country. One of his famous grandsons won at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

The Morgan-Arabian cross may have gained its first real fame with Golddust in Kentucky, but its reputation soon traveled westward. As the cattle industry grew in the West, more than a few cattlemen discovered Morgan Horses to be excellent ranch horses. While Morgans gained a reputation as solid working animals, so did the crosses with Arabians. Several famous ranches, including Hearst’s San Simeon, crossed Morgan mares on Arabian stallions with excellent results. In Texas, a breeding program at the famous SMS Ranch, operated by the Swenson brothers, used Morgan stallions on their ranch mares. They improved this stock by crossing in three Arabian stallions that they acquired from the U.S. Army Government Remount Program and ended up producing some very fine cutting horses. To this day there is strong interest in Morabs in western states, especially in California.

Breeding True

The name Morab seems to lead people to regard these animals as a recently invented crossbred and to be unwilling to consider it as a breed in its own right. One of the key requirements of a breed is that it must consistently transmit selected characteristics to progeny; the Morab has repeatedly proved this ability for at least six documented generations. Although one may think of Morabs as always being half Morgan and half Arabian, the rules of the Morab Association dictate that a registered animal may be no more than 75 percent of one of the two foundation breeds while being no less than 25 percent of the other. For example, a horse that was 25 percent Morgan lineage would have to be 75 percent Arabian in order to be accepted by the registry. The registry does not accept any other breeds.

You can see both the foundation breeds in this horse. The head shows traces of the Arabian; the neck is more refined than on many Morgans. The croup is flatter than on some Morgans but rounder than on Arabs. The color is common to Morgans.

Breed Characteristics

Morabs are tractable and easy to train. They are late maturing, often not reaching their potential until the age of about seven. Like other late-maturing breeds, they are long-lived.

Morabs have free gaits, working well off their hindquarters and carrying themselves well collected. They may have a naturally high action or a lower, quieter, pleasure-horse action, depending on the breeding of the animal. Most registered Morabs are three-gaited, performing the walk, trot, and canter, but the International Morab Registry also accepts horses that meet all other requirements and are also smooth-gaited.

The beauty of the horses first attracts many to this useful breed.

With their steady disposition, these horses are desirable as family and pleasure horses. They also make good trail horses, nice driving horses, and successful show horses in almost every discipline.

Conformation

Morabs are powerful, muscular horses that also exhibit grace and refinement. They usually stand between 14.3 and 15.3 hands. The head is refined, with a straight or slightly concave profile and large expressive eyes. The cheeks are broad, the muzzle narrow. The nostrils are large and flared. The neck is heavy, but with refinement and good length. The shoulders are well muscled, long, and sloping. The withers are moderately high over a short, strong back. The croup is level and muscular, with a high tail set. Hipbones are never evident on adult horses. The chest is broad and deep. The legs are sound: viewed from the front they are narrow, but from the side they are wide and strong, with flat bones, large joints, broad forearms, and short cannons. The hooves are of medium size, nearly round, and open at the heels.

BREED ASSOCIATION FACTS AND FIGURES

According to the International Morab Breeders Association (formed in 1986):

• There are 980 horses in the International Morab Registry.

• About 90 new horses, including foals, are registered each year.

• The registry was formed in 1993.

Color

The Morab Horse Association does not restrict color as long as the horse meets all other breed requirements. But a second major organization, the Purebred Morab Horse Association, accepts only brown, bay, black, buckskin, gray palomino, and dun. It does not allow white above the hock or the knee or either pinto or appaloosa color patterns.