Is is a "Sport Horse"?

By Jeff Morse

What is a Sport Horse? In our Morgan breed, it is an individual that has been developed in a non-’show horse’ tradition, such as a dressage, hunter, or carriage driving horse.

Career changes Many sport horse oriented buyers frown on horses from the saddle seat tradition, because their perception is that these horses are too hot and ‘out of control’, and their training may have been in some way counterproductive for carriage driving. On a personal note, I want a carriage horse that is athletic enough to be an animated, showy, airy moving show Morgan. I never out of hand dismiss a Morgan that has excelled as a saddle seat show horse. The hallmark of our breed is the great range of individual versatility. Bottom line: just remember who you are selling to. Be careful of emphasis on show horse success. That means a show photo, however dynamic, may actually turn carriage horse buyers off.

Park Saddle and Carriage Driving

The two photos above are the same horse. He was a great carriage horse, but imagine if all your buyer saw was the park saddle photo? It would take a lot of experience and a vivid imagination to see what he could do as a carriage horse. By only using riding shots, you make it hard to sell your horse! But if you were shown both shots, you might say, “Wow, what an athlete!” and really entice your buyer. It is indeed the same horse.

If you don’t have a good video or good photos of your horse, do not use bad photos or video and promise that better ones will be coming in the future. You only have one chance to make a first impression, why make a poor impression on purpose? It’s better to wait until you have a great images of your horse. This is especially true if you have a high price on your horse. By using poor quality video or photos and promising better ones later, you are basically saying you don’t think your horse is worth the time and effort to create good images of him. Do your horse justice and use the best material you can to create the best first impression possible. Bad images live on forever on the internet.

Retraining the Morgan. It is true that previous bad training can ruin elements of a good carriage horse. Up until quite recently, most Morgans involved in carriage driving had other careers first. Trainers had little choice but to re-train them. While it may take some expertise and time, the temperament, talent and versatility of the Morgan breed more often than not makes it a rewarding challenge, and there are buyers out there who are up to that challenge. Just bear in mind, it will not be the bulk of the market.

Suzy Stafford and her Morgan mare, PVF Peace Of Mind, exhibit an excellent walk in carriage driving.

The importance of good gaits. Astute buyers of carriage horses are looking for horses with a good quality walk. It is the most difficult gait to improve. If your horse has a long strided , relaxed, elastic walk with a good overtrack, make sure you show that to your buyer. Don’t just tell them.  Show them. A picture is worth a 1,000 words. A video, even just 30 seconds, is worth a million.

The Working trot is the primary gait of the carriage horse. Fortunately for the Morgan Horse, it is the gait our horses do best for the most part. It comes easily to the breed. Very few Morgans have a trot that cannot be made at least acceptable. It is the easiest gait to improve.  If you can take a video, include some work at a slow trot, working trot and extended trot. The trotting part of an obstacle course or a combined driving obstacle will give your buyers a good idea of what your horse can do.

Selling stallions to the carriage crowd. Very few carriage horse buyers are looking for stallions, especially if they do not have a demonstrable record of achievement. The fact that a mare may be breedable is not usually of much interest to carriage buyers. It is a small plus in terms of value, but unless the pedigree and the individual is outstanding, it does not add all that much. And the reality is, most carriage horses owners do not consider themselves breeders. Gelding are the solid citizens of the carriage world. They form the bulk of the market.