|First Posted: July 6, 2009|
Sep 24, 2010
Distinguishing features: compact build, refined but substantial bone structure, slightly concave profile, arched neck, powerful musculature, high tail carriage.
The Morab is a breed of horse originally developed through the cross-breeding of Arabian and Morgan horses. The breeding of Morab horses began in the late 1880's with the intent of creating a fine carriage horse that was still substantial enough for moderate farm labor. The modern Morab continues this tradition of paired power and elegance, being both attractive and competitive show animals, and strong but mild-mannered work and family horses.
The first Morab registry was created in 1973. Prior to this, Morabs were primarily undocumented horses bred for type. Many early Morabs were registered with the American Morgan Horse Association, as the Morgan studbook was still open that time, and these horses have since been fully assimilated into the Morgan breed.
Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst was an avid Morab breeder, and is credited with the creation of the breed name by coining the term, "Morab," as a combination of the names of the parent breeds.
The Morab is a breed developed from Arabian and Morgan lineage, and retains many characteristics of both breeds. Typical conformation is compact, with powerful but sleek muscle structure and substantial bone structure, while remaining refined and elegant. The Morab's neck is deep-set, strong, and arched, providing for easy breathing and fluid mobility. Morabs, like some other horse breeds of heavy Arabian ancestry, have a compact build and shorter back length, with a well-developed undercarriage and good propulsion from behind.
The Morab's hindquarters are generally powerfully built, possessing substantial muscle and bone. The forequarters are typically built very strongly as well, with a large, sloping shoulder and wide deep chest. Legs are rather thick, due to Morgan-influenced bone structure. They have comparatively short cannon bones, and solid, well-developed hooves.
The Morab head is generally very refined, carrying the Arabian's concave profile and wide forehead to some degree, while also displaying a more strongly muscled jaw and more substantial muzzle, typical of Morgan influence. The eyes are large, bright, and expressive, and afford the horse a very wide field of vision. The ears are generally small and alert, and are often fluted or tipped. Many Morabs have a thick and abundant mane and tail, often wavy and flowing, and "flagged" tail carriage, indicative of both Morgan and Arabian parentage.
The size range of Morabs is quite broad, due to the involvement of extensive lineages from both Arabian and Morgan breeds. Generally, Morabs stand between 14.2 and 15.2 hands (58 to 62 inches, 147 to 157 cm) high, but individuals can range from 14.0 and 16.0 hands (56 to 64 inches, 142 to 163 cm) or larger.
The Morab's temperament and personality is best described as a true combination of the Morgan and the Arabian. Morabs are generally very intelligent, curious, and personal horses. They are often very quick to learn, and establish strong relationships with humans, who they are eager to please. Morabs make excellent family horses, and are sometimes used as lesson and therapy horses.
All solid colors exist within the Morab breed, with bay, chestnut, and gray being the most common. Dilution-factor coloration, such as buckskin and palomino, also occurs frequently, owing largely to Morgan influence, as dilution-factor genes do not occur in the Arabian breed. Tobiano, overo, and Appaloosa colorations are not acceptable, as neither parent breed displays such patterns. Roaning is occasionally seen, as is the dun pattern, although both are rare in the Morab. White markings on the face and legs are acceptable, and are somewhat common.
The sabino spotting pattern does occur in some Morabs, due to the presence of sabino coloration in select Arabian bloodlines used in foundation Morab breeding.
Main article: Horse gait Most Morabs display only the 'natural' gaits - walk, trot, and canter. Variation in the speed and action of these gaits differs greatly between individuals, due to diversity of type in the Morgan and Arabian breeds. The Morab is often noted for the fluidity and elegance of its motion, which has been described as "floating" or "flowing." Horse Gaits Regular and Artificial (Footfalls)
Morabs are typically not gaited. However, due to inherited genetic variation from select Morgan bloodlines capable of producing gait, a few individual Morabs are able to perform ambling, or intermediate, gaits. The most common intermediate gait in such morabs is the singlefoot, also known as the 'stepping pace.' Other known gaits are the foxtrot and the true rack.
In 1857, D. C. Lindsley, a notable horse historian, wrote an essay entitled The Morgan Horse. In the essay, he recommended cross-breeding Morgans with Arabian mares if no pure-blood Morgan mares could be obtained, leading to a cross-breed which became known as the Morab.
One of the descendants of these crosses was Golddust, a famous walker and trotting horse who was very successful in the show ring and on the race track. He sired 302 foals, and over 100 Morab horses today can be traced back to him.
The next mention of Morgan-Arabian cross-breeds comes in the 1920's. Publisher William Randolph Hearst had an extensive Arabian breeding program and a short-lived, but important, Morgan program, which included a program of breeding Morabs. Hearst is credited with having coined the word "Morab" for crosses between the two breeds.
Hearst bred Morabs by crossing Crabbett-bred Arabian stallions to working Morgan mares. Mrs. William Randolph Hearst II said in her book Horses of San Simeon that Hearst, "... found the produce were excellent for work on his California Ranch." "He registered 110 horses in the AMHA, 18 of which were Morabs," she said. Quoted in an early American Morab Horse Association Brochure, "According to A. J. Cooke of the Hearst Corp, Sunical Div. Hearst bred Morabs in the 1930's and 1940's for ranch work and were desirable for the large, rough, mountainous terrain of the Hearst Ranches."
Another Morab breeding program was developed by the Swenson Brothers near Stamford, Texas on their SMS Ranch. Starting from two Morgan stud colts, seven Morgan brood mares, and three Arabian stallions, their program created several notable Morab horses.
Another highly influential breeding program was established in Clovis, California, by one Martha Doyle Fuller. In 1955, after several disappointing attempts to breed a horse that could successfully compete on the open show circuit, Mrs. Fuller developed a Morab breeding program focusing on show discipline capability and what she called "Morab type."
Closely associated with the breeding program of Martha Fuller, the American Morab Horse Association, Inc. was founded on July 19, 1973. This first Morab registry was also called Morab Horse Registry of America, and is often known as the Clovis registry after its resident township. The registry's primary intent was the documentation of horses of Morab breeding, issuing Gold Seal Certificates to Arabian and Morgan crossed Morabs and Blue Seal Certificates to those that were approved on conformation with some missing pedigree documentation. Gold and Blue Seal horses were classified with "premium" and "permanent" registration status, respectively. In 1978, a maximum-minimum bloodline percentage ratio of 25%/75% was established, with either breed expressing one half of the ratio.
In the early 1980's, upon the death of Martha Fuller the American Morab Horse Association was closed. Shortly following the closure, the North American Morab Horse Association (NAMHA) was founded, with the primary goal of providing an organization for the registration and promotion of Morabs so the breed could continue to prosper. It was agreed to accept all horses registered with the Clovis-based registry, despite the (initially unknown) fact that a large number of these horses were registered on "type" rather than pedigree. After the transferral of the pedigrees of a number of horses from previous registries, it became known that many registered Morabs displayed unknown lineage, and were therefore not "true" Morabs by many people's standards. In light of this, NAMHA administration began a process of organizational restructuring, focusing on defining the qualifications for Morab horse registry.
In early 1998, NAMHA resurfaced as the Purebred Morab Horse Association (PMHA), to enter the world of a Class A National Show and National Futurity. The focus of the PMHA is to promote and pedigree horses of only documented purebred Morgan and Arabian parentage, and to create a credible name for such horses in the United States equestrian industry. Horses from the Hearst Memorial Registry and NAMHA remain active in the PMHA, but are not used for continuity of the breed, and are given separate award programs. The NAMHA is no longer open for new registration.
In 1987 the first Morab breeders group, the International Morab Breeders' Association, Inc. (IMBA), was incorporated. IMBA continues today as a full breed registry, emphasizing true Morab type based on Morgan and Arabian lineage. However, the Association also accepts any Morab that was registered with any prior Morab registry, regardless of pedigree, in an effort to protect breed history and maintain continuity. This has led to continuing conflicts with many Morab enthusiasts, who argue the pedigree qualifications of Morab horses.
Since its founding, IMBA has grown into a multinational organization, recording over 800 associate members. The Association is active in the promotion of the Morab through breed demonstrations, magazine publications, and a website. In 1999, IMBA established the Morab Community Network in attempt to combine the efforts of existing Morab groups to promote and market the Morab horse as a breed.
In early 1999, a third registry was created in Illinois, called the Morab Horse Association and Register, or MHA. MHA was very active in the promotion of the Morab breed throughout the country, especially in the midwest. Regular MHA performances were held annually at both the Midwest Horse Expo and the Minnesota Horse Expo, in addition to being invited to Breyerfest at the Kentucky Horse Park on a recurring basis. The MHA also offered a national championship show, entitled the United Classic, which was a Class A breed show with the Arabian and Morgan horse registries.
Due to the wishes of many MHA and PMHA members to create a unified registry for all Morab horses, MHA made the decision in 2008 to merge with the PMHA. The merger is expected to be completed in 2009, with PMHA carrying on many of the programs developed by the MHA.
Sources and For Further Information:
Purebred Morab Horse Association