By Joel Hall
According to legend, when the last arrow flew and the last gun was fired at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the only survivor from Gen. George A. Custer's regiment was a Morgan horse by the name of "Comanche," belonging to Capt. Myles Keogh.
In the Civil War, the Morgan horse was the preferred breed of Union General Philip Sheridan, as well as the preferred breed of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
Considered to be the first and oldest American horse breed, descendants of the Morgan horse include popular breeds, such as the Standardbred, the Tennessee Walker, the Missouri Fox Trotter, and the American Quarter Horse.
Throughout the month of September, breeders across the country are celebrating the life of the Morgan horse. This weekend in Lovejoy, Grande L Farms, which specializes in breeding the Morgan horse, will host its first-ever open house, in order give the public a chance to know the animal first-hand.
The open house will take place Saturday, from 2 to 4 p.m., on the farm's grounds, located at 11760 Panhandle Road. The event will include demonstrations using the horse, as well as free popcorn, door prizes, horse rides, and other activities.
Lyniece Talmadge, co-owner of Grand L Farms, and the daughter-in-law of former U.S. Senator Herman Talmadge, began breeding Morgan horses seven years ago. In seven years, the 800-acre family farm has developed into one of the country's top Morgan horse breeding facilities, producing "Casanova," the winner of last year's National Show Horse Association of New England Yearling Sweepstakes.
"What started out to be having a few Morgan horses on the property turned into having 45 horses and becoming one of the best breeding programs in the country, many of the horses becoming national winners," Talmadge said. "I've enjoyed getting to know the Morgan horse. They are easy keepers. They are not a nervous horse. A car coming up, or a helicopter going by ... a lot of other horses would go bonkers. They adapt very well at the farm to people."
According to Talmadge, the first Morgan horse can be traced back to a single stallion by the name of "Figure." The horse was born in West Springfield, Mass., in 1789 to owner Justin Morgan, whose horses eventually became legendary for their beauty, versatility, and mild temperament.
"The legend was that Justin Morgan could [use the horses to] plow all day, win a race in the afternoon, and dress up the horses to take out in the evening," Talmadge said. "These horses, we can take them on a trail, take them to a show, and have a lesson with them all in one week. Because they are so versatile, you can do anything with them."
Marianne Martin, community coordinator for Grand L Farms, said that because the animal is less likely to startle than other horse breeds, the Morgan horse makes an excellent horse for those learning how to ride. She said the farm will use the open house to showcase the history of the Morgan horse, as well as its abilities.
"They are just easy going," Martin said. "I've never seen any of these horses show irritation with human beings. Children love the horse and the horses love them. We're encouraging people to be interested in the history and importance of the horse."
Talmadge said Saturday's open house will be a chance for people to know and appreciate a piece of American history. "This is the first time we have ever gone public about the farm here," Talmadge said. "This is about getting the word out about the Morgan horse and how great it is."
Grand L Farms hosts horse-riding lessons, birthday parties, fishing, and family reunions. For more information about the farm and the open house, call (770) 471-3712, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.