Morgan Horse vs Thoroughbred: In-Depth Comparison Guide

If you’re in the market for a new horse, you might be wondering which breed is right for you. In this in-depth comparison guide, we’ll take a look at two popular breeds: the Morgan Horse vs Thoroughbred. From their history and temperament to their physical characteristics and abilities, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision. Get ready to discover the differences between these two impressive horse breeds!

History and Origins

A young pretty looking chestnut Morgan Horse mare runs free

Justin Morgan and Figure

The Morgan horse breed traces its roots back to a single stallion named Figure, born in West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1789. Figure would later go on to be called Justin Morgan after his owner of the same name. Justin Morgan, a Vermont-based teacher and musician, acquired Figure as payment for a debt, unknowingly setting the foundation for an influential American horse breed.

Development in America

As Figure, or Justin Morgan, grew older, his remarkable characteristics and abilities became widely recognized. Farmers initially used Morgan horses to establish homesteads in Vermont and Northern New England. However, it didn’t take long for people to discover that these horses were also fast trotters suitable for racing. As the breed became more established, Morgan horses traveled with migrants as they moved westward, expanding their influence and population.

New England’s Influence

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Morgan horse breed made a significant and widespread contribution in the United States, particularly in military service. Thanks to their exceptional traits, they were considered ideal for this type of work. Their compact muscular structure, powerful hindquarters, stamina, versatility, reliability, sustainability, endurance, courage, and intelligence made them valuable in various roles during this time.

The New England region, particularly Vermont, played a significant role in the breed’s development and preservation. Vermont became a center for breeding quality Morgans, and one particular strain known as the “Lippitt” strain was developed in the state. Organizations dedicated to conservating the old-time Vermont or “Lippitt” Morgans emerged, and today, the Foundation Morgan Horse Association registers horses bred to resemble the stockier type seen in the late 1800s and early 1900s, before crossbreeding with the American Saddlebred became more common.

Morgan horses have had a lasting impact on American equine history, thanks in part to their versatile capabilities and strong ties to New England. Their unique lineage and integral role in American history set them apart from other horse breeds, and their influence can still be seen today.

Morgan Horse Characteristics

Palomino morgan horse with long mane portrait

Body and Conformation

The Morgan horse is known for its compact and refined build, which sets it apart from other breeds. It has a strong, short back, and its legs are muscular and proportioned, providing immense power and endurance. The Morgan’s head is expressive, featuring a straight or slightly convex profile, a broad forehead, and large, prominent eyes. The withers are well-defined, and the shoulders are laid-back, which allows for a more comfortable and efficient stride. The horse’s well-arched and upright neck completes its elegant appearance.

Height and Weight

Morgan horses are of average size when compared to other breeds, usually standing between 14.1 and 15.2 hands (57 to 61 inches) in height. Despite their relatively short stature, they still possess a significant amount of strength and power. On average, a Morgan horse weighs between 900 and 1100 pounds, showcasing its solid, compact, and muscular build.

Color Variations

Morgan horses exhibit a wide range of color variations, making them quite visually diverse. Common colors include bay, black, brown, chestnut, dun, gray, palomino, pinto, and roan. These different colors add to the breed’s appeal and ensure that there is a Morgan horse suitable for every preference.

Temperament and Personality

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Morgan horse is its temperament. Morgan horses are known to be friendly, intelligent, and easy to train, making them ideal for a variety of disciplines and activities. Their personalities are often described as energetic and spirited, but also gentle and easy-going. As easy keepers, Morgan horses tend to adapt well to different environments and have a reputation for excellent health and durability.

The Morgan horse’s combination of physical traits, versatile abilities, and pleasant temperament make it an ideal choice for riders and owners of all experience levels.

Thoroughbred Characteristics

An Elegant Red Thoroughbred horse with long mane portrait in motion

Body and Conformation

The Thoroughbred has a distinctive and refined appearance, owing to its delicate head, slim body, broad chest, and short back. Its short leg bones contribute to its long, easy stride, making it an incredibly athletic horse. The Thoroughbred is also known for its muscular hindquarters, which provide significant thrust during galloping, allowing it to move with grace and agility1.

Height and Weight

Thoroughbreds typically stand between 16 and 17 hands tall (64-68 inches, or 163-173 cm), and weigh about 1,000-1,130 pounds (450-512 kg) when fully matured. This height and weight combination gives them an athletic, toned, and muscled physique, which contributes to their high-performance capabilities.

Color Variations

Thoroughbreds can be found in various colors, with the most common being bay, chestnut, brown, black, and gray. While these colors are predominant in the breed, it’s important to note that individual horses may also display unique markings and patterns that set them apart from the standard color variations.

Temperament and Personality

Thoroughbreds are sensitive and high-spirited animals, which can be attributed to their strong bloodlines and breeding for performance. They are known for their intelligence, courage, and competitive nature, making them exceptional performers in various equestrian sports. However, they can also be gentle and affectionate companions, displaying characteristics such as loyalty and charm to their handlers.

Comparing Morgan and Thoroughbred

Appearance and Looks

Morgan horses are generally smaller than Thoroughbreds, with an average height ranging from 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches), whereas Thoroughbreds typically stand between 15.2 and 17 hands (62 to 68 inches) tall. There is no strict standard for Morgan horse size, so they may be shorter or taller than this range. Morgans tend to weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds, while Thoroughbreds usually weigh between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds.

Morgan horses have a symmetrical and stylish appearance, with a thick but silky mane and a light-weight frame that enables speedy bursts. Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, have a more athletic and muscular build, which contributes to their exceptional speed and endurance. Both breeds come in various coat colors, which include bay, black, chestnut, and grey.

Roles and Versatility

Morgan horses were one of the earliest horse breeds in the United States, initially developed as all-purpose horses for New England farms. They are comfortable both in and out of the saddle, in a harness, on the race track, or working in the fields. In contrast, Thoroughbreds are mainly known for their racing, jumping, and eventing abilities due to their impressive athleticism.

Although Morgans were initially bred for general farm use, they have since diversified their roles and can now be found in various disciplines, including pleasure riding, shows, and even some forms of competitive racing. Thoroughbreds, although mostly known for their racing prowess, can also excel in other equestrian disciplines such as dressage and showjumping.

Health and Nutrition

Both Morgan and Thoroughbred horses require a balanced diet to maintain optimal health. Generally, their diet should consist of hay, grass, and some grains, with considerations for specific nutritional needs based on their age, activity level, and overall health. Both breeds are prone to obesity if not managed properly, so it’s essential to monitor their dietary intake and exercise regimen to maintain a healthy weight.

However, there are some differences in the prevalence of health issues among the two breeds. For example, Morgans have a relatively low prevalence of some genetic disorders, such as the allele for combined immunodeficiency, while Thoroughbreds are more prone to issues such as bleeding in the lungs during high-intensity exercise.

In conclusion, while Morgan and Thoroughbred horses have some similarities in appearance and versatility, they also have notable differences in size, roles, and overall health considerations. By understanding these differences, horse enthusiasts can make informed decisions about which breed might be a better fit for their specific needs and preferences.

Breed Development

Portrait of a thoroughbred colt

Breeding and Bloodlines

Both the Morgan horse and the Thoroughbred have their own unique and distinctive bloodlines. The Morgan horse, for instance, can trace its ancestry back to a single foundation sire named Figure. This stallion was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1789 and was later owned by Justin Morgan, who gave the horse his name. As the breed developed over time, it eventually took on the name Morgan.

On the other hand, the Thoroughbred has its roots in England, where Arab and Barb horses were introduced as early as the 3rd century. The breed was developed through selective breeding, with an emphasis on racing and jumping.

Morgan Families and Strains

Over time, the Morgan breed has evolved into various families and strains, each with their own unique characteristics. Some of the most prominent Morgan strains include:

Arabian: The Arabian strain is known for its refined and elegant appearance, emphasizing the Morgan’s close ties with its Arab and Barb ancestors.

Lippitt: The Lippitt strain is considered one of the purest strains of Morgans, focusing on preserving the traits of Figure, the foundation sire. They are well-respected for their versatility and hardiness, commonly used for riding, driving, and agricultural purposes.

Brunk: The Brunk family of Morgans is characterized by their athleticism and natural talent in various equestrian disciplines, such as dressage, western riding, and harness racing.

Woodbury: The Woodbury strain is famous for its ability to produce offspring with great speed and endurance, making them popular among those looking for competitive horses.

Bulrush: Known for their strength and stockiness, the Bulrush family is geared towards agricultural and workhorse purposes.

Sherman: The Sherman strain is set apart by their compact and finely built appearance, making them popular for those who value aesthetics in their horses.

Each of these families represents a different aspect of the versatile Morgan breed, catering to the diverse needs of horse enthusiasts around the world. In contrast, the Thoroughbred breed mainly focuses on racing and jumping abilities, with lesser emphasis on versatility.

Overall, the Morgan horse and Thoroughbred breeds have distinct development histories and unique characteristics. While the Morgan breed is known for its versatility and ability to cater to various equestrian disciplines, the Thoroughbred has been developed primarily for racing and jumping purposes. Knowing these differences can help a potential horse owner make an informed decision when choosing between these two remarkable breeds.

Riding and Sport Disciplines

Dressage and Jumping

Morgan horses and Thoroughbreds both excel in various riding and sport disciplines, including dressage and jumping. Dressage, an intricate equestrian dance requiring a high level of communication between the horse and rider, is a discipline where both breeds can showcase their elegance and athleticism. Morgans are particularly known for their versatility and ability to excel in dressage, owing to their compact, muscular build and their lively spirit, making them responsive and easy to train in this discipline.

Similarly, Thoroughbreds have proven their prowess in the sport of jumping, thanks to their innate power, speed, and agility. They possess an exceptional ability to propel themselves over obstacles, making them ideal candidates for show jumping and eventing competitions. Both breeds offer riders the opportunity to explore various aspects of these disciplines, and many individuals of each breed have achieved success at high levels in dressage and jumping events.


Western riding is another discipline in which both Morgan horses and Thoroughbreds can perform well. Morgans, known for their distinctive, eye-catching movement and their strong work ethic, adapt to Western disciplines such as Western Pleasure. This requires a smooth, comfortable gait that showcases the horse’s natural ability to carry the rider over long distances with ease. Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, have showcased their remarkable stamina and adaptability in Western disciplines. They are particularly adept at events that require significant bursts of speed, such as barrel racing and pole bending.

Harness Racing

Harness racing is a sport often associated with the Standardbred breed; however, both Morgan horses and Thoroughbreds have participated in this discipline as well. In harness racing, horses are driven by a rider, rather than ridden, and compete at specific gaits known as the trot or pace. Morgans have been used in harness racing due to their versatility, robust build, and strong trotting abilities. Although not as popular as Standardbreds in this discipline, some Thoroughbreds have also been used in harness racing. While Thoroughbreds typically exhibit a more extended stride, their innate speed and power can make them competitive in this type of racing as well.

In summary, Morgan horses and Thoroughbreds both excel in various riding and sport disciplines, offering riders an abundance of opportunities to showcase their skills and participate in diverse events. Whether it’s the elegance of dressage and jumping, the versatility of Western disciplines, or the excitement of harness racing, these breeds provide a well-rounded, versatile experience for riders and enthusiasts alike.

Training and Care

Nice thoroughbred horse in the stable

Training Techniques

Morgan Horses and Thoroughbreds are both renowned for their exceptional athleticism and versatility, making them popular choices for various equestrian disciplines. Training these breeds requires an understanding of their distinct attributes and temperaments. Morgan Horses are known for their friendly and cooperative nature, making them suitable for riders of all experience levels. On the other hand, Thoroughbreds are bred primarily for speed and racing, requiring a more specialized training approach.

For training Morgan Horses, emphasis should be placed on building trust and utilizing their natural intelligence. This can be achieved through positive reinforcement and consistent training techniques. Thoroughbreds, while also intelligent, may require more patience and understanding due to their spirited nature. Establishing clear expectations and providing sufficient stimulation to challenge their capabilities can facilitate a successful training experience.

Hoof Care

Proper hoof care is essential for maintaining the overall health and performance of both Morgan Horses and Thoroughbreds. Regular hoof cleaning and inspection should be conducted to prevent hoof issues like thrush or abscesses. For both breeds, it is crucial to have a hoof care professional, such as a farrier or veterinarian, check their hooves regularly for signs of wear, injury, or imbalance. Appropriate trimming and shoeing can help to promote healthy gaits and reduce the risk of injuries.

Proper Diet and Nutrition

A well-balanced diet is fundamental for the overall health and performance of both Morgan Horses and Thoroughbreds. Morgans tend to weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds, while Thoroughbreds are generally larger and more muscular. Consequently, their nutritional requirements can differ.

Morgan Horses, being more efficient with their energy use, may need less feed than Thoroughbreds. However, a balanced and sufficient diet containing essential nutrients, such as proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, is necessary for their growth and maintenance. Thoroughbreds require higher levels of energy due to their build and performance needs, especially in racing or high-intensity activities. Providing a diet rich in quality forage, grains, and supplements tailored to the individual horse’s needs can help ensure optimal health and performance in both breeds.

Morgan Horse vs Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred horse on island in the Netherlands

Morgan horses and Thoroughbreds are two different breeds of horses, each with their own unique characteristics and qualities. In this article, we will discuss the key differences between these breeds, including their size, temperament, and performance abilities.

Size and Appearance

Morgan horses are generally smaller in stature than Thoroughbreds. They usually stand between 14 and 15 hands (56 to 60 inches) tall, while Thoroughbreds are taller, averaging around 16 hands (64 inches) in height. Morgans typically weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds, whereas Thoroughbreds have a wider weight range, varying from 1,000 to 1,400 pounds.


Morgan horses are well-known for their gentle and even temperament, making them suitable for beginner riders and those involved in therapeutic riding programs. They are often described as quick learners who enjoy the learning process and can retain and resume training even after long breaks.

On the other hand, Thoroughbreds are known for their high energy levels and spirited nature. Though they can be gentle and loving, their high-strung temperament may make them more challenging for inexperienced riders to handle.

Performance Abilities

Both Morgan horses and Thoroughbreds excel in various equestrian disciplines. The Morgan horse is considered a versatile breed, excelling in disciplines such as dressage, eventing, and endurance riding. They are also commonly used in western riding and driving competitions. Their adaptable nature contributes to their performance success across different disciplines.

Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, are best known for their racing abilities. Renowned for their speed, stamina, and athleticism, they dominate the world of horse racing. Thoroughbreds also excel in other equestrian disciplines such as show jumping and eventing, making them versatile athletes like the Morgan horse.


In conclusion, Morgan horses and Thoroughbreds, while distinct in size, temperament, and performance abilities, both offer unique qualities that make them well-suited for various equestrian disciplines. Choosing between a Morgan and a Thoroughbred ultimately comes down to the specific needs and preferences of the rider. Someone looking for a versatile, gentle, and easily trainable horse might find the Morgan to be the ideal choice, while those seeking a spirited and athletic companion might prefer the Thoroughbred. Whichever breed is chosen, each has the potential to bring joy and excitement to the equestrian world.