The Magnificent Modern Morab Horse
The Morab breed of horse is a selectively bred equine that combines the finest traits of two treasured and well documented breeds, the Morgan horse and the Arabian horse, to form the best of both parent breeds. It has been the dream horse of breeders since the 1800's. The combination of the Arabian and Morgan characteristics is genetically complementary and gives a refined, muscular, graceful horse with enhanced beauty and strength.
Crosses between breeds can produce foals that look nothing like their own siblings or like the other crossbred foals down the road. But this is not true of the Morab. First generation Morabs have a consistently uniform look, with some degree of refinement with very little change shown in the second, third, forth, and even fifth generation of Morabs. In fact, they transmit their characteristics with such a high degree of certainty to their progeny that it is possible to predict with incredible accuracy what the successive generations of foals will look like, and what traits they are likely to inherit. It is this ability of Morabs to transmit their distinguishing characteristics to their progeny, called "prepotency”, which makes the Morab a distinct breed from the very first generation, rather than just a nice cross-bred horse.
Only the first generation Morabs can be triple breed registered. They are eligible for Morab registration, Half-Morgan registration in the Archival Morgan Record, and Half-Arabian registration in the Half-Arabian Registry (IAHA), even though they are technically neither half-Morgan nor half-Arab. In addition, many are eligible for registration in the various color registries such as Pinto, Palomino and Buckskin, and also as American Warmbloods. Successive generations of Morabs, bred Morab-to-Morab, are no longer eligible for either half-registry, but they continue to be registerable in the aforementioned specialty registries, as well as in the Morab registry.
Although the Morab’s official status as a distinct breed began in 1973 with the establishment of the first Morab registry, its history traces back as far as the original Morgan horse, Justin Morgan, who can be traced back to the Godolphin Arabian. The Morab history appears to have begun in the west and comes from both the Arabian horse side of the story, and the Morgan horse side, but there has been limited information prior to 1973.
When the 1857 book "The Morgan Horse", by D. C. Lindsley came out, a lot of background was filled in. In his book he stated that when mares of Morgan blood could not be obtained, mares possessing a strain of racing or Arabian blood could be considered; and he specifically recommended 1/8 to 1/4 Arabian blood as suitable. Because of this statement, there were many Morgan/Arab crosses registered in the American Morgan Horse Association registry prior to 1948. After that date outcrosses were no longer allowed.
History’s first recorded Morab was bred in 1855. This stallion was named Golddust and he had great merit because his sire was a Vermont Morgan and his dam was an unregistered Hoke mare that said to be by Zicaaldi, a chestnut Arabian stallion presented by the Sultan to the United States Consul, Mr. Rhind, and imported by him. Golddust was pure gold in color, stood 16 hands and weighed in at 1275 pounds. He was never defeated in the show ring at the trot, and it was rumored that he could cover 6 miles per hour at the flat walk. No other stallion of his time produced better horses.
Golddust was recorded as Morab #69 in the Morgan Registry when provisions for recording the Morgan/Arabian crosses were made in both the early Morgan and Arabian Registries. However, this was discontinued in the Arabian Horse Club Registry around World War I just before International Arabian Horse Association formed in the 1940's and began registering only purebred Arabians. Unfortunately, with that change, those earlier records were lost, but according to the IMR records, over 100 of today’s Morabs can trace back to Golddust. The connection to him passes through their pedigrees in great numbers primarily through the 103 progeny of Flyhawk MHA7526.
After that, little is recorded about Morabs until the 1920’s, when the famous publisher, William Randolph Hearst, had a short-lived Morgan breeding program which included breeding Morabs for use in the mountainous terrain of the Hearst Ranch. Hearst is credited with coining the term "Morab". He registered 18 Morabs and some of them were registered as Morgans with the "Sunical" prefix, under the now-extinct outcross rule of the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA).
The first Morab registry, the American Morab Horse Association Inc. (a closed corporation where members had no vote) was founded by Ilene Miller in 1973 and was also called Morab Horse Registry of America, which was often shortened to “Clovis” for the California town where it was located. When she died in 1980, this first registry rapidly faded away. In 1976, The Hearst Memorial Morab Horse Registry was started, and registered 50 horses. With the retirement of the founders, the Hearst Registry merged with the North American Morab Horse Association (NAMHA) that was formed in Wisconsin after Mrs. Miller’s death. NAMHA accepted all "Clovis" horses and began registering as many Morabs as they could find. The first Morab registered by NAMHA was in 1984.
The International Morab Breeders' Association (IMBA) was founded in 1986 as a full-service breed association and registry for Morabs and half-Morabs, and incorporated in 1987 by Morab horse breeders who wanted an organized way to promote their horses. The International Morab Registry (IMR) then started in 1992, and represents the Morab breed back to 1973. The IMR requires documented Arabian and Morgan bloodlines and allows a horse to be no more than 75% Arabian to 25% Morgan, or vice versa.
So, just what are the characteristics that make the average 950 to 1200 pound Morab that ranges from 14.1 hands to 15.2 hands in the variety of colors and markings common to both Morgans and Arabians so magnificent?
For starters, the Arabian's skeleton is different from other horse breeds in that it has fewer bones. It has 17 ribs, while other horses have 18; it has 5 lumbar vertebrae, while other horses have 6; and it has 16 tall vertebrae while other horses have 18. This skeleton was also passed onto the Morab, so there are only two breeds with this distinct and unusual skeletal structure.
The Arabian's powerful lungs and endurance capacity, combined with the broad, powerful chest of the Morgan, gives the Morab a naturally superior breathing system for enhanced endurance and stamina. The shorter back in the Morab, combined with the longer croup of the Morgan, gives the Morab a natural athletic ability, great strength and a smooth gait which enables them to excel in competitive and endurance riding, dressage, jumping and as a cutting horse.
The head of the Morab may be straight or slightly dished with a large powerful jaw in contrast to a small muzzle with large nostrils. A wide forehead sets off the Morab’s large expressive eyes. The body is compact, well muscled, stylish and smooth. The Morgan genes add a thick, luxuriant mane and tail to the Morab, which balances out the breed's muscular build. Many breeders report that their Morabs are never shod and require minimum hoof trimming.
Its intelligent, dependable and affectionate nature is the Morab's most valued quality. When the people-loving nature of the spirited Arabian is added, the breed cannot be beat in temperament and it is an easy horse to train and handle.
In fact, the refined, sculpted beauty of the Arabian, joined with the Morgan’s dramatic natural style and stamina, creates an elegant yet powerful horse that makes it is easy to see why Morab owners treasure their horses and usually keep them for life.