let us just start this banquet with a little dessert
first, shall we? Margaret Gardiner’s
parting words to me that day were, “Make your
own mistakes, not someone else’s”, and “Follow
the dictates of your heart”. Now, please sit
down, get comfortable, and hear the story of one of
our fellow Morgan enthusiasts. We will learn, and we
may smile besides!
This conversation, between Miss Margaret Gardiner
and myself, took place on July 29, 2008. Her story
begins with what brought this all on, so to speak.
Margaret was 12 she owned the Morgan mare, Carita.
About the time of the Depression, times were tough
and this mare, by Carlo by Sir Ethan Allen, hadn’t
had her papers transferred. When Margaret’s parents
bought her, Carita was two transfers behind and it
was felt that registering her wasn’t necessary.
It was 1929 and her previous owners had to sell her.
This mare, Margaret stated, was sound, tireless and
very good-natured. She was also a beautiful thing.
Before that, Margaret had been riding a Shetland pony
at age 2, and a Standardbred at age 5. She took formal
riding lessons from Clarence (Skipper) Bartlett, a
WWI cavalryman. As a youngster, Margaret went to a
boarding school in Virginia, Foxcroft, where she had
hunt seat lessons on former racehorses. The school
bought horses right off the track and instantly put
students on them for the hunt field. Hair-raising to
say the least, there were many wrecks.
here, dear reader, I have chosen to write in the
order that we conversed that day. It’s not
in chronological order but you may find it as fascinating
as I did. Come along on our journey.
Margaret taught Larry Poulin how to drive. Larry is
very well known in world driving and dressage circles
and has been for many years now. Margaret was driving
at age 5 on the family farm. It is second nature to
her as well as a great joy. Larry Poulin came to her
farm to work after being in the military. His first
interest was not horses. Even though his uncle, Mike
Poulin, was a well-known dressage trainer and had been
on the Olympic team, Larry was happier on a motorcycle.
When he first drove a horse with Margaret he was inspired
to learn more.
As time went on, Kennebec Count and Larry teamed up
and off they went! Count and his son, Russel, competed
in Combined Driving, pairs, and were National Champions
in 1985, 1987, and 1988. They were on the U.S. Team
in England in 1985, and in Germany in 1987. After he
left Kennebec Farm, Larry moved from driving to Grand
that went to Europe were Kennebec Russel, Kennebec
Count, and a Medomak Cavalier son. Count, at age 22,
competed and won in the Gladstone Challenge of Champions.
That’s fine testament to Margaret’s goal
of using Morgans of soundness, good nature, and usability!
I asked how the competitors in England and Germany like the Morgans. They are
smaller than the warmbloods and have more presence generally. Margaret said
the Germans loved them but won’t
abandon their own horses because they can carry four hundred pounds, forty
miles a day. They are good for pulling the four-in-hand carriages, which are
English have their own Morgans and love them. They
were quite friendly but didn’t say much
about the American Morgans. They had started with show-type
now, we’ll go on. How did a western-bred
mare come into the picture? In 1949, Margaret’s
brother was marrying in Los Angeles, CA and she was
going to their wedding. Afterward, Margaret zigzagged
home leisurely as she visited as many Morgan ranches
as she could. This was her chance to see those working
Morgans out West.
stop was at Roland G. Hill’s ranch, where
she saw a wonderful source of Morgan mares. Mr. Hill
didn’t put a lot of miles on his cowhorses until
they were nine years old, having started them at five.
That way they would live into their twenties and remain
sound. He knew his life depended on his saddlehorse
when he was up in the mountains.
He had two or three fillies for sale when Miss Gardiner
visited. It was hard to get good mares at that time.
The war had been hard on horse farms, with too many
good horses going to sale without papers. Hill was
a ruthless culler of his stock so what he had was only
the best. They were reliably sound, typey, and with
good dispositions. They had great feet and legs. Margaret looked at the fillies and
chose a yearling filly. Helen May was a Sonfield daughter
and Querido granddaughter. She was shipped back to
Maine by express. That filly grew up and produced 10
foals for Miss Gardiner, Kennebec Count being the last
one. The rest is history!
stop that was made on that once-in-a-lifetime trip
was to the Rex Ranch, who raised Rex’s Major
Monte and had the lovely old mare, Gontola. At the
time, they were using two-year-old stallions in the
breeding shed, to up production sooner. That was a
novel idea to Margaret but she didn’t agree with
it. They had nice horses. A third stop that stands
out in her mind was the opportunity to meet J.C. Jackson
in Montana. She regrets not seeing any more Morgans
out West at the time.
Another regret, later on, was turning down a son of
Red Flash. Red Flash was the remaining source of a
sireline back to Bulrush. One no longer exists. He
was a true Morgan and never used to his potential,
but will be remembered. As breeders we have tough choices
back on Miss Gardiner’s goals as a breeder,
we see Tipperary in the forefront. She said he was
the local hero. He was beautiful and excelled in competitive
rides. Try as she might, it wasn’t possible for
her to get a daughter of his registered. C.C. Stillman,
Registrar for the Morgan Club, tried to help. Such
a loss of another great Morgan! When Miss Gardiner
started out, there were only thirty-seven registered
Morgans in the state of Maine. Four daughters of Tipperary lived but were unavailable to purchase and never had
was one of the early stallions at Kennebec Farm.
He was from an old trotting mare. Hard to handle
at stud, he was a remarkably kind stallion otherwise.
Bayfield was bought from a mailman in a small town
the story goes, when owned by the mailman, Bayfield
was kept in a yard right by the house. When it snowed,
the man’s son would be out with his toy shovel,
playing in the snow. Once, Miss Gardiner witnessed
Bay taking the shovel in his mouth and dangling it
out of the boy’s reach. The youngster was beating
Bay on the flank with his hands while the stallion
was keeping the shovel high in the air. At Miss Gardiner’s,
there was a time when a boy ran right into Bay while
trying to regain control of his bicycle. He ran into
Bay’s rump. It wasn’t a problem.
Due to his difficulty in being handled while breeding,
Bayfield only produced two fillies and a colt for Miss
Gardiner. It was a shame, as he was an awfully nice
By then, Lippitt Ethan Don was leased. He was very
easy to handle at stud and produced very well. There
are three separate dam lines at Kennebec and one is
to Lippitt Ethan Don.
starting her farm, Margaret asked a fellow breeder
to help her find a stallion. She was told of one and
went to check him out. He was 13 hands! Too small!
Margaret was told, “you don’t have to
Oh, no, but she did! Margaret Gardiner rides her Morgans.
They are not pasture ornaments. And they must be able
to carry a two hundred pound person, plus tack. They
must prove that they have what it takes, in the soundness
and disposition department. As Margaret said, “you
ride a horse’s disposition
all day long!” How can a person breed Morgans
for usability if the parents are not useable?
that stallion was not acceptable. Margaret Gardiner’s
recipe for good Morgans is to ride them. Don’t
breed on ones that went unsound or couldn’t do
it. Some of the best preservers of the breed have actively
culled. Consider it.
to another important subject, we speak of Dr. Jill
Beech. She teaches at the University of PA.
although she’s from England. She did the NAD
research in the 1970’s that is still being talked
about in hushed circles today. It is a neurological
demonstration of Wobbles, often seen in horses’ poor
coordination or in bunny-hopping gait while cantering.
Dr. Beech likes the Morgan breed but is fed up with
some of the breeders. At the U. of PA, she has a lawn
of feral ponies, in order to learn about equines in
their natural state.
the Neuro-axonal Dystrophy research was being done,
they had trouble finding normal stallions; only
three breeders contributed normal stallions’ services.
That was necessary to have these for the research,
which included several hundred Morgans. Ruth Harvie
was the brain behind this extensive undertaking. Margaret
Gardiner was active in the project. Many breeders were
annoyed by it; lose money, hush-hush!
was the first full-scale equine research (neurological)
in the twentieth century. NAD can be influenced by
inbreeding, Vitamin E and Selenium deficiencies, and
a lack of exercise. A person can breed away from the
tendency to have NAD. An interesting note was that
there was no NAD in Morgans out West back then. Ranchers
culled any that showed any signs of neurological
of the higher-ups in the AMHA had cat-fits over the
study done by Dr. Beech. Their priority was to
win at all costs. One owner in particular had started
out with Standardbred harness horses but always seemed
to end up with a trotter and a pacer in his hitched
team. He bought five Kennebec Morgans to remedy that
and fell in love with the breed. They trotted, stayed
sound, and had great dispositions all day long. The
man’s so-called friends said they were ponies
and got him to sell them. His priority was to follow
the fashion dictates perhaps?
stallion Kennebec Farm used was Medomak Cavalier.
He was used for many different things during his life.
He twitched logs up to sawmills. He pulled buggies
in weddings. His owners didn’t have much money
so he wasn’t ever part of a breeding farm. Miss
Gardiner raised five offspring by him and would have
liked to have had more. She felt that he was of the
asked some specifics on what bloodlines she liked,
this woman who has ridden and used horses much of her
life, answered concisely. She bred experimentally at
times, but always to stallions that were sound and
good-natured. You breed on the best of the offspring,
discarding the worst. To learn more specifics, I highly
recommend the reader find a copy of Margaret Gardiner’s
own publication, Horses For Actually Riding On. It’s
had an Archie O daughter. I asked her about Archie
O. Her opinion was that he was basically a good
horse. He was low-headed in a time when people wanted
high-headed horses. A low-headed animal can’t
be set high in harness. Archie O had big feet and lots
of bone, which is good. She didn’t feel that
his head was the best. She loved her Archie O daughter.
After not being ridden for five years, the mare was
saddled up and mounted. The saddle slipped, the rider
wasn’t all the way up and came down with her
foot suspended from the stirrup, slipping into a wayside
ditch. The mare stood. What a grand recommendation
Another stallion used by Kennebec was Corisor of Upwey.
Margaret describes him as a cute, little, red, good-natured
horse, with a kindly disposition. It was hard to find
any stallions at the time of her using him or she should
have looked further, she notes.
breeding program that Margaret admired was that of
Frances Bryant’s Serenity farm. She felt that
she was a very nice person, besides having a good program.
Frances Bryant had
Jubilee King at the end of his life. He was in Kennebec
Count’s bloodlines. Margaret knew him
well. She describes him as very tall for a Morgan,
with high withers, short back and croup. He had wonderful
feet and legs and a wonderful disposition. His gaits
were uncomfortable and his hindquarters weren’t
well developed, but that could have been nutrition-based
rather than genetic. He had lived a varied life by
the time he came to Serenity Farm.
Gardiner’s interest in the Lippitts runs
very deep. They are a pure line of Morgans that go
back directly to Justin Morgan. She does have a caution
though that too much concentrating of this blood can
bring about some negatives. She is inclined to have
a Lippitt/govt. cross to make her ideal Morgan. This
cross produced her dear Kennebec Count, the wonderful
stallion who rode, drove, was shown dressage, a trail
mount, plus was a mount for severely-challenged youngsters.
He became the winningest combined driving horse of
his time. A good cross indeed! But also a fine example
of a good cross; a great individual!
a person wants to learn about the Morgan, the book,
The Singing Master’s Horse is Margaret’s
recommendation. It is most authentic, with the most
Margaret was asked what potential crosses interested
her, she came up with two. One is the stallion, Kell’s
In Kirby’s Honor. This stallion is a paternal
grandson of Kennebec Count and carries the blood of
the good mare,
Nicolette. That mare represents a new line for Margaret
and is backed by wonderful using Morgans, like Stone’s Checkmate,
Captain Red, Chief Justin Morgan, and Ketchum. Kell’s In Kirby’s
Honor is owned by Dr. Susan Avery but is leased to
a breeder in Montana until
Susan is home from the military.
stallion is Farceur Falcon Morgan, owned by Mary
and Marjorie Hazelwood. He is presently being
leased to Bob and Jan Painter, of Triple S Morgans,
with whom Margaret has done business in the past. Falcon
carries the valuable blood of King’s River Morgan,
who was a good example of soundness and wonderful disposition
in a using Morgan; just Margaret’s type.
recent years, Kennebec Farm has added a new stallion,
Triple S Dark Eagle. He fits in perfectly, being a
good-natured, hard-working, using Morgan who crosses
well with the Kennebec mares. Dark Eagle carries an
abundance of Red Correll in his background. When
Red Correll, Margaret has only good things to say.
Descendants are very hardy, she says, plus tough, enduring
and have their own minds. They are not pets but partners,
Crossed with Count descendants, some Dark Eagle get
have even been show-offs. Count was never a show-off
so this is something new.
Dark Eagle, himself having a strong work ethic, seems
to consider it a reward to be able to work cattle.
Team penning is fun on him, although he shines at other
types of riding as well.
Miss Gardiner feels strongly that it is important to
save the Red Corral lines. Resolute Correll and Majestic
Correll were two of her favorite sons of Red Correll,
but have very few offspring carrying the torch. The
sireline to Red Correll is almost lost.
asked if there was a Morgan to stay away from, Miss
Gardiner said it was Hudson, an Admiral Denmark
descendant. She said he was inclined to produce tiny
feet. It wasn’t a fair question to be asked but
it was answered well. We all have our favorites and
want to take away from anyone else their favorites.
In desiring to preserve the Morgan breed, this is still
true. From the beginning, Margaret chose to stay away
from fads and Morgans carrying contemporary outcrosses
to other breeds. She chose Morgans of good nature,
kindliness, soundness and usability, and Morgan type.
That continues to be her intent. It has served the
note; Again, as one privileged to interview Miss
Gardiner, I would highly recommend getting her
book to read and learn from; Horses For Actually Riding
On. Losing Less Money Raising Horses is another of
her books that holds gems for the breeder. They both
display the essence of her wisdom.