Nap’s Morgans

by Free Speech on January 14, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

By Carole Roche

Lodi, Wisconsin resident Napolean Bourdeau’s  love of the Morgan Horse dates back to his childhood in Northern Michigan.  “I was seven years old when my grand-father took me to a horse auction near Escanaba,” said Bourdeau. “It was the first time I’d ever seen a Morgan, and I still remember him as the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.”

“Although we didn’t bring a Morgan home that day, I dreamed one day of having one of my own,” he said.

It was a dream that would take another 40 years to arrive. “I served five years in Germany during the Cold War, and in 1959 met my wife-to-be at a while working as an orderly at a Green Bay hospital,” said Bourdeau. “We married in 1960 and, by 1972, were raising two children; we were ready to live in the country.

“My childhood dream of owning a Morgan was about to come true,” he said. .

Establishing his family on a seventy-nine acre farm near Lodi, Wisconsin, within two years Bourdeau had acquired his first Morgan, a mare named Kara Inga.  “Inga was blood-tested and registered with the American Morgan Horse Association which established her descendency  to the original Justin Morgan,” said Bourdeau.  “My plan was to carry on the pure Morgan bloodlines, and I bred Kara Inga to another registered Morgan, “he said.  “I continued that plan for the next thirty years.”

“One of  Kara Inga’s foals, a mare named Glory Bee, was named the top-rated Morgan in the country in 1998,” he added.

The Morgan horse, an animal whose courage, strength and intelligence are legendary, has proven its superiority in diverse areas: tireless workhouse, speedy racer, and dependable cavalry horse. Tracing its beginnings to 1789, and an incredible stallion by the name of Figure (later known as Justin Morgan after its owner), the breed has contributed to our country’s development for nearly one hundred and twenty-five years.

Napolean Bourdeau with Sable, one of his prized Morgans

Napolean Bourdeau with Sable, one of his prized Morgan's

“Morgans became known during the Colonial Period for their strength and endurance as they plowed and cleared the land, “ said  Bourdeau,  “Later, their incredible stamina during the Civil War kept them going for days over rough terrain, and they became known as ‘easy keepers’ requiring less food and rest than most other breeds.”

“In fact, many historians believe they were a prime factor in the North winning the war,” he added.

Phillip Sheridan, whose mount Rienzi (later changed to Winchester) turned a Union defeat into victory after an incredible eleven-mile ride to battle in 1864. Winchester’s remains are preserved at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Its numbers decimated by the war, the Morgan struggled to regain its former viability, and, in 1905, the U.S. Dept of Agriculture established the first and only government sponsored equine breeding program at the Morgan Horse Farm in Middleton, Vermont.

With the goal of saving the breed from extinction and producing horses of pure Morgan type, the government acquired the best Vermont Morgan mares and stallions – all with bloodlines from animals in the Civil War – and tested each animal with 300-mile endurance rides, timed races, and pulling and jumping trials.  Only those animals who exhibited superior strength, athletic ability, endurance, and temperament were allowed to pass on their traits to the next generation.

The government’s breeding program successfully achieved its original goals until the late thirties when  pressure from Kentucky Saddlebred interests persuaded them to allow Saddlebred and  Standardbred stock to be bred into the Morgan line. Intended to produce a taller and larger horse, the result was a horse with smaller feet, weaker legs, and shorter up and and down stride.. The resulting dilution of the pure Morgan type, and waste of the original bloodlines soon followed, as did funding for the Morgan Horse Program which ceased operation in 1950.

When Kara Inga died in 2005 at age 33,  Bourdeau decided to discontinue his breeding program although he continues to care for ten of Kara Inga’s offspring – all registered Morgans .  “The oldest is now 20, and the youngest, Silver Bell was born in 2004, “said Bourdeau.   “They are all pure sport Morgans and registered descendants of horses bred during the early years of the government breeding program.”

Watching Nap with his Morgans, one is struck by the affection these animals show to their owner, and the devotion he has for each one; he maintains they will remain in his care for the rest of their lives if at all possible.

Nap’s Morgans are pure examples of the Justin Morgan original – gentle in nature, supremely intelligent, and prototypes of their breed. They exemplify all that is good in the nature of a horse.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Horseman January 17, 2009 at 9:42 AM

Very majestic animals. Nice piece Carole.

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