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Celebrate The Morgan!


by Diana Davidson

LEXINGTON, Ky. - On a weekend when all eyes of the equine world focused on the state of Kentucky, it was more than symbolic that the Morgan breed enjoyed a part of that spotlight. The opening of the Morgan exhibit at the Kentucky Horse Park signified a giant step in the promotion of America's First Breed. The Morgan would now stand nose to nose with a number of the leading horse breeds featured at the Kentucky Horse Park. The park is an amazing tribute to all that is equine. Over 900,000 people from the United States and around the world pass through the gates of this historic and educational facility each year.

Thanks to the AMHA Board of Directors and the AMHI Trustees this long-planned and eagerly awaited project came to fruition. While some type of presence for the Morgan breed at the park has been in the talking stages since the park first opened 20 years ago, it was the sheer will and hard work of AMHA Director Ed Creighton that was the driving force behind making all of this a reality. The generous spirit of Morgan owners and friends of the breed were also instrumental in bringing this project to life with their contributions.

The official opening May 1, 2004, coincided not only with the Kentucky Derby down the road in Louisville, but also an all important schedule of events in the Morgan breed. Many of the most dedicated and hardworking people involved in protecting and promoting this breed and helping it to take its rightful place among the equine elite were in Lexington. Five days of meetings of the AMHA Board of Directors, AMHI Trustees, Grand National show committee and Morgan Museum Board were all scheduled to coincide with the opening at the Kentucky Horse Park.

This forum gave many of the members of the Morgan industry the opportunity to attend these meetings and see how the decisions about the future of our breed are made. For those who took advantage of this opportunity, it was quite an enlightening experience, and one that more members should take part in.

A preview of the exhibits and an evening of celebration was held Friday at the Kentucky Horse Park. The evening began with a horse drawn tour on park trolleys that made stops at a number of the Kentucky Horse Park's main attractions. The final stop was at the new Morgan Horse Exhibit. AMHA President Sherry Cole and AMHA Director Ed Creighton swung open the doors with a throng of eager directors, trustees and other dignitaries eager to view the exhibit.

The pictures, posters and information featured on the walls of the exhibit along with a five-minute video brought to life the beauty, versatility and personality of the Morgan. The two mechanical Morgans are front and center in the exhibit and they give visitors the ability to enjoy a simulated ride on an English and a western horse complete with saddles, bridles and real horse hair manes, tails and forelocks. The inaugural ride belonged to Fran Pugh whose generous bid at the AMHA Convention gave her naming rights on the English horse now known as Morgan Tara's War Eagle. Pugh had the ride of her life and along the way with cell phone in hand called Anne Mears who had dueled with Pugh to earn the naming rights. The conversation, with a little help from Pugh's cheering squad, netted Anne Mears the naming rights of the western horse with her generous donation.

The program for the evening concluded with a dinner, speaking program and tour at the International Museum Of The Horse. Morgan owner and Kentucky Horse Park board member Robert Morgan served as master of ceremonies for the evening. Fellow Morgan owner Rita Adams gave the invocation. Kentucky Horse Park Executive Director John Nicholson welcomed everyone and gave some background on the park while also introducing Bill Cook (Director International Museum of the Horse), Rob Hinkle (Park Director), Gina Gibson (Morgan exhibit designer), and other staff members who have been instrumental in their work on the Morgan exhibit. AMHA President Sherry Cole thanked all of the 129+ donors and gave out a number of special recognition certificates. Robert Morgan also welcomed all of the other current leaders in attendance; Mark Staehnke (President, AMHI), Fred Dills (Chair, Grand National Show), Gladys Severance (Chair, Morgan Museum), Ed Creighton (Chair, Kentucky Horse Park Project), Sally Wadhams (Development Officer, AMHI) and Fred Braden (Executive Director, AMHA).

Saturday, May 1, 2004, was the official day of celebration as the ribbon cutting took place with a large group on hand. Those who passed through the exhibit that day are just the first of many who will come to enjoy the splendor of the Morgan horse, and for many it will be the beginning of their association with the breed we all love. As the exhibit prepared and educated visitors about the Morgan, the ring outside of the exhibit then showcased the real thing. A Morgan breed demonstration by the Ohio Morgan Horse Association featured the versatility of the breed with an in hand, carriage, western, pleasure, driving, hunter and park horse each taking part. This was followed by the Parade of Breeds Show starring a number of outstanding Morgan Horses given by the Bluegrass Morgan Horse Association.

While millions were cheering for "The Run For The Roses", the Morgan breed too had crossed the finish line with a great triumph of its own. This exhibit will allow an enormous new group of people to Celebrate The Morgan!

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