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Lippitt Morgans

From: Elena

Dear Jessica, I met you once at a clinic up in Washington. I was the older woman (71 at that time) with the horrible fear of cantering, and you helped me a lot. You admired my Morgan mare and I told you she was a Lipit mare, and you said that she looked it. I wish I had asked you more about this because I've just realized that for all the years I've owned Mollie, I've never really understood just what a Lipit mare IS. I don't know anyone else with Morgan horses, and although I own a book about Morgans, it says nothing at all about the Lipit type. Last week I began cleaning out some old files, and found my mare's papers, which I don't think I'd really looked at since I bought her, since I fell in love with her personality and had no interest in riding in shows. I looked at her pedigree closly and I couldn't find anything that said "Lipit", so I wonder if I've been wrong all those years, but you said Mollie looked like a Lipit and several other people have made the same remark to me over the years since I've had Mollie. I've tried to find information at the library and even online, but I haven't found anything at all and don't know any more about it than I did before. Could you explain what the "Lipit" line is and why it's good? And, could you explain about "Government Morgans" and "Brunck Morgans"? I'm embarrassed to realize just how little I know about the breed of the horse I love so much. By the way, I still have Mollie. She is twenty-five now, and I am not at all worried about cantering, it's my favourite gait now, so thank you very much! I wish I could send some money to support HORSE-SENSE but I'm on a fixed income. Elena

Hi Elena! Of course I remember you and Mollie. Don't worry about supporting HORSE-SENSE - of course I'm always grateful for support, but when I send out a request for support in a couple of weeks, I want you to read it carefully, especially the part about no contribution being required. ;-) You're not the only HORSE-SENSE reader on a fixed income. Not everyone is able to contribute - but everyone is ALWAYS welcome to subscribe.

Now, let's talk about the lovely Mollie and her probable Lippitt ancestry.

You'll probably find all sorts of information at the library and online if you look up the name spelled "Lippitt" - that second 'p' will help a lot, and the second 't' won't hurt either. ;-)

Meanwhile, here's the short version of a long story. The current scandal involving Morgan breeders outcrossing to Saddlebreds is, sadly, not a new phenomenon. Even long ago, there were Morgan breeders who were crossing their horses with Saddlebreds in an attempt to create a taller horse with higher action (nothing ever changes, does it?). There was quite a lot of outcrossing in those days, to Saddlebreds and to other breeds of horses. There were also some breeders who appreciated the Morgan horse for what it was, didn't want to turn it into anything else, and did their best to find and preserve as much Morgan blood as possible.

One of these breeders was a man called A. Fullerton Phillips, who refused to use any Saddlebreds in his breeding program. All too often, when a breeder dies, the herd created by that breeder is dispersed, and that is the end of that particular breeding program. This didn't happen with the Phillips herd, because when Phillips died, his entire herd of Morgans was bought outright by a man called Robert Lippitt Knight. Knight continued to breed Morgans for the next thirty-five years or so. His program involved concentrating "Old Vermont" bloodlines, and although it included occasional outcrosses to "Government" lines, there were NO outcrosses to Saddlebreds. His horses were distinctive, and like many breeders, he used his name (in this case, his middle name) as a prefix to identify them - that's where the "Lippitt" Morgans came from.

So, to make a not-all-that-short story VERY short indeed, "Lippitt" means "old-style, minimally-outcrossed Morgans (with NO outcrosses to Saddlebreds), bred from the lines created by A. Fullerton Phillips and continued by Robert Lippitt Knight".

That was the easy part of the answer: Lippitts are horses that carry the highest possible percentage of original Morgan blood. Now, here's the hard part. Looking at your mare's pedigree won't necessarily tell you what you want to know, because Mollie would not necessarily be a "Lippitt" even if you found a horse with the Lippitt prefix in her papers - and she could still be a "Lippitt" even if you didn't find a single Lippitt-prefixed name in those papers.

This is about as much help as I can provide, but there are people who know far more than I do and will be able to help you analyze Mollie's pedigree. I suggest that you get in touch with the Lippitt Club, Inc. They probably have a website - I'm on the road just now, without full Internet access, so can't check on that. There are also a handful of breeders around the country who specialize in Lippitt Morgans, and I'm sure that any one of them would be delighted to offer some help to a fellow admirer of the breed. If you use a search engine, type in "Lippitt Morgans" and see what comes up - I'll bet that you'll pull up useful information AND a list of breeders. There are a lot of Morgan fanciers who DO appreciate, promote, and breed the kind of Morgans that look like your Mollie.

It has always made me sad to see "modern" Morgans that so clearly owe much of their heritage to the Saddlebred. I love both breeds, but each is wonderful in its own distinctive way, and I don't think that you can get a "better" animal by mixing the two. Morgans don't NEED to be "improved" - and neither do Saddlebreds. Solid, sturdy, old-style Morgans are infinitely more beautiful in my eyes than the currently fashionable animals that one Morgan judge friend of mine calls "Saddlebreds on short legs". I've always thought that any rider who wants a horse that looks and moves like a Saddlebred should simply go out and buy a Saddlebred. Saddlebreds are lovely horses and they're already here, so there's no reason to try to re-invent them or "tweak" another breed into looking and moving like them.

Your Mollie definitely has the Lippitt look - I remember her, and you, very well. I hope you'll keep investigating, and let me know what you find out about her ancestry.


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