History ... Our Morgan Journey ... by Kathy Lyons
NAMING OUR STUD
The name of our Stud, Wilga Park, stems from a hardy, attractive tree found in the outback of Australia. The Wilga Tree, sometimes called the Australian Willow, holds fond memories for those of us who were brought up in the outback of Australia on cattle and sheep properties.
Our small Stud has been built on what we see is the essence of both the Morgan horse and the spirit of the Outback. This spirit of the land and the breed embodies honesty, integrity, dependability, humour, a strong work ethic, a fair go for all and loyalty to your mates.
HOW WE DISCOVERED THE MORGAN HORSE
We discovered the Morgan horse back in 1997 when I, a nervous trail rider back then, was searching for a riding horse of my own. By chance one day I happened to read a description of the Morgan horse in a small pocketbook and decided that this was the horse for me. It described the horse as ranging in size from 14'2hh to 15'2hh, and that this breed suited every member of the family; a horse whose temperament suited nervous riders or busy people who could not ride every week, as they are a sensible, thinking horse; a horse that loves interaction with people and has their own particular sense of humour - this was the horse I needed.
I then discovered that the Morgan was an American breed and no one knew much about it in Australia. It wasn't until two years later, still searching through horse magazines at every opportunity, that I found an e-mail address for the Morgan horse. That day was a life-changing day for us. It set in place the new direction our lives would take.
We were put in touch with Di Howard of Wirraway Morgan Stud in Queensland and the Morgan Horse Association of Australia, and from there, enjoyed a fascinating journey of discovery about the Morgan horse in Australia.
We decided to head south to the Australian National Morgan Show, which is held annually, and for the next two weeks visited just about every Morgan stud in Victoria. We met, videoed and photographed every Morgan horse we came close to, and made lasting friendships with some wonderful people, all struck with the same passion for the breed.
It took another six months and yet another visit south before we purchased our first pure Morgan filly. She was a beautiful, rising three year old, black mare named Eagleview Skybeau and even though she was unstarted, I just had to have her.
As chance would have it, we had also met Barry Chambers, a talented horseman form around Corryong, who agreed to start the mare for me and send her to Queensland when he thought she was right. I was so delighted when she was delivered to our property in Queensland in August of 2000.
During the visits to all the studs that year, Greg had spotted a three-month old filly that showed such elegance in her movement that he took lots of video footage and vowed to watch her progress as she grew. Thus the seed was sown that culminated in the purchase of this wonderfully conformed filly, Mt Tawonga Natasha, as a 15 month old the following year.
There were very few pure Morgans being ridden when we started our search so we made a commitment to ride our Morgan mares to allow them to excel in whatever discipline suited them, prior to having a foal from them. From the age of three to the ripe old age of six, Skybeau went from Trail horse to western discipline, to a little dressage and jumping and hacking, as well as doing some stockhorse workouts. She was my teacher, even though she was just a youngster. She amazed us by being talented in every discipline she tried.
In the meantime we were offered another pure Morgan, Mt Tawonga Nepean. Nepean was a 6 year-old stallion, but we were not ready for a stallion, so agreed to buy him as a gelding. Nepean has become the horse everyone rides; from the nervous non-rider to the competent, he gives a wonderful riding experience. He is so confident and 'laid-back', he instils confidence in his rider. He is our schoolmaster for those wanting to learn to ride and compete.
When we decided to have a foal from my beautiful black Skybeau (an exciting though heart-wrenching decision, as I loved her as my riding horse), I took on the riding of Mt Tawonga Natasha, who showed a talent for Dressage. Natasha, known to us as 'Elegance' because of her elegant way of going, qualified for the 2005 Queensland Championships in her first 'official' year. She was competing at Novice level, and training at Elementary level with some Medium movements thrown in for good measure, before joining the brood mare paddock in late 2006.
I knew 'Elegance' would eventually have to produce little Morgans for us as well, so I looked for another gelding as my riding horse (Nepean was Greg's trail horse as well as everyone's dressage and hacking horse). Mt Tawonga Oscar, three years old, full brother to Nepean and Natasha, was patiently waiting for me in the paddocks of Mt Tawonga Stud in Victoria, and happily grazing the grasses of Mt Beauty.
Oscar holds my heart! He captivates every person he meets with the gentleness that he exudes. Along with that gentle, willing nature comes an ability to be a very successful performance horse. He has brought home ribbons from his very first dressage competition - as have all our ridden Morgans.
STARTING OUR STUD
We were so taken with the temperament and ability of these Morgans we felt that more people should have the opportunity to own one of them. And that vision grew to the point that we decided we needed to produce more of these horses ourselves, so that we could introduce them to as many horse lovers as possible.
We headed south again and purchased another two fillies, Red Bluff Paprika and Haymeron Park Ruby Jane, so that we could produce three to four foals a year down the track. We had officially become Wilga Park Morgans at that point. We also purchased Mt Tawonga Marrella in foal to Mt Tawonga Tarraji - due to foal at a similar time to our Skybeau in 2005.
From one beautiful black Morgan filly we have grown to a band of five mares, two performance geldings and the magnificent buckskin stallion, RanchBoss Cortez, imported in December 2005. Cortez holds the claim to fame, apart from many other things, as being the first coloured pure Morgan to arrive on Australian soil.
Whilst I held a dream of owning a Morgan horse, Greg quietly held a dream of owning a stunning buckskin horse - any breed! as long as it was eye-catching and a buckskin! When we were searching for a Morgan for me, he was, unbeknownst to anyone, also searching for a pure buckskin Morgan for himself. When it became obvious that they didn't come in 'buckskin' in Australia, he pushed his dream to the back of his mind. However, every so often, it would come to the fore and he started to plan how he could possibly ride the horse of his dreams.
In making known his dream to own a Buckskin Morgan, Greg opened the doors to an interest in coloured Morgans in Australia. After two failed attempts at importing a coloured colt, one with the untimely death of a stunning 5 month-old Dun colt, Ragtime Son of a Dun, that we'd purchased, Greg was ready to give up on his dream.
Our friend, Di Howard of Wirraway Morgans, was not about to let him give up and for a number of months continued to send photos and web site addresses for Greg to visit. He was not ready to look further until the day Di presented him with a photo of the magnificent RanchBoss Cortez with the words, "Here is your new horse!" Greg finally allowed himself to become excited about maybe riding the horse of his dreams after all.
Cortez was a six year-old golden buckskin stallion, started as a five year-old and with 90 days of basic Reining training, so Greg knew that as soon as Cortez was settled in Australia, he would be able to live that dream of riding his magnificent buckskin. Along with his colour, Cortez brings the most important attribute we feel a horse should have; a gentle and willing temperament. His fluid, rhythmic paces that show off a stunning action are just a huge bonus!
Prior to Cortez becoming part of the picture, we had formed a syndicate to import frozen semen from a very 'typey' Morgan stallion that would guarantee us a buckskin or palomino foal every time. This is the wonderful Ragtime Oro Blanco.
We now feel our breeding program is set in place. Greg and I have both achieved our dream in the form of a Morgan horse, and our passion and belief in the breed grows with every new experience these horses give us.
If you're dreaming of a perfect horse; one that will be your mate; take you anywhere you want to go; be a great all-rounder; then take a close look at a Morgan, once you have, there is no other breed that comes close, I guarantee it!
To find our more about the wonderful Morgan horse, we recommend visting this site - www.morganmuseum.org