"The Morgan is truly America's horse," says filmmaker Douglas Lazarus. "You name it, Morgans were there, serving America's needs." A painter and history buff, too, Douglas lives in Vermont, where Morgans are as familiar as maple syrup. An assignment to illustrate a print project telling a Morgan story set in each of America's 50 states inspired Douglas' desire to tell the breed's tale on film. The result of that inspiration, the documentary A New Horse for A New Country: The Morgan Horse in America's History, is in the works now.
It's sure to be a hit with breed aficionados and other horse enthusiasts. Douglas is confident that people with no prior horse passion – like him– will love it, too, thanks to the multi-layered historical anecdotes.
t's a great story and, better yet, Douglas adds, one that hasn't been told as a cohesive narrative before. "While the Morgan horse holds the position of being America's first native breed, no documentary film, as of yet, exists that chronicles its remarkable story," he explains. Many who witnessed or grew up with stories of the breed's accomplishments are getting on in years and there's concern that these tales will go with them. Preserving the stories while providing a tool to celebrate the Morgan and to educate the public about its contributions were powerful incentives.
The film will bring to light the Morgan's character, strength and versatility and celebrate how the breed helped create and defend our great nation. From its rural New England origin, the film will document the working Morgan in our nation's burgeoning farms and cities, its military service in the Civil War, the Indian Wars and later in the Spanish American War and WW1. As America expanded south and west, Morgans led the way pulling covered wagons, serving in the Pony Express, and working on National Parks and livestock ranches.
The Morgan's story is in very capable hands. Douglas' resume includes art directorship in the audio-visual field and producing multimedia histories of subjects ranging from New York City's Central Park to Edgar Allen Poe. Director Steve Murphy owns an award-winning video, film and digital media production company.
The film's Development and Public Relations director is familiar to many West Coasters: Nancy Hazelwood-Savage carries on her family's devotion to the breed in many ways. She grew up with the Hazelwoods' Richwood Morgans in San Diego, and ran Hazelwood Training Stables in Sacramento, where Farceur's Fools Gold was one of the breed's most recognized representatives. Nancy now runs Malin Morgans in Oregon.
The 30-minute film has the backing of many impressive organizations and people. The University of Vermont's Morgan Horse Farm is among its endorsers and the Bronx County Historical Society has signed on to serve as the umbrella organization for the film's administration. It was in the Bronx, after all, that the breed's tale began. In 1780, the sire of Justin Morgan (originally named Figure), a Thoroughbred named True Briton, was stolen from a Loyalist officer with the British Army.
The middle of next year is the film's projected finish date. Multi-tiered distribution plans begin with making it available for free to Morgan enthusiast clubs domestically and abroad. Douglas anticipates it will be popular with history and horse-oriented cable outlets and it should be a natural for teachers who want to present history with the fresh perspective of the Morgan's role
Financial support from the Morgan horse community has helped the project get off to a solid start. Additional donations are much appreciated and can be easily made through the website
www.morgandocumentary.com, where you can also follow the film's progress.
• The only two horses buried with full military honors were both Morgans.
• Equine therapy in American began with Morgans
• The Pony Express used two breeds: Morgans and Mustangs
• Standing without flinching through Civil War battle, Thomas Jonathan Jackson's horse deserves the credit for the Confederate General's nickname: "Stonewall." He was a Morgan, of course.