Catch up with cowboys riding buckin’ broncs when we head West (West Central Vermont, that is) for a day in the saddle and a night at New England’s only weekly rodeo when we visit the O’Rourke family’s 2,000-acre working ranch - Pond Hill, just west of the Green Mountain National Forest, near Castleton, Vermont.
Out & About visits the University of Vermont's Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, VT charged with preserving and strengthening the Morgan Horse, one of the first horse breeds developed in the United States and the official state animal of Vermont.
The university takes on apprentice-interns who help to maintain and improve a herd of about 50 horses. UVM continues groundwork laid by Colonel Joseph Battell who set up a barn in 1878 to begin to preserve the horse’s bloodlines. That historic barn is still the centerpiece for the operation.
The breed began with a single colt named Figure. In 1789, a Vermont teacher named Justin Morgan took him in payment for a debt. Figure apparently possessed incredible strength and speed. As was the practice at that time, the horse became known by his owner's name.
Solid, strong animals, Morgans were known to be calm under fire and became the favored mounts of many Civil War regiments. The federal government appreciated their value and took over the operation from Battell from 1907 until 1951, when the university stepped in.
Even Hollywood has been inspired by the story of the Morgan Horse.In 1972 Walt Disney made a movie called Justin Morgan Had a Horse starring Don Murray as Justin Morgan.
Horseback riding is a sport of communication. The second a person mounts a horse, the animal instantly knows whether the rider is experienced by their subtle movements. This relationship is at the center of this sport. The bonding that goes on between human and animal is what makes riding pleasurable for both rider and horse. And there's no place like Vermont to enjoy a day on the trail. South Woodstock, Vermont sits in the heart of one of the finest horse trail systems for both competitive and pleasure riding in the country. The trails, which are maintained by the Green Mountain Horse Association, wind through fourteen communities in Windsor County creating the perfect environment to enjoy Vermont's outdoors by horseback. Host Marianne Eaton visits Kedron Valley Stables in South Woodstock for a horseback riding lesson and then joins members of the GMHA for their annual fall foliage ride.