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Ethan Allen 50
One of the Greatest
by Mable Owen
from The Morgan Horse Magazine
The 1949-1950 season has gone its way without, apparently, its being noted in particular by the horsemen of America. That it is the centennial of the births of Lexington, Rysdyk's Hambletonian, and Ethan Allen, undoubtedly the greatest trio of stallions ever foaled in this country, seems to have escaped the popular notice. No Thoroughbred horse has ever approached the records made by Lexington, both as a hard-hitting racehorse and for the never-approached feat of leading the American sire list for 14 years, and it is greatly to be doubted that any modern Thoroughbred ever will. Hambletonian 10 was the fountainhead of the present-day Standardbred horse and also occupies his own prominent niche in the equine hall of fame.
Today the blood of Lexington has been long diluted in modern pedigrees by foreign importations and his male line faded from prominence many decades ago while Ethan Allen 50, the little bay "Perfect Horse", survives in the bloodlines of every Morgan horse. Of old Justin's sons, Sherman was the most prolific, this factor passing on through his most famous son Black Hawk 20. Credited with being the sire of over 1,000 foals, Black Hawk would have been assured his place in history had he only been the sire of one, Ethan Allen,
Ethan Allen's dam, a mouse-gray mare bred by John Field in Springfield, Vermont, is known to have been a very good tempered mare, a willing worker at heavy pulling, and a fine mare in harness. Originally sold to be a peddler's horse, she proved too fast a road mare for this and was finally sold to Warner Cook of Hague, New York. Although the mare was a scant 15 hands, neighbors of Mr. Cook, who weighed some 200 pounds testify that in speed brushes the gray mare could trot at a three-minute pace with her owner up.
Her sire, a small bay horse locally known as Red Robin, was of somewhat disputed ancestry. Described as a bright bay with a star and two short white sox behind, and about 14.2 in height, he was said to resemble old GIfford Morgan very closely, although not so sway-backed as the old horse later came to be. Local records reveal that the old Justin Morgan, then owned by Joel Goss in Claremont, New Hampshire, was in service only three or four miles from the Moses Bates farm on which Red Robin was foaled. Since it was the custom in that day for stallions to be traveled on a regular spring circuit, which in 1916 included Springfield, Vermont, for the old Justin Morgan, local opinion that Red Robin was sired by him, coupled with his very remarkable resemblance to Justin Morgan, is probably accurate. Ethan's second dam, a dark brown mare bred in Baltimore, Vermont a mare of typical Justin Morgan size and type, was locally known to be out of a daughter of the old Morgan, thus appreciably increasing the amount of Justin's blood in Ethan Allen.
To return to the gray mare, she was put to heavy farm work on a team, despite her lack of size, and from this developed a spavin which effected her retirement to the rank of brood matron. After producing four very valuable foals by Young Sir Charles, the Burge Horse, she was sold to Joel W. Holcomb of Ticonderoga, New York. She was bred to Black Hawk first in 1846, and produced one of his best daughters and a top mare of her day, the black mare Black Hawk Maid, whose mark of 2:37 was an enviable one. In 1847 the gray mare foaled a gray colt by Black Hawk and in 1848 a chestnut filly by Wicker's Sir Walter. Returned to Black Hawk, she produced her last foal, the bay colt, Ethan Allen on June 18, 1849. She died in 1851 at the age of 21 years, one of the great producing mares of her century.
Ethan Allen was a bright bay with a small star, a faint white snip between his nostrils, and with both hind feet and his right forefoot white to the fetlocks. He was a trifle under 15 hands and weighed 1,000 pounds in his best condition. His head was fine for a stallion, with large bright eyes and expressive prick ears. His head and neck were beautifully set onto well-defined withers. His back was very level, with a great deal of strength across his loins and a long, thick tail set onto a high level croup. His shoulders were laid well back and his croup was long and level, with the result that he appeared to stand over a greater length of ground than he was tall, this despite a short back. His natural action was extremely well-balanced, and is portrayed without exaggeration in the many Currier and Ives prints of Ethan Allen's more famous brushes with time. His front action was bold, and higher than most of the trotting champions of that day, while his hock action was very low, with a definite inclination toward wideness behind, a trait which often appears in his family today.
When Ethan Allen was a colt, a half-interest in him was sold to Orville S. Bor of Shoreham, Vermont, and during his early years he made most of his seasons at stud at Larrabee's Point in Shoreham, with several short stays at Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1866 and 1869 he was at stud in Boston at $100 a season and in 1869-1870 in Medford, Massachusetts, for a fee of $200. In October of 1970, he was sold to Colonel Amasa Sprague of Providence, Rhode Island for $7,500, at 21 years of age. After keeping him a short time in Providence, Colonel Sprague sent him to the Sprague and Akers Stock Farm in Lawrence, Kansas, where he died on September 10, 1876, at 28 years of age. He was buried in the trotting park there with a monument over his grave, but was later exhumed, and his skeleton mounted in the Natural History Museum in Lawrence.
None of the Citations of Whirlaways can surpass Ethan Allen's nationwide popularity. Champion of the world, 2:25 1/2 at four years, champion of the world to pole, a mark of 2:15 to pole with running mate, and the grand champion trotting stallion when his records were made, his appearance on any track in America was the occasion for the wildest demonstrations. His long, thick, slightly waved mane and tail, his wonderful speed, his well-rounded Morgan appearance even in racing trim, and above all his absolutely perfect disposition made him the universal favorite. Even in later years after his records had fallen, the greatest compliment that could be paid a young prospect was to say he resembled old Ethan Allen in some small way.
All great racehorses are best known for some one race and Ethan Allen is no exception. The 21st of June in 1867, when Ethan was then 18 years of age with many seasons at stud behind him and countless matches against the best of his day, his owner made the challenge that Ethan Allen, trotting to pole with a running mate, would, for $2,500 a side, defeat Hambletonian's brown son, Dexter, with a mark of 2:19 and the day's greatest trotter.
His then owner, Z.E.Simmons of New York, was an astute horseman and engineered one of the greatest coups of that day. The evening before the race, it was announced that Ethan's running mate, a Thoroughbred daughter of imported Scythian, was lame and the running mate of Brown George, which had been defeated by Ethan Allen some three weeks previously, would be substituted. The last-minute change raised the odds on Ethan appreciably and when Mr. Simmons offered to forfeit the race because of the change, the betting odds again changed to favor Dexter still more. The amount bet on this race was estimated to exceed quarter of a million dollars. However good Ethan's own running mate had been, the start of the race proved her no match for the big, powerful, black Throughbred substituted in her place. The evenness of his galloping steadied Ethan Allen and he won the first heat the 8 lengths in the amazing time of 2:15. Despite several breaks by Ethan in the second heat, breaks which necessitated pulling him almost to a stop to recover, he won the second heat by several lengths in 2:16. The third and final heat was in the nature of an anticlimax as Ethan won it easily in 2:19., his Morgan tenacity taxing the vaunted Dexter's known staying ability to the breaking point.
Mr. Simmons left the Fashion Course that day with betting winnings estimated to exceed the salary of the president of the United States, leaving behind him in the knowledge of the thousands who had witnessed the race, the fact that Ethan Allen was the greatest trotting stallion of their day.
Ethan Allen's greatest sons were sired during his seasons at Shoreham, and included Daniel Lamert, Holabird's Ethan Allen, Delong's Ethan Allen, American Ethan, Honest Allen, and a host of others. In modern Morgan pedigrees he is best known through the male line of Honest Allen 73 down to Denning Allen 74 and his son General Gates 666, the foundation sire at the U.S. Government Morgan Horse Farm. Through Daniel Lambert he is also known down through Addison Lambert and Ben Franklin to Penrod and Jubilee King and his numerous get. Ethan Allen's foals were primarily bay and chestnut, with a few grays got from mares of that color. They were known down several generations for their sire's wonderful disposition as well as his fast trotting ability and great courage. Even after 100 years, his descendants are as numerous as the members of the Morgan horse breed, and as popular collectively, even if not as well-known individually, as old Ethan Allen 50, one of the "great horses" in our history.
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