By Tamara Sevigny
The McCulloch Farm in Old Lyme offers an Open Barn twice a year in the spring and the fall. Young and old show up to see the Morgan horses in an unstructured weekend offering up-close visiting with the horses and foals. The horses are let out into the ring to romp around and show off or led by children over a few obstacles. People are also welcomed into the barn to pet the horses and see them up close.
This 30+ yearly event is free and open to the public. In the spring there are young foals. The amount of newborn foals depends on how many mares settle that year and how many carry the whole year, how many are sold and if a new pregnant mare is bought. They are available for sale after the fall Open Barn event, as long as they are ready to go. This year six foals were born, one less then a week old during the spring Open Barn, but eager to meet and greet the intrigued crowds.
All but two of the horses on the farm are of Whippoorwill breeding. Some are as many as eight or nine generations of Whippoorwill blood. They all go back to Whippoorwill Duke. Bred selectively for lovely disposition, soundness and true Morgan character and athletic ability, making all Whippoorwill foals very similar.
Mary Jean Vasiloff has been breeding Whippoorwill Morgans since the 1940s. They are recognized for their sweet nature, uniformity, willing and able versatility and first-rate feet and legs. They are the perfect example of a Morgan.
The foundation sire of McCulloch Farm was Squire Burger, the grandson of Jubilee King. From Squire the Whippoorwill Morgans got their excellent dispositions, feet and legs, long shoulder set deeply back into the body, long and smooth powerful hindquarters, fine length of neck and remarkable intelligence. Squire produced Mary Jean’s own herd sire, Whippoorwill Duke, out of a mare called Diana Mansfield. Duke went on to produce almost 100 Morgans.
Squire also produced Whippoorwill Melody from a mare called Locket. Duke and Melody went on to produce some of the best Morgans.
The breeding at McCulloch Farm uses related stations and mares to concentrate and strengthen the traits of the two foundation Morgans, Jubilee King and Knox Morgan. They also use other successful show families who have been known to pass on outstanding traits.
Their choice of line-breeding is not in-breeding. In-breeding concentrates faults as well as virtues. Outcrosses, chosen carefully to bring in desirable traits must be used to balance any bloodline. They keep and breed only the best results of outcrosses. Thus the bloodlines of Jubilee King and Knox Morgan, primarily thru Squire Burger, are rewoven over and over again.
The result is quality Morgans of old fashioned style that Justin Morgan himself would recognize as true heirs of his own great sire.
The weanlings are gently handled and studied in order to advise their new owners what to expect. Whippoorwill Morgans have become police horses, polo ponies and ranch horses. They have been State, Regional and National Champions in hand, western pleasure, saddle seat and show driving.
They have been known as top rated 4-H hunter/jumpers and equitation mounts. And are now known as Grand National Champion reining and Open Competition Champions in combined driving, carriage driving, dressage and hunter pacing. The versatility of Morgans has them at the top of many competitions or proved to be the best workhorses, but most importantly they are the sweetest pets.
The Open Barn event is held every spring and fall at McCulloch Farm. The Versatility Event will be held September 10 and 11 and there will also be a celebration of 60 years of breeding at McCulloch Farm. The farm is located at 100 Whippoorwill Road in Old Lyme. They welcome visitors anytime, but ask that you call ahead, 860-434-7355.