He was among the finest horses ever to stand on grass, the handsomest Morgan his century had seen and the king of roadsters when a stylish horse was the sine qua non of a successful man. He sired well over a thousand foals, each a prized near-replica of himself, and he was thought to have been the best brood mare sire in New England history, perhaps in world history.
His name was Daniel Lambert, and he came by his quality as good horses generally dofrom the blood of both sire and dam. His dam, Fanny Cook, was a mare of ancient royal pedigree, tracing back to the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerley Turkher pedigree remarkably similar to the supposed pedigree of Justin himself. Daniel Lambert's sire, Ethan Allen, was considered the best son of Black Hawk; Black Hawk was the best son of Sherman; and Sherman the best son of Justin. If motorized wheels had never been invented, his name would still be on every lip as the founder of the most useful and prolific family of Morgan horses; but as it is, his line nearly died. That it hasn't died, and that a hundred and thirty-seven years after his birth, Daniel Lambert is again enjoying fame is a tale of patient human devotion and the ultimate survival of quality bloodstock.
Now, seven generations since Daniel Lambert a thirty-four-year old Lambert stallion, Criterion, still enjoys the summer grass in West Virginia. Like Daniel, he is a bright chestnut with a lighter mane and tail, but it isn't really Daniel Lambert he resembles most. Put his photograph beside an old woodcut and you'll see the spitting image of Sherman Morgan, that legendary finest son of Figure.
Susan and Shannon Hanley didn't set out to resurrect a Morgan family. During a period of job burnout in the early seventies, they did what so many dream of doing: they sold their house near Manhattan and bought a 183-acre farm in West Virginia. With a daughter and a son, then ten and eight, they set out to make their living farming, raising sheep and cattle at first, and then, before long, breeding Morgan horses.
The horse-breeding happened almost by accident. Their daughter, Marcie, had a Morgan mare whose sire, Superson, had been bred by Francis Bryant, so when they considered breeding their mare they visited Mrs. Bryant at her Meeting Waters farm. They were there in July of 1973. Mrs. Bryant was dispersing her herd and the only stallion she had retained was a twelve-year-old grandson of Jubilee King. As they tell it, they took one look at Criterion looking back at them, and from that moment on no other horse existed for them. “There was an aloof and lordly grandeur about him,” Shannon remembers. “And we had the audacity to ask right then and there if we could buy him.
Fran said no but soon after we got home she phoned and said we could have him. We sent a deposit right away! Once we saw Criterion, that image was engraved in our minds. His Sherman form is the focus of our breeding program.” He adds, “Once I had the nerve to ask Fran if she could fault him. She thought a moment and then Criterion, who has nine close crosses to Daniel Lambert, is the culmination of a quest carried on by Francis Bryant and J.C. Brunk before her to preserve the precious sireline and blood of Daniel Lambert. Mr. Brunk produced Jubilee King after breeding Lamberts for about thirty years. Jubilee King had five close-up crosses to Daniel Lambert. J.C. Brunk knew just what he was doing.
He was an early-twentieth century Morgan breeder interested in preserving high-percentage Morgans. Susan says, "If Mr. Brunk hadn't come along fairly quickly after Daniel Lambert, the whole line would have been lost. When I researched the early volumes of the Morgan Horse register, I realized that in those early years he was intent on getting as much Lambert blood in his breeding program as possible.
He added to it the blood of the Knox family, that other great nineteenth-century family. He was breeding the top descendants of the two most popular nineteenth-century families. And Jubilee King was the best he produced."
Born in 1927 Jubilee King eventually found his way to Meeting Waters farm, where Francis Bryant used him to perpetuate the Lambert sire-line. Her work stopped with Criterion, so in selling him to the Hanleys in 1973 she was passing onto them a heavier burden than either of them could have guessed at the time.
“The research was mostly Susan's,” Shannon says now. “She grew up with Morgans so she had some background. She got out the old registers and started going through them. I felt we had an inestimable gift given to us when she sold us Criterion, but we had to find our own way. When we asked Mrs. Bryant how we should breed him, she said buy him pretty-headed Lippitt mares. She had a special interest in heads. But what we really wanted to breed for was Criterion’s look and for all the things we treasured in him, the powerful loin, the long hip, the long forearm, and good big gaits. We ended up tracking down and buying many of the Lamberts and Woodburys strong in Lambert blood Francis Bryant had already dispersed.” The Hanleys have worked for many years to restore the name Lambert to the family in the twentieth century. They give Mabel Owen and her historical articles credit for first bringing to their attention that there was another old high-percentage family beside the Woodburys (Lippitts) and that it was the Lamberts.
With little money but a drive to produce horses just like Criterion, they acquired a number of sons and daughters of Criterion that Francis Bryant had sold. Many of their mares now are Criterion daughters. They so prize his daughters that they have let themselves be talked out of only four over the years and two of these they later managed to buy back. Crispin of Quietude, a Criterion son, sired the remarkably promising four-year-old son, Quietude Barcelona, who has in turn sired Quietude Jubilee Kingdom, who Shannon feels may be the most perfect expression yet of this great family's golden qualities.
The Hanleys named their farm The Quietude Stud, “Because,” Susan says, “Shannon demanded it. That's what he’s always wanted in his life. Serenity. Quietude. It wasn't named after the mare Quietude, even though her sire Troubadour of Willowmoor was a great, great grandson of Daniel Lambert.”
After more than twenty years of breeding, Susan and Shannon have built a herd of sixty Morgans whom they care for with the help of one full-time farmhand. "Susan's work on the farm has been somewhat curtailed by injuries she suffered a year ago, when she free-fell thirty feet into an underground river during a wild cave trip and "they had to take the cave apart to get me out." She adds that the fractures of her leg, feet and back have healed, although she still has pain and she is limited for now to tractor work and "anything that keeps me off my feet. I'm fortunate to be able to ride and I ride in our mountains almost every day."
The past year was a bad year for the Hanleys. While Susan was still recovering from her caving accident, they suffered a barn fire last January that claimed five mares, including three who were in foal. "We had only seconds to get four fillies and a mare out, Susan said. There was no way we could save the others the barn burned so quickly. We nearly lost the house."
It is typical of the pluck and good cheer of these people that the sorts of tragedies that might destroy others hardly slow them down at all; they keep right on going. They share a vision that animates them both and fills their talk with joy and their lives with purpose; their intent is to secure Criterion's wonderful Sherman-type in his descendants and preserve their rare Lambert blood.
"We could call our horses Shermans, Susan says, but there is another family with the Sherman sireline. The early Government horses had the Sherman sireline through another Ethan Allen 50 son, Honest Allen. The Sherman line divides right there in the mid-nineteenth century with the two Ethan Allen sons. The line coming down from Daniel Lambert through Jubilee King and Criterion is distinctly different.” Susan notes that they favor the Lamberts over the Woodburys or Government-bred Morgans but there were so few Lamberts when they began their breeding program that they had to use some Woodbury
mares. "We've gotten away from that now. We find the closer we breed to Criterion the better the horses are. It all comes back to Criterion. It amazes me to think he is alive sixty-eight years after his grandsire, Jubilee King, was foaled."
Shannon feels strongly that close breeding among Criterion's children and grandchildren produces the best results. "That's my one big regret," he says. "We should have started the really close breeding sooner. We were afraid to try it. Then when we did, we started getting these wonderful results. We were looking for problems, but we haven't had any. Instead, each crop just gets better and better."
For most horse breeders the hard part is marketing, but the Hanleys never seem to have had that problem. They produce between eight and twelve foals each year, and their foals sell easily, often as weanlings. From the beginning they have sold nationwide.
"Our Morgans are our primary source of income and kept us in farming when many beef cattle operations around us went under," Shannon says. "We owe Criterion a lot."
Quietude is the rarest of farms, a Morgan stud where the horses not only pay the bills but provide their owners livelihood. "Our farm video helps to sell our young stock," Susan adds. "Until I got a camcorder nobody understood, not even us, that the way our horses move is exceptional. I got the camcorder in August 1988 and once I started sending videos out, people were astounded by the motion of our Lamberts." The videos Susan produces have titles and slow-motion and stop-motion scenes that let the viewer analyze the horses' movement. The sweep of the landscape is breathtaking, the lovely wild hills of unbelievable green and the herds of nearly identical Morgans galloping in unison, many with flaxen manes flying, and all of it set to elegant music. The Hanleys offer their video for a refundable ten dollar deposit, but nearly everyone wants to keep them, and a surprising number will shop their videos for the Lambert baby of their dreams: Susan reports that many of their sales are made directly from their video. To describe a Lambert to Morgan fanciers familiar with more common types isn't easy. These are not show horses, yet it’s hard to see why they shouldn't be show horses: Cathy Serenity, Criterion's full sister was the first mare to produce three Grand National ChampionsBennfield's Ace, Katy Bennfield and Special Kay.
And Lamberts are lovely, well-proportioned animals, solid of bone, neither coarse nor too fine, and an inch either side of fifteen hands tall. They are upheaded, long-hipped with high-set tails, and so smooth of body that even in his thirties Criterion looks to be in his prime. They display an astonishing trot, long-strided and with such a pronounced period of suspension that the horse in motion seems nearly weightless. All are barefoot and a lot of them trot about level. They are often an intense dark-red chestnut, often with a blaze of uniform width and with white on the hind legs that generally cuts off neatly partway up the cannon. Sherman was marked that way too, with one high sock, and some of his close descendants were flaxen like Thayer’s Morgan and Young Morgan General as well as the silver maned and tailed Woodward’s Silvertail, Iowa Morgan and the Sherman son appropriately named Cock of the Rock.
Two centuries after Sherman Morgan, flaxen manes and tails are common again among the Lamberts, which makes them look flashy to Morgan people used to horses in various shades of brown. Their heads lack the pop-eyed, dish-faced cuteness that is so often seen on modern Morgans, but they have instead the clean-boned, noble heads immortalized in old Morgan woodcuts. Their temperaments are so uniformly fine that Lambert breeders talk about the “golden Lambert temperament,” that combination of kindliness and good sense that makes these animals a breeze to train. And many Quietude Lamberts, especially the stallions, have a high-headed, prick-eared, heavy-maned dignity, a certain eager brilliance that makes you itch to see what they might be able to do. So far, it’s hard to know what they can do. That light, scopey trot is making dressage and combined-driving people start to take notice, but to date nearly all of the Quietude foals have gone to aspiring Lambert breeders.
These Lambert breeders, from California to Nova Scotia, are a very enthusiastic lot. All are small breeders, with just a few horses, and nearly all of them are just starting out; having bought Lambert weanlings a few years back, they are only now welcoming their first foal crops. Some are breeding what the Hanleys call “clean-blooded Lamberts.”
These are Morgans whose sire line goes directly back to Sherman Morgan and Justin Morgan through Daniel Lambert and whose ancestors trace back on every line of the pedigree to the foundation horses in Volume I of the Morgan Horse and Register and none of whose ancestors were registered under Rule 2. These are high-percentage animals. Susan says that Criterion’s pedigree has been computed and he has more than 20% of Figure’s blood.
Bob Summerfield adds that he is a wildlife biologist professionally concerned with the effects of close breeding, and so far, he says, “You don’t see with Lamberts any of the problems you would see with a too-small gene pool. If you trace them back, even through there is a lot of close breeding, there still is considerable diversity. Remember, the original Morgans had lots of variations. This line is one segment of that ancient breed, and preserving it is important to the breed as a whole. And since there are so few of them left, it’s important that they all be used for breeding.”
What has made so many breeders jump into Lamberts? Cathy Falkenstein says it was a matter of sales. She had been breeding modern show lines and finding that she had a lot of trouble selling her foals, so eventually she sold all but two of her mares and she and her husband bought the Quietude video. She says, “When I saw Criterion I couldn’t believe a horse like that, with a hip like that. In 1989 we bought Camden of Quietude by videotape, sight unseen. And he’s wonderful. He’s quiet and smart, and so athletic he picks up his leads naturally. He’s got perfect conformation. In 1992 we bought three Lambert fillies from the Hanleys. All were under six months old. We’ll be riding them this summer and then next year we’ll breed them.”
Cathy adds that her half-Lambert foals have turned out to be easy to sell. “My two older mares had fillies by Camden in 1993, and I sold them both at nine months old. People were excited to get them. I couldn’t sell the show lines, but people love to get these older-style foals with lots of type. Camden has a flaxen mane and tail, and he throws it. One filly was his spitting image. We’ll have two more from those mares this year. I think I’ll sell them easily; I’m always getting inquiries now. These horses really are different! They’ve got a wonderful trot and a beautiful, floating canter. One woman called me and said she was having so much trouble finding a Morgan that could canter. My Afton (one of her Lambert fillies) can canter in place!”
Like Cathy Falkenstein, some Lambert breeders are crossing their Lamberts with other Morgan lines, and even with other breeds. To talk with these breeders is to hear the same story again and again: a Lambert stallion generally improves his mares, he often throws a near-replica of himself, and his offspring inherit that wonderful temperament.
Temperament comes up frequently in conversations with Lambert breeders. Bruce Meeks of Florida says, “It sounds so abstract when you talk about the golden temperament, until you see little kids hanging around a stallion in total security.” He adds, “My first Lambert, Quietude Circe, came to me as an untrained six-year-old. After a month of training I could go out in the pasture at midnight and just get on and ride. She practically trained herself.”
Laura goes on to say, “I see a lot of videos, and the Morgans I’m seeing, I’m not happy with their conformation and their movement. A lot of Morgans don’t canter well; the hind legs practically move together. But my Clarion of Quietude has a beautiful canter. I see it in most of the Quietude horses. And the trot, of course. The original descriptions of Justin Morgan describe him as long- and low-moving, but modern Morgans just tend to roll.”
Shannon Hanley says, “What we’re looking for in our Lamberts, is that nice Ethan Allen weathervane trot.” Shannon adds, “With many lines of Morgans, there’s something you’re always trying to breed out, and that’s a problem because then you stress one thing you start having problems with something else. It’s like a parallelogram: if you shift one side, you’re going to affect all the other sides. But there’s nothing we’be got to change in the Lamberts. They’re already correct. High-necked. Good bone. Good legs and feet; we almost never see a splint. And another good thing about this family is the way that quality appears in both sexes, since another problem some families have is that they produce either good mares or good stallions, but not both. But we get both. There is really nothing to fix, so we can just go on breeding and enhance all the qualities they already have.” Lambert breeders are often as enthusiastic about the Hanleys as they are about their horses. Bruce Meeks says, “They’ve got the finest herd of Morgans in existence, but what really sets them apart is the service they provide. They have given me lots of information that just isn’t available anywhere else. I call them often and ask them questions; they don’t sell a horse and just abandon you.”
And Larry Salsman of Nova Scotia, owner of the Criterion son Constant of Quietude, says, “The first time we found the Quietude ad, we called up and talked to Susan for two hours. Going to West Virginia felt just like a homecoming. The horses were wonderful, and the Hanleys were so welcoming. They made us feel so much at home, now we feel we could go back and visit any time.”
And the Hanleys will be waiting. They like nothing better than showing off their Lamberts to Morgan admirers who are coming more and more to think that what may be missing from their horses now is a little bit of old Sherman’s grit and Daniel Lambert’s ageless style.