Morgan Sweitzer, 17, and her mare, Morgan, are winning local equine competitions. Jeremy Brown/The Portager
For the past two years, Morgan Sweitzer, 17, of Mogadore, has been attending equestrian competitions in Northeast Ohio with a young Arabian mare that was rescued from a slaughter truck in 2019.
And they’re winning.
The mare has been in Sweitzer’s care for three years, but their journey began in 2019 at Focus Rescue and Rehabilitation in Mogadore, a nonprofit dedicated to helping neglected and slaughter-bound horses find homes. Sweitzer volunteered and took riding lessons there with founder Rebecca Scalise.
“When Morgan the horse came here, she had completed her quarantine,” Scalise said. “Morgan the child had just started riding with me and taking lessons and volunteering.”
The mare was required to go into quarantine after being on the slaughter truck, so Scalise could be sure the horse wouldn’t spread illness to other horses at Focus Rescue and Rehabilitation.
When it came time to name the horse, Sweitzer gave the mare her first name.
“She kinda took Morgan the horse on as a project, and one day I had told her that we still need to come up with a name, and she said, ‘Well, I think Morgan is a good name?’ And so, from that day on, it was Morgan. So, Morgan and Morgan.”
At that time, Sweitzer was under the impression that the mare would be adopted by someone else.
“I just wanted her to have a piece of me wherever she went,” Sweitzer said regarding her giving the mare her name, “wherever she ended up, just because I loved her.”
It wasn’t until Scalise contacted Sweitzer’s parents that the mare was finally adopted.
“She [Sweitzer] would come over any time I had any potential adopters to look at her,” Scalise said. “She would come and show the horse to the potential adopters, but she would be a little bit angry, you know. She didn’t want to see her leave.
“So, then, I talked to her mom and offered her to them. We kept it a secret for a few months, and signed her over to Morgan and gave her to her for her birthday.”
After being given the mare, the two began to train for competitions and eventually entered local equine contests.
“The first time I took her to the contesting show, I was nervous,” Sweitzer said. “She was nervous, too. She was pretty spookish, scared, like if the dirt was different colors in different areas, because, just of the depth of it, that would spook her. It was a good experience, and she knew what she was doing; she was just very new.”
Sweitzer has been around horses since she was 6 years old and had entered contests with other horses, but she had higher hopes for her new mare.
Sweitzer realized early on that her mare was a quick learner. It wasn’t long before Morgan the mare became accustomed to the tasks asked of her.
“There’s always been just something about her,” Sweitzer said. “Even if I’m just trotting around in a circle and I stop and I pick it up at the same place, she’ll automatically start doing that all on her own without me having to ask. She picks up on things, and notices things, and learns things really quickly.”
Because the mare was a quick study, Sweitzer was able to employ a soft training technique for Morgan.
“She’s very sensitive,” Sweitzer said. “I use the mildest techniques of everything. I don’t put a bit in her mouth. I run her in a hackamore; it goes over her nose. I don’t ride her in spurs. She doesn’t need them.”
In 2022, Sweitzer began taking Morgan the mare to Friday night shows, to get her ready for the Randolph Fair later that year. At the time, Sweitzer was still in novice class.
“My first year of fair she did so well, she blew it away,” Sweitzer said. “She did very well, placing high consistently. And we got High Point and we moved on to intermediate [class].”
High Point is the designation for the overall winner of a level, judged by a rider’s cumulative score in every category.
“Then, this year, you know, riding every day over the summer, and just adding more speeds slowly, she managed to place High Point again,” Sweitzer said. “It was very close between her and another Arab, but she managed to come out on top.”
Now that Sweitzer has won High Point at intermediate level, she’ll have to move up to the highest level at fair: advanced level. If she does well at that level, she’ll be eligible to participate in contest-classic, which is a contest that determines the best of the best.
“If I win that, it’s a super huge accomplishment,” Sweitzer said. “I could win, like shirts, like a gift card for Big Dee’s, I’m not really sure what else, but it’s pretty big.”
For now, Sweitzer continues to train Morgan the mare and is planning to enroll in Hocking College’s Farrier Sciences and Business program upon graduating high school.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Sweitzer.