Hard work keeps traditions alive for a new generation

Margot Smithson – Operations Coordinator, Morgan Horse Farm – Weybridge, Vermont

Feature | 24 November 2021
Margot Smithson’s management skills and her love of horses helped her land her job as the Operations Coordinator at the historic Morgan Horse Farm. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
Heading north from the college town of Middlebury, and crossing Otter Creek over the 200-year-old Pulp Mill Covered Bridge, you arrive in the bucolic town of Weybridge, Vermont. Set against the backdrop of pristine emerald grass beneath a brilliant blue sky sits the stately Morgan Horse Farm.

“Every time I drive up the driveway, it's just a breathtakingly beautiful place,” says Margot Smithson, the operations coordinator at the University of Vermont’s Morgan Horse Farm.

Although she has worked in her current role for about seven years now, Margot’s relationship with the Morgan Horse Farm began way before.

“I went to the local Middlebury Union High School and they had a volunteer class, so I signed up and one of the places you could come volunteer with was the Morgan Horse Farm,” Margot says of her first job at the horse farm. “I started working out here in the summers between school and then came back after and continued on through college,” she fondly reminisces.

Morgan horses are known for their versatility and their role in American history. The horses are known to be one of the earliest breeds in the US and all the horses on the farm can be traced back to single horse in the 18th Century. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
While in college Margot studied Fine Arts and Biology and initially thought that she would end up working as a biologist. “I started school and thought that I would be a biologist. I really wanted to do wildlife documentaries and biology, and then the longer I was in school and realized how much more school, I’d have to do to be a proper biologist, I thought I might take my hand out of that,” she says laughing light heartedly.

She ended up taking on more of the Fine Arts side of her training working in photography, and then later in the non-profit space before her return to the horse farm to work in her current capacity.

“I'm a really good coordinator, and I'm really good at juggling many things at the same time. That's sort of my gift that kind of brought me to where I am,” says Margot confidently. “I'm an office person,” she says noting that she could not “train horses” or be an equine specialist. “If an office type of job ever opened up” she would go for it, so when the opportunity came about, she was sure to grab it. A great way for her to combine her love of horses with her skills set.

The history of the Morgan horse, Vermont’s state animal, can be traced back to one stallion named Figure. “Figure was born in 1789, the same year that the U.S. Constitution was ratified, so almost as old as the country,” Margot says while pointing out to the beautiful bronze statue that stands tall on the farm grounds.

In 1792 a Vermont music teacher named Justin Morgan, whose name was given to the breed, accepted payment for a debt in the form two horses which was a very common practice at that time. One of the horses was a stallion and the other was a colt called Figure who is responsible for the line in the Morgan Horse Farm today. “Every single Morgan,” Margot affirms comes from the legendary Figure.

The Morgan horses have made valuable contributions throughout history, having gone on to the cavalry and “fought on both sides of the Civil War and were coveted as the little war horses,” and “had a tremendous impact with the building of this nation. They brought settlers out west,” Margot says. “And Morgan’s are great because they’re a very utilitarian horse. You could ride with them or have them to plough your fields. They’re easy-keepers.”

The team at the Morgan Horse Farm works very hard tending to all the horses, the grounds and making sure that the Morgan Horse Farm continues to be a part of the National Historic Registry. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
Now in its 143rd consecutive year of breeding horses, the Morgan Horse Farm’s focus is “to continue to breed beautiful quality Morgans,” to promote agricultural and equine education via their partnership with the University of Vermont, and to promote tourism. “We are a tourist destination and bring people from all over the world. I think last year we had visitors from 26 countries,” Smithson shares.

When asked how she feels about her job, “I love it!” she cheerfully exclaims. “I love working here because I work really hard: we all work really hard, “she says crediting the staff and volunteers that keep the farm going. “It's just great to be able to do a job that you feel good about doing and working in this beautiful place,” Margot says.

And this sentiment is her hope for her young daughter in the future. “I would love her to do something that makes her happy, something that she likes going to work every day for and working as hard as it takes sometimes. It really makes it much easier when it's something that you love.”