Justin Morgan Had a Horse

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Justin Morgan Had a Horse Movie Poster Image
Engaging Disney tale about birth of a horse breed.
  • G
  • 1972
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive Messages

People and horses with inner strength are likely to go far.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Justin never gives up his certainty that his horse is a special animal worth nurturing. Justin believes in doing things well for the sake of doing them well. Fisk believes in doing what makes money.

Violence & Scariness

As Justin goes further into debt, a mean local businessman takes advantage of him. Sly operators manage to get the better of a businessmen by planting misleading language in a contract. 

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Justin Morgan Had a Horse is a 1972 Disney movie about the history of the Morgan horse, one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. As told here, the tale has racing, hauling, training, a love interest, a villain, and a message reminding us that failure is just a stop along the road to success. There's no language or sexual content, making this solid fare for kids, especially those who love horses.  

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What's the story?

In JUSTIN MORGAN HAD A HORSE, Justin (Don Murray) is an underpaid schoolteacher in Vermont in 1789. His passion is horses and some day he hopes to train and breed them, but now he copes with debt so crushing he can't even marry Kathleen (Lana Wood), the indentured cook for the wealthy Squire Fisk (R.G. Armstrong). Justin inherits a seemingly worthless colt he names Figure, and while everyone mocks the horse's diminutive size, Justin believes Figure is special and begins a training regimen to bring out his strengths. Soon the horse earns a reputation as one of the strongest and fastest in the area, beating Fisk's champion trotter and also his race horse. Mean-spirited and jealous, Fisk takes possession of Figure and accepts a challenge to race against thoroughbreds from New York. When he realizes he can't beat the New Yorkers without Justin's help, they collaborate, leading to an exciting race, a partnership, and a new and versatile horse breed.  

Is it any good?

With almost no violence and lots of life lessons wrapped in a story about a plucky and talented horse, this makes an attractive package for young kids who love animals. Here, both Figure and his owner are underdogs as Justin struggles with debt and self doubt and the horse labors under low expectations of those who judge him by his small size rather than the big heart that beats within. At very least, Justin Morgan Had a Horse cautions us not to judge anyone or thing by its appearance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to have a goal. How was Justin able to achieve his goals in Justin Morgan Had a Horse?

  • How did Justin's goodness and generosity help turn his enemy into his friend? Have you ever ended up friends with someone you didn’t like at first?

  • What qualities that Justin touted about his horse did Justin have himself?

  • How does this compare to other horse movies you've seen?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horses

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