SETTING THE STANDARD
In the world of Morgan Horses, the name Kennebec Count is synonymous with carriage driving. He stormed upon the scene in the early 80s and changed the discipline forever.
Born in 1970, Kennebec Count was a golden chestnut with a blond mane and tail, bred and raised by Margaret Gardiner of Woolwich, ME. Like his ancestor Justin Morgan, Count learned how to haul logs at an early age. “We used him to remove driftwood from the beach,” says Margaret, “and to haul firewood. A horse that you use for hauling has to have brains, not brute strength.” Soon, Count would put that intellect to work in the burgeoning discipline of carriage driving.
In the early seventies, Margaret hired a young trainer, Larry Poulin. Larry’s first experiences with Count were on the trail. “We entered a 25 mile competitive trail ride. One day, when we were out conditioning, I felt this funny thing beneath me as I was trotting down the trail. I looked down and Count was extending. It was a great feeling!”
When the season for competitive trail ended, Larry tried his hand at driving. “Once we started driving, Count and I really connected. He was very attentive and at the same time a lot of horse. He liked to work and he had a big heart.”
In the late 70s, Larry and Count entered their first driving events. “People couldn’t believe what he could do,” says Larry, “but I was new and made a lot of stupid mistakes. Once I caught on though, we did really well.” Their first major win was in 1980 at the Myopia Carriage Show and from then on, they were unstoppable.
In 1983, Margaret and Larry made the decision to compete in Combined Driving events in the pairs division with Count and his look-alike son, Kennebec Russel. The pair dominated the CDE scene in the 80s, a feat that is particularly impressive given the fact that both Count and his son were stallions. In 1985 they were the first Morgans to claim the title of U.S National Pairs Champions. The same year they were selected for the United States Equestrian Team and traveled to England to compete at the World Combined Driving Competition. “It was wonderful!” exclaims Larry. “Everybody knew the Morgans were there and they wanted to see them. I remember I was in a warm-up just before my go in dressage and Prince Philip came down and asked, ‘are these the Morgans?’ I said, ‘yes, sir, these are the Morgans.’” They had a fantastic go and won the dressage and placed 8th overall out of 45 pairs!
The following year, Count and Russel were once again named the U.S. National Pairs Champions. In 1987, they returned to the World Combined Driving Competition where they won the cones and were second in dressage. Finally, in 1988, when Count was 18, he and his son won their third U.S. title “…and I retired him right there,” proudly states Larry.
When asked what made Count so special, Larry responded, “Even though he stood 15.2 hand, he trotted like a 16.2 hand horse. He was so fluid in his trot, so elegant and he had a wonderful extension. He really set the example and they’re still talking about him. Whenever I go over to Europe and introduce myself, they always mention Count. They couldn’t believe the quality of the work he could do.”
During Count’s later life, he was used at stud and competed in low-level dressage with Margaret who last rode him competitively when she was 78. In May of 2004, the golden chestnut Morgan passed away and is remembered today for his amazing feats and loving personality.