What is meant by "sport horses"? Many disciplines such as western, hunter, english, and dressage are all associated with the term.
Since it encompasses so many different areas, of what possible consequence is the "sport horse" designation?
You are absolutely correct when you say there are many disciplines (and styles of riding) associated with the term sport horses. The definition of a Morgan sport horse is something that the AMHA has been working on for a while, but to the best of my knowledge, has yet to establish a definition that satisfies everyone. Generally, the term sport horse encompasses the disciplines that are considered to be more 'working' or 'performance' oriented, and where the 'beauty' or particular 'breed' of horse are not the most important criteria, but whether or not (s)he can get the job done. The 'classical' sport horse disciplines consist of dressage, combined training/eventing, and working hunter. It is generally felt in Morgandom, that limiting 'sport horses' to these three disciples is too restrictive for our athletic, versatile horses. Other disciplines that are considered part of the sport horse definition include carriage/combined driving, working western (reining, cutting, and reined cow horse), endurance riding and driving, racing, and competitive trail. I've probably left out a couple, but I think you get the idea. The common thread tying these disciplines together is that the evaluation of horses competing in these areas is relatively more objective than the traditional show ring and that there is feedback (other than just a placing) with regard to each performance. Feedback is in the form of either a score (relative to a 'perfect' performance) or a time, and is usually given to the participants or at least available for them to see.
Despite the length of the sport horse disciplines list, sport horses are in the minority at most all Morgan shows. Most of the classes are for 'show' horses, dominated by the pleasure divisions requiring varying levels of action and animation from the horses shown using various styles of tack, the park division and in-hand divisions. Many of the sport Morgan breeders feel that they are preserving the heritage and the original Morgan traits of durability, athleticism, intelligence, versatility and personality, where as many of the show breeders feel they are preserving the heritage and improving the beauty of the Morgan by breeding for refinement and elegance. This is NOT to say that 'sport horse' breeders do not care about beauty or that 'show horse' breeders do not care about the above list of traits, just that in making breeding decisions, some attributes are more important to 'sport horse' breeders while others are more important to 'show horse' breeders. While our, Mythic Morgans, primary breeding goal is the sport horse athlete, we are also taking our horses into 'show' classes with a good bit of success.