About Us

The Story of Montebello Morgan Farm (from 1971 to 2005)

[Taken from an article in the Morgan Horse Magazine February 2005 written by Ryan Ulrich]


The famous Montebello Morgan Horse Farm, in Nauvoo, Illinois, dates back 37 years. Its 65 acres borders the Mississippi River, and this beautiful Midwestern setting is where M.G. (Madison) and Joan Sterne raised their daughters, Jennifer and Leslie, and son Toby, and made a home for a number of their famous Morgans. The house was built in 1958 and the barn in 1973. I had an enjoyable interview, having the opportunity to talk with M.G., Joan, and Jennifer. They reflected back on the beginning of their journey into breeding, raising, and showing their beloved Morgans and how the entire family was involved. They started at the most basic level with a pony and progressed throughout three decades of studying and buying the best foundation stock.


The story of the Sterne family and the Montebello Morgan Horse Farm began in 1967 when Jennifer at age six asked for a horse. She received a pony in 1967, but inexperience resulted in a trip to the emergency room. While at the hospital, she asked her parents for another horse. Next, she ended up with a Quarter Horse and another bad encounter. Even after all these scary experiences, Jennifer still had a love for horses.

The Sternes took a trip to Niemann’s Pony Farm to purchase two Shetland ponies. While there, they saw a chestnut Morgan in the pasture. Jennifer said, “it was the prettiest horse I had ever seen, but I had also never seen a Morgan before”. The family started researching Morgans and came across Bob Riley, then president of the Hawkeye Morgan Club. In 1971, they went to Mr. Riley’s farm to look at horses and ended up purchasing a Morgan by the name of the Marquis Prancer (Merry Ethan X Blixin), who would be Jennifer’s first show horse. They also purchased a buckskin mare, Q Liberty Belle (Merry Madison X Sioux Woman), who was a full sister to national champion Q Bellum Hawk. The mare was in foal to King Cobra when they bought her and she produced the Sterne’s first foal, Montbelle Absolutely. Mr. Riley later would go to work for the Sternes from 1973 to 1979 as a trainer/manager.

Jennifer’s first show with Prancer was the 1972 Jubilee Regional. She said her “main reason for going to the show was to get her name in the program.” The competition was tough, but she came out with a second in the Walk Trot class and a 5th in a large Jr. Exhibitor English Pleasure Class.

Tragedy hit the Sternes in the fall of 1972 when Jennifer’s sister Leslie, Leslie’s son and husband, and their grandmother were killed in a plane crash. M.G. decided the family needed a passion, which led them to get more involved in the Morgan industry. In the spring of 1973, the Sternes made a trip to the Ulrichs’ Shaker Hill Farm in Lebanon, Ohio, where they purchased Shaker’s Eva. This beautiful mare later would become one of the foundation mares in the Montbelle breeding program. Eva was a cross between Tas-Tee’s Firefly and Holly’s Gay B. She was purchased first as show horse for Jennifer, but when they got her home they found out she was “way too much horse” and Jennifer would have to wait to show her.

In December of that year, they returned to Shaker Hill to look at Eva’s full sister, Shaker’s Deborah. Jennifer described Deborah, as “the most beautiful horse I had ever seen.” Mr. Ulrich said that he would only sell the mare if she was bred to Troutbrook Playboy and he would get the first foal. This would result in the winning English Pleasure horse, Shaker’s Palo, who was foaled in 1975.

The Sternes never thought they would develop a breeding program and really didn’t have any knowledge about breeding, but were fascinated by Tas-Tee’s Firefly, one of Shaker Hill’s top breeding stallions. They wanted to produce more horses like Eva and Deborah.

Jennifer showed Deborah throughout the 1974 show season winning blue ribbons in English Pleasure and Saddle Seat Equitation classes. In the spring of 1975, Deborah was bred back to Troutbrook Playboy and produced Montbelle Minuteman. Also known as “Charlie” he would be a winning English Pleasure stallion for Jennifer, both in Amateur and Open, finishing top 10 at the Grand National in 1979 and 1981. Charlie was one of Jennifer’s favorites, but he was sterile and sired only one foal, Montbelle Graduate (X Q Liberty Belle), in 1983. Deborah was used mostly as a show horse in the late 1970s with Jennifer in the saddle winning English Pleasure classes at Gold Cup, Indiana, and Jubilee. In 1981, Deborah went back to being a mother where she produced 5 more foals. In 1985 she foaled Montbelle Captivator, by Sorento, who went on to win the 1991 World Champion Ladies English Pleasure and Reserve World Champion Ladies Pleasure Driving in 1993. In 1986 Montbelle Skywalker was foaled, cross between Deborah and Waseeka’s Skylark, who went on to win World Reserve Champion in Amateur Pleasure Driving in 1993. This handsome gelding carried Mark and Whitney Bodnar to many wins in the Amateur and Jr. Exhibitor Pleasure driving divisions.

In 1974, Shaker’s Eva was placed in training with Max Brittingham. Max decided to take her to the New York Regional where she won the Jr. Park Saddle Championship and the Reserve Open Park saddle championship. Jennifer began showing Eva in Jr. Exhibitor park saddle classes in the late 1970s. In 1979 Eva was placed in training with Bruce Ekstrom, 6 weeks before the Grand National. Jennifer showed her mare at Oklahoma and won the World Champion Jr. Exhibitor Park Saddle title. Eva also would go on to prove herself as a great producer, the dam of 10 foals from the Montbelle program.

Eva’s first foal would be the farm’s breeding stallion, Montbelle Trophy, who was by Trophy. He was first used as a show horse, winning park saddle classes at Midwest Charity, Jubilee, and UPHA Chapter 5. He also was reserve in the Get of Sire class at the 1984 Grand National, but it was in the breeding shed where Trophy made his mark as the outstanding sire went on to produce many champion offspring. The first was Heart to Heart (X Doves Breeze On), who was the 1984 World Champion Mare as a three-year-old and then went on to play a big role in the KEW breeding program, producing two Waseeka’s Moonshot foals, KEW Majestic Heart, 1992 Reserve World Champion Stallion; and KEW Glory to Glory, 1999 World Champion Amateur English Pleasure horse. The cross between Montbelle Trophy and Doves Breeze On also produced Heart of My Heart, the 1986 Reserve World Junior Champion Mare. This mare went on to produce multi-world champion FCF Coeur de Lion (X Duke of Wynne), who won 2004 in Oklahoma with owner Mindy Duran.

In 1981 Eva produced Evita, who was a cross with Sorento. This mare produced many champions with the FCF prefix. In 1987 Evita produced FCF Tiger Lily, by Waseeka’s Skylark, the 1989 World Champion Futurity 2-year-old mare. In 1988 she produced FCF Esprit de Lark (X Waseeka’s Sylark), who produced many champions including FCF Val D’Isere; FCF Lantana, the 1997 Reserve World champion gelding; FCF Capestranno, the 2000 World Champion Pleasure Driving; FCF Capezio, the 1995 World Champion Jr. Gelding; FCF Dearest Illusion, the dam of Southern Rhythm, a winning English Pleasure mare.

Eva was bred to Waseeka’s Skylark 3 times in the 1980s producing Montbelle Evangeline who produced the 1996 Reserve Grand National yearling colt, Alakazam for Renee Page; Montbelle Eve, a winning pleasure driving horse and Montbelle Sovereign, who sired many nice horses for Cotton Hill Farm. In 1992 she produced Montbelle Endeavour (by Waseeka’s Tiz Tops), a breeding stallion owned by Eugene and Melissa Mathes.

In 1982 the Sternes purchased Overlook Lucinda for their breeding program. Lucinda was a cross between Chasley’s Quill and Devan Mary Lou. This was the best of Devan breeding crossed with Chasley’s Superman and Gayla. Gayla was the dam of TasTee’s Firefly, so Lucinda’s bloodlines fit right into their breeding program. Lucinda produced 5 outstanding foals with Montbelle Trophy, the first being Montbelle Black Rose, who went on to produce the many-time In-Hand winner FCF Lalique (by Waseeka’s Skylark) who has played a big role in Barb Rudicel’s Raintree program, producing Raintree Picasso. Black Rose also produced MXM Infinity (X Tug Hill Commando), who was the 1997 Reserve World Champion Futurity 2-year-old Park Harness. Infinity is the dam of the late Deer Creek Tiffany (X Black Tie Affair), who was 2002 Futurity World Champion 2-year-old mare. In 1985 Lucinda produced Montbelle Rosalie who was the 1989 World Champion Mare. Rosalie was a winning park harness horse in the early 1990s then went on to produce Sheezabell (X HVK Bell Flaire), who was the 2004 World Champion Ladies Park Harness. Lucinda produced Montbelle Primrose in 1988, who would become another world champion producer. A cross between Primrose and FCF Esprit de Lark resulted in FCF Chardonnay, the 1994 Reserve World Champion Futurity 2-year-old Pleasure Driving. Primrose also produced JLH Coming Up Roses (X Issues and Answers), who was the 2003 Grand Champion Pleasure Driving Mare Champion.

Today, the Sternes continue to breed Montbelle horses. Jennifer said, “we breed for horses that are identifiably Morgans with pretty heads and large eyes, long necks with Morgan character that hinge in the right place for great headsets, nice toplines with a level, long croup, a balanced trot with cadence, and loft fore and aft, and a passion for whatever we ask of them. We feel that as long as we breed for the Morgan physical characteristics, the performance characteristics will follow. Everyone wants a long neck and great motion, but we breed to preserve the Morgan look.” Today their broodmare band consists of Montbelle Eve (in foal to Immortal Command), Montbelle La Vie En Rose (a full sister to Rosalie), and Montbelle Evangeline. The Montbelle horses have a wonderful disposition, beautiful heads, and true Morgan type and their pedigrees can be seen in many of today’s champions and will be seen in future champions.

Jag represents the best of the Morgan breed. He is exactly what his breeding foretold. Purposefully bred to carry on type, beauty, disposition, way of going, and presence backed by a strong pedigree. Although there are no guarantees in life or horse breeding, this is as close as it gets. Stud fee to book for 2022 is $1,800. Fresh or frozen semen available.. Visitors please contact us for an appointment.

Our Past Champions

Montbelle Trophy (Trophy X Shaker’s Eva)

Montbelle Minuteman (Troubrook Playboy X Shaker’s Deborah)

Montbelle Trophyanna (Montbelle Trophy X Q LIberty Belle)

Montbelle Diva (Montbelle Trophy X Banbury Kinkajou)

Montbelle Night Sky (Waseeka’s Skylark X Shaker’s Deborah)

Montbelle Skywalker (Waseeka’s Skylark X Shaker’s Deborah)

Montbelle Monterey (Sorento X Shaker’s Eva)

Montbelle Captivator (Sorento X Shaker’s Deborah

Montbelle Sovereign (Waseeka’s Skylark X Shaker’s Eva)

Montbelle Evangeline (Waseeka’s Skylark X Shaker’s Eva)

Montbelle Endeavor (Waseeka’s Tiz Tops X Shaker’s Eva)

Montbelle Eve (Waseeka’s Skylark X Shaker’s Eva)

Montbelle Black Rose (Montbelle Trophy X Overlook Lucinda)

Montbelle Rosalie (Montbelle Trophy X Overlook Lucinda)

Montbelle Primrose (Montbelle Trophy X Overlook Lucinda)

Montbelle La Vie En Rose (Montbelle Trophy X Overlook Lucinda)

Montbelle Lyda Rose (Montbelle Trophy X Overlook Lucinda)

Montbelle Ever In Command (Immortal Command X Montbelle Eve)

Montbelle Foreva (Sorento X Shaker’s Eva)