Horse Previews Magazine website - Posted on 04/07/2001; 2:00:00PM.

The Haflinger Horse

The Golden Horse of Austria

There is something unique about the appearance of the Haflinger Horse. Standing between 13 and 15 hands high, it is tempting to call this horse a "pony". But given the Haflinger's heritage of being a tough, strong, hardworking soul in the Tyrolian Mountains of Austria, this horse is built for power and hardiness. In its native Austria, the Haflinger is sometimes referred to as a "prince in the front, a peasant behind," due to the size of its muscular hindquarters. The Haflinger has a well-shaped head, sometimes reflecting its remote Arabian ancestor, with a small, almost delicate muzzle, wide dark eyes, a friendly and intelligent expression, set on an elegant neck. His striking chestnut coat can be blonde, or as dark as chocolate brown, and the blonde mane and tail is ideally snow white, quite heavy with the mane often falling double on the neck naturally.

The Haflinger descends from a race of mountain ponies that have grazed the Alps for centuries. These ponies, tough and strong, were used as all-around helpers of the Austrian farmer. Subsisting on sparse rations in the winter, the Haflinger's ancestors were selectively bred for temperament, hardiness and longevity. Mountain farmers used them for plowing and transportation, packing up steep trails, pulling logs from the forests. Only those horses who could be handled by all members of the family were kept and bred- thus the docile and friendly nature of the modern Haflingers. With the introduction of a small amount of Arabian blood in 1874, a foundation Haflinger sire "FOLIE" was born, and is found in the pedigrees of all purebred Haflingers.

Although the world around him was changing, the Haflinger continued to work on the farm and provide transportation to his family as he had for centuries. The mountainsides were not well adapted to mechanized farming, and the princely faced Haflinger continued to plow and till the soil long after the advent of the industrial revolution. This willingness to work, strength, thriftiness, and surefootedness made him a desired military pack horse during World War II, traveling the coldest and most difficult fronts of the war.

After the World War, the breeding was taken over by the Austrian government, and has become one of the most strictly selective and examined of warmblood breeds in Europe. The first Haflingers were imported to the United States in the 1960's, with one herd arriving in the state of Washington (purchased by the company Heisdorf and Nelson) and the other herd joining the famous Lippizans at Tempel Farms in Illinois. There are now over 12,000 Haflingers in North America, with most imports having arrived within the last ten years from Europe. Breeders who have turned to Haflingers remark not just on their undeniable appeal and people-oriented personalities, but also on their intelligence, boldness, and resilience. They learn quickly and are sensible, attributes that has earned them a place in the world of therapeutic riding, as well as on trails, in the dressage ring, jumping and combined driving.

Haflingers are found in two types. The heavier, draft type of Haflinger might be seen skidding logs, plowing an Amish farm in the midwest, or competing at the local draft competition at the county fair. The pleasure-type Haflinger is a superb driving horse, jumper, and due to a long flowing, animated stride, a serious dressage mount. Cheerful and willing to work, the Haflinger is a horse for everyone, easily able to carry a large adult, and gentle enough for the most timid beginning child rider. Perhaps, most of all, the Haflinger is a friend and companion. Over the centuries of living so closely with his human family, the Haflinger developed a temperament that is not simply unflappable, but actively outgoing and engaging. It is said that "Haflingers can do anything, with a smile!"

People who switch from other breeds to Haflingers are often amazed by their new horses' intelligence, quickness to learn, and utter desire to please. These new owners are only just learning what Austrian Haflinger owners have known for centuries, when it comes to versatility, ability, and looks, it's hard to beat the blonde horses of the Alps.

The Western Haflinger Association was founded in 1993 by a handful of west coast Haflinger owners to promote the Haflinger and provide information to anyone interested in the breed. There are now over 150 owners from San Diego to Alaska. You are specially invited to come enjoy this "fairy tale" horse in person.

The Annual Western Haflinger Association Horse Show and Sale will be happening September 7-9, 2001 at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden , WA, and over 80 Haflingers and their families from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California will be in attendance. The public is invited with free admission on Saturday afternoon from 1-6pm, to come enjoy these versatile horses performing in dressage and jumping demonstrations, draft and light harness driving, vaulting and western riding. Following the versatility demonstrations at the Fairgrounds indoor arena will be the breeding stallion parade and presentation of Haflingers for sale. The public is welcome to stay in the barns to meet the owners and their horses following the show. Refreshments will be served, and free literature will be available about the breed. Last year's event drew over 500 spectators!

For more information, contact the Western Haflinger Association, 1613 Central Road, Everson, WA 98247. Phone (360) 354-5582, Fax 354-8102. e-mail: WesternHaflinger@aol.com or see the website at http://www.westernhaflinger.com

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