These small but strong horses are highly popular among both adults and children. Though the Haflinger horse may not measure up size-wise to other breeds, they are extremely powerful. They are solid and compact and have many talents, such as dressage, trail riding, jumping, and more.
Haflingers are usually great with people, and children tend to adore them due to their petite size. The name Haflinger comes from the name of a breed developed in Northern Italy and Austria.
As a result of the first World War, the Haflinger breed was in danger of being lost forever. A large amount of them were confiscated as part of the collective war effort. They were used as supply and war horses.
Their tough physical structure gave them an advantage during battle. Breeding standards and solid bloodlines became an afterthought, which threatened the breed into extinction.
However, by the end of the war, three stallions were required to save the breed. Named after the first initials of their names, the breeders called them A-line, M-line, and B-line.
Today, all Haflingers can be linked to post-war horses, used as studs.
This horse breed had been traced back to the Medieval Era. The Tyrolean Mountains, which run between Italy and what is Austria today, is where the breed originated.
During the Middle Ages, horses carried their riders and gear down steep and narrow trails through the mountains. This was a risky task, but these strong and surefooted mountain horses were up to the challenge.
The current anatomy of the Haflinger is a result of a mix of strong Arabian bloodlines as well as other European horse breeds, becoming the native Tyrolean ponies.
The Haflinger breed was created in 1874 with the birth of a stallion called 249 Follie. Known as the Foundation Sire, Follie was bred from a Tyrolean mare and an Arabian stallion. All Haflinger stallions and mares can be traced back to him.
The horses bred from 249 Follie were sturdy working horses, adept at pulling carts of goods through the Tyrolean mountains. The breed was also equipped with strong lungs as they needed to adapt to the mountain air. This trait remains a breed standard today.
Both World Wars and the Great Depression had an unfavorable effect on the Hafling breed, as animals of lower quality were used in an attempt to save the breed from going extinct.
Breeders concentrated on horses that were stout and draft-like during the Second World War, as they were used as packhorses by the military. The after-war importance shifted to horses of increased height and rectification.
After World War I, a treaty brought South Tyrol to relinquish power to Italy, but North Tyrol was still Austrian. This was very damaging to the breed because while the mares were located in South Tyrol, supreme stallions were still in the North.
Because there was little effort between breeders of the north and south, a new Horse Commission was founded. Established in Italy in the 1920s, this Commission authorized the Noriker horse of Austria to be bred with the Italian Haflinger.
Because there was no fair amount of breeding studs in Italy, a Sardinian Arabian Stallion was used in the Haflinger breeding program. The post-war era saw the Haflinger mixed with other breeds, and people feared it heading for extinction.
The breeding programs were near collapsing because the military ceased to buy more horses. Also, government-run centers for breeding were closed. Though breeders still understood the importance of the stock needed to carry military goods, they overlooked other vital characteristics of the Haflinger.
The Post World War breeding centers in Tyrol were now under the control of the United States Armed Forces, which had to use the horses for meat for hospital patients. But the Amerian’s allowed the director of breeding to chose thirty studs to be pardoned for the purpose of breeding.
Colts, ages one year to three years, were requisitioned by breeding centers for the military in other areas of Tryol. They were thankfully treated as potential stallions. In the after-war years, people still felt the breed might be slowly dying away because of cross-breeding.
But in 1946, breeders turned their attention to producing a purebred Haflinger, and a breed registry was created. Other countries began showing interest in the breed starting in 1950, even though the European population was decreasing.
Haflingers were brought to America in 1958, and the breed quickly became popular among both drivers and riders. They were then purchased by Turkey and The Netherlands in 1961.
The first Haflinger was brought to the United Kingdom in 1963, and in 1969, on her first trip to Austria as Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was presented with two beautiful mares.
Haflingers were then brought to France, where the population tripled over the next few decades. The breed continued to be brought to other European countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium.
In 1977, they were brought to Canada, where a registry was formed with the Canadian government. Haflingers have even been imported to Japan and have remained populous on every continent since the 1970s.
A properly bred Haflinger horse will result in an animal with a good temperament, confident character, and a willingness to please its master. They will also adjust easily to any type of work as they live to perform.
Haflingers are energetic little horses, who love a lot of exercise, while not requiring a large amount of space.
Because of their intelligence, they thrive from the benefit of toys to entertain them. They can get bored easily and would be unhappy if kept in their stalls for long periods of time.
Known for its strength and solid built, the Haflinger has many advantages. A full-grown Haflinger can easily carry an adult through a dressage event but is also small enough to carry a child on a pleasant trail ride.
And children do love them because they are pint-sized, people oriented and relaxed. They truly make wonderful family horses, in part to their laid-back attitude and their willingness to do different jobs.
Though they tend to be friendly towards people, Haflingers have been known to develop a bit of a stubborn streak that can test even the most seasoned rider.
If a horse is not professionally trained and consistently handled, it can develop some unwanted habits. If their sense of strength goes to their heads, they can be a bit intimidating to a beginner.
Haflingers are known as easy keepers, which means they gain weight easily, even under conditions where other breeds may lose weight if not given additional feed. This makes them a pleasure to own as it takes less food to keep them in good condition.
Keeping a Haflinger healthy means having a well selected and controlled food intake. While most of these horses need grain to survive, that will entirely depend on their workload. If a Haflinger’s workload is heavy and requires grain, choosing a low sugar and low starch feed is your best option.
They also don’t eat a lot of hay, so feeding through a slow feeder will help to stretch their portions. Haflingers love grass and will willingly overeat because of the rich sugars in the blades. Sometimes this requires a grazing muzzle if they are put out to pasture or if your horse suffers from any metabolic issues.
As with any horse, their diet should be measured according to age, sex, and whether they are pregnant or nursing.
Breeding And Uses
Haflingers are incredibly versatile and have many uses, from draft and harness work, dressage, Western show horse, equestrian vaulting to therapeutic riding. The Haflinger’s sweet temperament and loving personality make them ideal for working with children.
German and Austrian armies still use them for work in harsh terrain. Today, they are still well suited to pulling, carrying, riding, and driving.
The Austrian government still protects the breed’s integrity, as they own all stallions used for breeding. Mares and geldings may be privately owned, but breeding stallions are strictly authorized.
They do offer stud services through an authorized government representative. The government sticks to the focus of breeding horses that can both be ridden or worked, which is proudly reflected in the breed.
The first Haflinger to be cloned was done so in 2003, resulting in a girl named Prometea. Italian scientists welcomed her into the world on May 28th.
Prometea was cloned from a mare skin cell and was born a perfectly healthy little girl. In 2008, Prometa became a proud mother herself to a colt name Pegaso.
These petite horses are relatively small, but they are certainly not to be called ponies. They are very much so horses.
They can average between 12 to 14 hands in height on average and weigh between 800 and 1300 pounds. But these compact horses are strong and sturdy.
Haflingers have a distinctive gait that is described as smooth and energetic along with elegant. Though some adults may look only pony-sized, these well-muscled horses are perfectly capable of carrying a full-sized adult.
What Colors Are They?
Haflingers only come in one color! But their beautiful chestnut hue can range in shades. You may see them in a pale or darker chestnut, but they will always have a pale, whitish male and tale.
Their head markings are attractive, but the fewer markings a Haflinger has, the more desirable it is considered. Leg markings are also discouraged over the knee area.
What Do They Look Like?
The Haflinger horse has a detailed standard for appearance. These majestic horses are elegantly balanced with a lean head and large, expressive eyes in a warm shade of brown.
The neck is well-formed, and the midsection is generous. The Haflinger’s croup is well divided and not overly short. He also has well-defined limbs and strong joints.
The mares should always display more feminine features, while the breeding stallion should present with rigid masculinity. Both sexes are absolutely stunning to look at!
Where Do They Live?
With population numbers steadily increasing worldwide, there are thought to be well over 250,000 Haflingers throughout. Though breeding stock still comes from Austria, breeding farms remain in several countries.
Breed farms are located in the United States, Canada, Germany, and England. In 2007, the Haflinger had the largest population of any breed in Italy. In the provinces of Brittany and Burgundy, over 400 Haflinger foals a year are born.
How Long Do They Live?
Because of their small size, the Haflinger has a longer lifespan than many other breeds. Mares are even known to produce healthy fouls past their twenties.
This breed is one of the healthiest, most sturdy breeds of all equines. They can easily survive on small amounts of food, and their heart and lungs remain strong from adapting to the thin mountain air.
As long as a Haflinger remains active and healthy, they can live up to forty years. Though the breed is fairly healthy, they don’t come without some health issues.
This is a painful condition of the hooves that can result in coffin bone rotation and sinking, causing separation from the hoof wall. This condition is often the result of the horse eating too much grass or grain.
Equine Metabolic Syndrome
This metabolic syndrome can result in an obese horse who developed insulin resistance. This puts them at a higher risk for developing laminitis, so the two go hand and hand. Horses with this condition need to be closely monitored in diet to keep them healthy.
The Haflinger is a beautiful horse developed to work in the mountains of their native land, doing agricultural work.
Today they are not only used for the same reason, but they have developed a reputation as a well-rounded animal who serves many purposes.
In January of 2012, the Breyer Horses model horse manufacturer created a model horse of a Haflinger. From serving British Royalty to pleasure riding, and being a child’s best friend, the Haflinger is by far one of the loveliest breeds of horses.