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Haflingers - wanting to understand more

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    I'm working with a Haflinger right now and I love it -- but I'm a pony person. He is incredibly smart and has a strong sense of "fair", as mentioned previously. He definitely has a spook, though adding magnesium to his diet has dialed that down. The biggest revelation has been that he's actually sensitive and easily overwhelmed by the aids. He's stoic and goes to that drafty "push into pressure" place when he's mentally getting over threshold. If I slow down my aids, ask for less and ask less often, I get a much happier, more responsive pony. And he's fancy!


      I have one and she's absolutely the best! We actually got her from the SPCA when they asked us to foster her after she had been seized from a hoarder. Eleven years later and she has been a blessing!

      I think like other breeds, and even some dogs, they aren't necessarily I meant for everyone. Yes, she is opinionated but is also one of the sweetest horses you will ever meet. We affectionately call her the cinder block with fur and she's a little tank. I don't find her to be spooky at all and goes out on the trails willingly. Like every horse, she does have her likes and dislikes but she is sound, dependable and a sweetheart.
      "Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons"


        Cute, but not a fan. My experience has been that they're pushy and naughty.

        Of course I'm a bit biased, because my mare had a bad run-in with one a few years back, and she absolutely can't stand them now. We were at one end of a very large arena having a lesson. Someone brought in a Haffie, a young gelding who was quite mischievous. That person wasn't paying attention for a second, and he got away and took off bucking and jumping all the way down to us, *crashed* into my mare, who went airborne, and took off again. Went all the way back to the other end, saw people trying to catch him, and came tearing back, and crashed into my mare again!

        It took me about 30 minutes to get my mare somewhat steady again. The trainer complimented me for sticking not one, but two violent spooks when we got crashed into, and told me he wished she'd just double-barreled that little sucker.

        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


          Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
          Spooky no - opinionated, headstrong, and likely to try to bully their way out of something they don't want to do - yes.
          This is my opinion too. I have one. Smart and certainly is a red pony.

          Certainly there are days that her brain makes my life less easy. But generally speaking she is worth her weight in gold. If I want to try something new and different she is willing to give it a try.


            Never having seen a Haflinger, one came to us to retrain.
            I really liked him, 14.2, such a pretty, leggy, stocky, sensible and sweet acting gelding on the ground.
            I was assigned to it as the smallest rider.
            No one warned me they were a little "special".
            I happily got on and we went out on a little short trail ride.

            I have never been run off with any horse, not even the toughest to exercise race horses.
            Then, that Haflinger was the first time a horse almost ran off with me.
            Even more embarrassing, at a not very fast trot!

            Our small group started trotting and Haffie decided to keep on trotting.
            It surprised me that I didn't seem to have any control, he was not listening to any aids.
            We went past the horses in front and he was aiming for a tree to scrape me off!
            Thwarted before he got quite to it, he aimed next to a wall, then the fence around the house.

            It took a bit to figure how to guide him, while laughing so hard I almost fell off.
            Everyone else also was standing there watching and laughing.

            After that shaky start, we got along fabulously.
            I learned an important lessons, do not fall for pretty so easily, wait until you ride one first.


              What B&B said is exactly my experience. Find the job they like and they will love it and give beyond what one might expect. But they can be very strong-minded and if the opportunity arises to be in charge they will take it.

              Ours was a saint in harness but did not like to be ridden, and to his credit, wasn't really well broke to ride. He was super athletic for his frame but his walk and canter were poor. A friend has one who boards with her and she will test every time she thinks she can - but once you let her know you mean it she shapes up, but only for you. She'll test the next person. They have a funny way of reacting to a reprimand - they sort of just stand there and you don't quite know if it sunk in, but it has and you won't see the behavior again.

              They aren't just easy cute kids ponies.


                The world's first cloned horse was a haflinger!


                  Thank you for enabling me. I am buying a baby haffie this week. I like attitude and need a change from TBs. Plus I'll be traveling again for work for at least the next two years so training and being a horse can happen at leisure. This thread was very interesting and now I'll find out first hand.


                    Haflinger owner here. Haflingers are indeed adorable, the older style Haflinger is certainly chunky (which is my guy), and the hair needs periodic cultivation to keep it under control. My Haflinger attracts little squeeing girls who see a living My Little Pony in front of them.

                    However, he is less spooky than other breeds of horses I have owned and ridden, and is actually very brave and forward on the trail, which is his what we do. He has gone forward in situations when some of the big horses have quit. He plows through the woods if we have to bushwhack, he crosses bridges of all types: covered, cement culverts, wooden. He crosses water without hesitating. Walks past dogs, ATVs, tractors, and motorcycles. And he can go out for hours and still come back with plenty of energy. He is one of the most reliable horses I have ever met and deemed a “good citizen” by his very experienced trainer. He does have moments of stubbornness, bad attitude, flightiness, crankiness, brattyness, etc etc. But so do I, and most horses and people I know. I can count on one hand the times he has done anything really naughty. He has bolted twice with me (my fault for not paying attention). And he has taught himself to take his halter off, so he needs watching.

                    This is not the first time I have heard of someone wondering why Haflingers are perceived to be spooky, unreliable, and pig headed. I am no expert, but I wonder if it because they are seen as children’s pets and prospects. People see the adorability, and immediately buy one for their inexperienced children thinking that the adorability translates to good manners and tractability. This situation rarely works out. The child loses interest and the horse is neglected. It is the Pony Fallacy, if you will, and is not just about cute ponies. All experienced horse people have seen horses and ponies ruined by bad training and lack thereof. It does not matter what breed it may be, and it is always sad, and sometimes dangerous, to see.

                    I can only speak for my Haflinger. He is sweet and has a kind eye. I have never seen him attempt to bite, kick, or charge another animal or human. My ageing city-bred husband can handle him easily. He was an inexpensive Craigslist find and I have never regretted it.


                      I wish there was a haffie expert on the forum that could weigh in on whether there's any truth to the idea that the different lines (A, B, M, N, S, ST and W) have distinct personalities. Actually, I'm going to email a few breeders. I'll report back.


                        Could be anecdotal, but I can share my experience with a halfinger as a teenager.

                        The mare had zero spook to her. Was not afraid of anything. Hack out up hills, through water, alone or with a group. She definitely enjoyed that more than ring work.

                        In the ring she was a complete cow. Had the dirtiest stop I’ve ever experienced - a stop, duck, and spin on a dime. I fell off that pony so many times I lost count. Near the end, before I outgrew her, she could canter around a nice 2’3” course and get most of her changes. She never truly outgrew the stop though, I just became better at preventing it. In the end she was sold to someone who just wanted to hack her out, and now she’s living the best pony life as a pasture pet.

                        They sure are super cute ponies though... and if I had more money than brains I’d love to own her again.


                          Originally posted by Ceffyl_Dwr View Post
                          I wish there was a haffie expert on the forum that could weigh in on whether there's any truth to the idea that the different lines (A, B, M, N, S, ST and W) have distinct personalities. Actually, I'm going to email a few breeders. I'll report back.
                          The American Haflinger Registry responded that there's no way to characterize an entire line of Haflingers as being one personality type or another. I thought this was interesting: they said that in fact a horse can pick up many of their traits from their dam because they mimic early in life before weaning.


                            Originally posted by Ceffyl_Dwr View Post

                            The American Haflinger Registry responded that there's no way to characterize an entire line of Haflingers as being one personality type or another. I thought this was interesting: they said that in fact a horse can pick up many of their traits from their dam because they mimic early in life before weaning.
                            Makes sense to me.

                            Though I've noticed IME that some foals are the polar opposite of their dams. Most of the foals of our boss mare weren't A types, and most of the foals from the least dominant mare were stronger natured. I learned a long time ago not to make generalizations. 😉
                            ~~Some days are a total waste of makeup.~~


                              I met the BO 21 years ago when she was leasing the barn at a kid's camp across the road from my condo. I showed up to volunteer. My prior experience was getting my Girl Scout Horsewoman badge in 1959. Every time we asked dad if we could get a pony he said "Absolutely, have you saved up enough money yet?" So I was starting from scratch. Some terrific horses there, including a Haflinger. She had purchased three, one of which went to an elderly friend and came back to the farm a few years later.

                              The one she kept certainly taught me a lot. Like the midwinter day when he blasted through an electric fence into the brush with 2+ feet of snow. I got him back in the field, fixed the fence and told the BO. Guess what happened a half hour later? It wasn't an identical repeat because he was in a different spot with untrampled snow. At least I had some applicable experience. Told the BO. You'll never guess what happened about a half hour later. This time when I told the BO I said I was done for the day and she could do the next one. Which she did, about a half hour later.

                              She lived about 20-25 minutes away on her new farm which we moved to later that year. The phone rang one night at about 2:30 a.m. OMG a parent died. No, the police called her because there were a couple of horses loose. She called me and she would come if I needed help. I got them back. It happened a few more times. One night the police called me directly before they called her. There was one horse loose. I could hear him galloping around, but the cop with the flashlight couldn't spot him. Until he was galloping down the slope between 2 pastures headed toward the barn. It was the Haffie. I remember clearly to this day how the cop finally located him when the flashlight picked up his eyes. I don't remember how I caught him, but I did. His days were numbered when he rubbed the BO off on a tree. He couldn't make the grade as a lesson/therapy horse so he was sold. The other one was a challenge also, partly because most people couldn't catch him in a field. He had plaques in his ears at some point and haltering him was dicey. If you approached his shoulder you could catch him. If you haltered him quickly he was okay. When the owner died the kids took the horse, everything horse related, and the appliances in the kitchen and disappeared.

                              It's sad to see the Haflinger being bred much lighter, similar to what happened with the Morgan horse. We went to a Scoot competition at the county fair. It is an obstacle course for pulling horses. A 17-year-old with a lovely pair of Haffies beat the pants off everyone. He's in high school and they are all doomed if he sticks with it.. I can't imagine a lightweight pair of Haffies pulling. Sort of an oxymoron.
                              "With hardly any other living being can a human connect as closely over so many years as a rider can with her horse." Isabell Werth, Four Legs Move My Soul. 2019


                                Haflingers, like most any horse of a particular type or breed, cover the gamut. That said, people who have had experience with any number of them can generalize. Which I'll do:

                                In the US today, the American Haflinger Registry is the governing organization for the breed, and AHR is affiliated with the World Haflinger Sport and Breeding Federation in Austria. Generally, Haflingers today fall into one of two body types: hitch and sport. A hitch horse tends to be a bit more what many people think of as Haflingers: stout, more or less 14hh, heavier boned, thicker body. Sport Haflingers, often with a lot of recent European breeding in their pedigree, are lighter-boned, taller (15:2 is not that unusual) and look perhaps more like a small warmblood that the other type. Both are being produced today, and a lot of Haflingers fall in between the two models described above. There are modern Haflingers today that have competed successfully in both the sport and hitch divisions with merely a change of shoes, so the distinctions between the two 'body types' are not graven in stone.

                                Purebred Haflingers, are, in fact warmbloods and contain no draft blood. The foundation sire was said to be a half-Arabian, crossed on small mountain stock mares in the Italian and Austrian Alps starting in the last quarter of the 19th century. Therefore, the Arabian blood, with no draft blood theoretically allowed into the breed, makes these horses warmbloods by most definitions. These horses were produced to be an all-purpose mountain helper whether under saddle, pulling a cart, or carrying loads for a family. They were relatively small and thrifty because their local pasture was short grasses available in the relatively brief Alpen spring and summer. Many of the horses spent winters outside, contributing to their heartiness. They also often lived in close quarters in traditional mountain homes on the bottom floor with livestock and the family above, so a cheerful temperament with all ages of handlers was encouraged.

                                Early Haflingers were probably more like today's sport models, horse-proportioned and looking like the Arabian crossbreds that they were. However, the breed was shifted towards a heavier and more compact animal for dray work and for meat during the time of the two World Wars. In Europe, since then, they have generally returned toward the original lighter horse model. Haflingers began to appear in the US after WWII with early importations with Lipizzans and other breeds in the 1950's. Some of the earlier Haflinger imports were more the heavier small horses that had been useful during the war. As with some other breeds brought into the US, we perhaps imported horses that were more what had been produced during the war years, than horses that represented the future of the European riding horses that were regulated and advanced quickly from their war-use physiques due to government inspections and breeding protocols.

                                Generalizing, the breed is smart, strong, thrifty and clever. They tend to be low maintenance (many are barefoot all their lives) and very easy keepers. They may tend toward food obsession. (That's a nice way of saying they often think with their tummies!) They seem to have a lot of personality and enjoy being kept busy.

                                The American Haflinger Registry has an inspection and classification program for evaluating horses, based on the same evaluations conducted in Europe. The horses are judged in hand and at liberty and evaluated by a panel of qualified judges who evaluate ten qualities or parts of the horse to come up with a numerical score. This process is very similar to warmblood keurings, but is voluntary in the US. All AHR horses must have nothing but pure Haflinger parents back for a minimum of 6 generations on both the dam's and sire's side.

                                Haflingers were very popular and being produced in quantity shortly before the Great Recession, with a number of breeders including Amish horsemen bringing many foals to sales at that time. Prices at auctions were strong for young stock so there was a lot of production to meet the high demand. Unfortunately a lot of young Haflingers were somewhat marooned by the 2008 economic collapse, without a good marketplace to absorb them. Many foals, although purebred, were never registered. (The AHR has DNA'd all mares since 2004, and stallions must be licensed for their offspring to be eligible to produce registrable foals.)

                                There are still a lot of Haflingers that have either been separated from their papers, or were never registered, floating around today. It's possible to identify some by DNA but the matches are still usually hard to make. Because the horses are so visually distinctive, all chestnuts (not palominos) with flaxen manes and tails, almost anything that looks like this of unknown origin is thought to be a Haflinger. Many are crossbred or even other breeds. The production of Haflingers that peaked right as the horse market collapsed also meant that many of these horses were turned out to pasture to fend for themselves, and lightly mannered, if at all.

                                While the breed can be pushy and confident, many were not helped by being handled very little as young horses. Also, because Haflingers are very charming and attractive, and were often available, after the recession, for bargain prices or via auctions, many were purchased by inexperienced horse lovers who fell for the big-eyes-peeking-from-blonde-mane cuteness of the breed not realizing that Haflingers need to be trained with a firm but sympathetic hand, like any other horse. They were not My Pretty Ponies who wanted to be brushed and cuddled all day- they were working horses who, like all horses, deserved competent handling but often did not get it. Given an inch, they would take at least a yard if their owners treated them as pets, not horses.

                                Haflingers, managed by experienced horsemen, not spoilt by being rescued by well-intentioned but perhaps inexperienced equestrians, can do what most any horse can do. They excel in driving, are versatile and fun under saddle and can carry a good-sized rider on their compact frame, and are intelligent and easy to train. However, they can also be challenging especially if they were not well-mannered as young horses. Again, these are all generalizations but there is a generation of Haflingers still around today that, due to economics, were not perhaps as 'educated' as they might have been as youngsters. While many of the breed are exceptionally gentle and quiet, some missed the kindergarten lessons that would have helped them be more obliging companions.

                                All this to say: Haflingers are small warmbloods, they are not draft horses, and they will (like all horses) reflect the training and effort invested in them. And they are impish, endlessly entertaining, and sturdy. While it's important to not judge an entire breed by individuals, Haflingers can take advantage of inexperienced handlers, and can perform as top all-around pleasure and driving horses in capable hands.


                                  Aw, I love haffies. They are not ponies in the cheeky bugger Welsh sense - they are draft personalities in pony bodies. Very similar in my experience in personality types as the fjord.. But I love them both. I've found Haflingers to be honest and giving, but clever and very capable of telling who is handling them.

                                  I've had some very good Haflingers in my life, and the crosses seem very common in Pony Club. Spooky is not a word I'd use to describe the Haflingers I've known!

                                  When I was wee Beowulf and just started riding, I remember all the girls at my barn were enamored with a Haflinger named Buttons. He was the type of horse that would feature on Fugly's blog, and looked like he was put together by committee -- but he was so fun to ride... He totally needed grazing reins if you went outside of the ring! We all used to beg the instructors to ride him anyway, especially bareback.. If that's not the best testament of a riding pony I don't know what is.
                                  AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                                    Similar to Shetland Ponies in particular, Hafflingers seriously suffer from the "Oooh, isn't he cute" school of horsemanship. They originally were work horses, also like Shetland, and really need a job to be happy, good-natured horses. Also like the Shetland, they can be brushed and hugged into brattiness.

                                    The last one I rode put me in hospital.

                                    "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                                      I lost my haflinger to cancer last year. She was trained to ride and drive and was the best trail horse I could have asked for. She was fearless and sensible and would go through and over anything you put in front of her. She was the horse people wanted to go out with when they were taking a youngster out on the trail for the first time. She had a calming effect on other horses and everyone loved her. I could do anything with or to her and she took it all in stride. Vets and vet techs loved working on her.

                                      She was incredibly smart and had a great work ethic. She was kind and beautiful and nickered to everyone she met on the trail.

                                      BUT, she was not, and never would have been, a beginner's horse. She was big for a haflinger at 15 hands and 1200 pounds, was very smart and would take advantage of a person if she could but was never mean.

                                      I miss her.


                                        The comment about not liking haffies because one prefers a sports car ride makes me laugh. My current horse is a very forward sport horse type that elicits "little red sports car" analogies from most every trainer/clinician that we work with, and that is absolutely my perfect ride. But my second favorite equine of all time is a haffie who was smart and bold and also quite a snappy little thing. Not as talented in collected work or as flexible as my current horse, but so responsive and such a little try-hard

                                        ... if you could communicate with her, that is. She knew she was robust enough to bulldoze fences or to blow off a puny rider who wasn't communicating very effectively and/or trying to just use brute force to convince her to do something or correct her. With a kick-and-pull ride she might completely ignore the rider and walk or trot over to investigate something she was curious about instead (did I mention she was curious but had basically zero spook?). But when you got her listening she was the kind of forward, sensitive, honest ride that I prefer, and seemed to enjoy learning.

                                        I love a horse that has expectations of their rider and makes you work (in terms of skill and connection) for what they give you. Riding is more rewarding that way. All the haffies I've known have lived up to that, but some of them also have a surprising amount of "sports car" handling and responsiveness if you work to develop it.

                                        I'd consider a haflinger for my next horse in a heartbeat if I thought my bad hips could handle anything wider than what I ride now.


                                          I should add... I got run away with at the walk while riding a Haffie once. Little sod just decided he wasn't going to trot, but he wasn't going to halt, either. I ended up doing what some people do for a runaway -- rode him, at the walk, in smaller and smaller circles until he basically couldn't walk and keep himself upright at the same time. I will say, he never tried it again with me, but it was a bizarre experience.
                                          You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                          1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"