Everyone who cares about horses knows about the Lipizzaner
of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria. I, in
fact, made a blog post here about them not long ago.
But not very many people outside of Austria, including here
in Canada, are familiar with a breed of horses even more
indigenously Austrian than the Lipizzaner. I did a little
research and found that there are currently about a thousand
horses of this breed in Canada, which is not very many. But
the people who have, and breed, Haflingers are rabid in
their enthusiasm for their equines, whose human-loving
temperaments make them as much a part of their owners’
families as any horses are likely to become.
The Haflinger breed got its name from the Austrian village
of Hafling, where the foundation sire of the breed, Folie,
was foaled in 1874. Folie was the offspring of a
half-Arabian sire, El Bavadi, and a Tyrolean mountain mare.
Every Haflinger of today can be traced back to Folie through
one of seven distinct lines of stallions.
Folie himself must have been a remarkable animal, because
over one hundred and thirty years later his descendants are
noted for their Tyroleanesque surefootedness, their
tremendous stamina, their remarkable pulling ability–even
more remarkable when one considers that they normally stand
between thirteen and fifteen hands–their versatility, and
their golden good looks.
Haflingers are always some shade of chestnut, from palomino
blond to liver, and they all have thick wavy manes and tails
of white to flaxen, so resplendent that Trigger himself
would have been envious. They do every thing that is asked
of them, from heavy harness work to dressage and jumping,
and do it with intelligence and good spirits.
In spite of their relatively small stature, they are well up
to the task of carrying adults over long distances, yet
gentle enough to be ideal children’s mounts. They are so
people-friendly, in fact, that they are highly desired as
mounts for disabled children in therapeutic riding programs.
The first Haflingers came to North America almost fifty
years ago in 1958, when Tempel Farm in Wadsworth, Illinois,
imported some of them to begin a breeding program as a
companion to their Lipizzaner breeding effort. From there
the breed spread to Canada, and the first Canadian Haflinger
was registered in 1977.
In The US, the Haflinger breed had grown enough by 1998 to
merit its own registry, a joining of two earlier Haflinger
owners’ groups, the Haflinger Registry of North America and
the Haflinger Association of America. The resulting
organization, The American Haflinger Registry, has over ten
thousand of the breed, with over eleven hundred different
owners, on its books.
The Canadian Haflinger Association was created in 1980, and
currently has registered some one thousand horses belonging
to approximately two hundred and fifty owners.
But most Haflingers are still bred in Austria and exported
to other countries from there. The Austrian Haflinger
breeding program is run by government studs, which are at
pains to protect the breed standards.
Until I researched the Lipizzaners, I had never heard of the
Haflingers. But I have to admit that, after seeing pictures
of them performing at all sorts of tasks yet looking like
equine movie stars with those absurdly gorgeous manes and
tails, I definitely see the Haflinger appeal!
Picture of a Haflinger running
More Pictures of Haflingers