Haflinger ponies are a very beautiful and popular Austrian breed of pony. They are a golden chestnut color with a flaxen mane and tale, and a very Arabian head and neck, with a very functional and hardworking body. The common saying pertaining to these ponies is “a prince in front and a peasant behind”.
The early history of the Haflinger is not well known. It is thought that they are descendants of a very hardy and tough breed of mountain pony that roamed wild in the Austrian Alps for centuries. They were used by Austrian farmers, and were selectively bred to be tough, strong, hardy, and able to pull heavy leads and work hard all day long. They also had to be friendly in temperament, as all members of the family handled the animals. In addition to all of these traits, they also had to be easy keepers, subsisting on little food during the harsh winters.
Since 1868, their journey as a breed has been very well documented. In this year, an Arabian stallion named El Bedavi XXII was introduced to the breed. He had a son named Follie who was foaled in 1874, and this stallion is considered the breeds foundation sire. As of today, four of the five prominent bloodlines can be traced back to the offspring of El Bedavi. The Haflingers are very uniform in appearance, which is due to the purity and consistency in bloodlines.
The consistency is due to Austrian state efforts to control the breeding and keep bloodlines as pure as possible. The main stud farm is called the Jensen Stud Farm, where potential breeding stock undergoes a very tough and rigorous inspection, with only the best specimens of the breed being allowed to reproduce. Haflingers are also bred in the country of Bolivia, where it common for them to be bred with an Arabian. Then the half offspring is bred back to a full blood Haflinger, and the result is a very fine horse suitable for many disciplines.
There are two types of Haflinger being bred today. One is a draft types, and can be found performing all sorts of tasks on the farm. They are quite popular with the Amish communities found in the United States. The other type of Haflinger is the pleasure type, which is extremely popular as a riding, driving, jumping and dressage horse. One of the best qualities found in the Haflinger is its wonderful temperament, and it is often said that they “can do anything, with a smile”. They are great as children’s mounts, but, due to their size, they are also suitable for adults. They excel in the areas of jumping and dressage, due to their versatility and athletic abilities.
The Haflinger usually stands between 13.2 and 14.3 hands tall at the age of three. The over all appearance of the pony should be elegant, with harmonious conformation. The head is refined and has great expression. The eyes should be large, jowls free, and the muzzle should taper nicely. Oftentimes, the ponies head bears a slight semblance to their Arabian ancestors. The neck should be nice and well muscled, with a gentle arch that tapers up to the head. The midsection should be well shaped and should tie nicely to the hind. The croup should not be too short or steep. The horses should be well muscled over all, and should bear correct conformation which allows them to be sturdy and sound throughout their lifetime.
They should have pronounced withers, a deep and wide chest, and a well muscled, medium length back. Hindquarters should be strong and powerful. The legs need to be clean, straight and should exhibit good bone quality and structure. The hock should be set at a 150 degree angle, and the pasterns should be long and sloping, preferably at a 45-50 degree angle. The hooves are round and hard.
The Haflinger should have easy and free movement, with great forward propulsion. They should be relaxed, and strides should be ground covering. The stride should be straight and true. The canter distinctly exhibits great upward and forward motion. The ponies are very hardy and disease resistant. They should always be kind and willing in temperament, and should exhibit an attitude that is amiable in all things.
The ponies continue to be bred with purity of blood as the priority. There are now breed associations throughout the world dedicated to this, and the breed standard should continue toward excellence for a long time to come.