The origins of the Haflinger horse can be traced back to 1874 when a magnificent colt known as “249 Folie” was born in Schluderns. He was the foal of the oriental stallion “133 El Bedavi XXII” and a local mare of Galician origin.
In those days these small horses were mainly bought by the farmers and dealers on the Tschögglberg - the plateau between Bolzano and Merano that is home to the villages of Hafling, Vöran, Mölten and Jenesien - and eventually over time the name “Haflinger” became established for these easy-to-keep, robust and versatile horses.
Over time, the Haflinger breed evolved seven bloodlines, all of which without exception can be traced back to Folie the stallion.
> Horse family: pony
> Size: 1.38 - 1.55 m (withers)
> Weight: 400 – 600 kg
> Age: 20 - 30 years
> Features: what is known as chestnut colour, smooth white long hair (forelock, mane and tail); a noble head with friendly, large eyes and small attentive ears; a physique of harmonious proportions
> Character: good-natured, strong nerves, reliable, hard-working, lively and powerful
> Movement: elastic, expansive, sure-footed and tenacious
> Use: an all-round horse, i.e. suitable for leisure, mass sports and for cultivation
When new Haflinger foals are appraised, entered into the stud book and selected as stallions, they are evaluated according to typical breed characteristics and - if they meet the strict criteria - are branded with an “H” in an edelweiss.
In the past, as a working horse the Haflinger needed to meet the following basic requirements: it had to be reliable, sure-footed, robust, tenacious, calm and hard-working. Its origins as a mountain horse also meant that the Haflinger was easy to feed and enjoyed good health.
As a result the Haflinger horse was particularly useful to humans for the following work: logging, field work, hay-making, as a draught horse, as a pack horse and last but not least for riding.
The hard living conditions in the South Tyrolean mountains ensured that the Haflingers developed an excellent metabolism meaning that they could survive even in times of need with very little food.
> Hay: approx. 1.5 kg per 100 kg of body weight per day; so for a 400 kg Haflinger that would equate to approx. 6 kg of hay
> Water: approx. 30 - 50 litres / day
> Concentrated feed according to the demands of work /training
> Fruit (e.g. apples) and vegetables (e.g. carrots) only occasionally in small quantities
As the demands placed on the breed have changed, over the course of time the Haflinger horse itself has changed too. And so in recent decades breeders set themselves the ambitious goal of adapting the breed to the modern requirements of mass sport and leisure riding - with success. They have striven to gradually produce a somewhat lighter, somewhat longer and somewhat taller horse.
The old smithy in Hafling was built in 1932 and operated until approx. 1990. It was a typical hammer forge or hammer mill, with a hammer powered by water.
The tasks of the blacksmith included a wide variety of repair work on agricultural machinery, the production of horseshoes, rails and crosses as well as agricultural and forestry tools and, of course, shoeing the horses.
The Haflinger horse with its hard, small hooves is well-known for its excellent sure-footedness. Since time immemorial many Haflingers have spent the summer months in the alpine meadows on the Tschögglberg at altitudes of up to 2,000 metres above sea level. Whilst they are still foals they learn how to move about safely on the steep terrain and grow into healthy horses that are ready to work.
In days gone by it was mainly the farmers and traders on the Tschögglberg and from Hafling who bought these robust and versatile little horses, so that over the course of time the name “Haflinger” - which originally did not denote the breed, but instead the type of use of the horses - became part of the vernacular.
In total there are 7 Haflinger blood lines (A-, B-, M-, N-, S-, St- and W), from which all other Haflinger horses originate. Every male foal is given the initial letter of its father.
The fillies, in contrast, have, since 1977, been named according to their year of birth, using the Italian alphabet. 2016 was represented by the initial letter “Z” and in 2017 they began again with “A”.
The Haflinger breed is now one of the best known in the world and has not only become established throughout Europe, but is also found in America, Australia and even in southern Asia and Africa. The likeable appearance of the Haflinger, its versatility and suitability as a horse for all the family make it an extremely popular companion. In 1980 there were Haflingers in over 30 countries, now they are found in over 70.
Generally with Haflingers there are three different gaits: walk, trot and gallop.
When walking the horse placidly places one hoof in front of the other - this is how horses like to move best in the wild. When picking up speed a horse trots - to do this the legs diagonally opposite one another move forward at the same time. The gallop is the horse’s fastest way of moving - when it does this it almost “jumps” forwards and even has all four legs in the air for a brief moment (the “suspension phase”).
Without a doubt the Haflinger can be described as an “allrounder”, although it requires proper training in each area.
The breed produces excellent horses for competitive carriage driving, where it scores points with its pleasant nature, fearlessness, readiness to work hard and stamina. For equestrianism too the Haflinger has shown that it can hold its own in every discipline right up to the foremost tournament classes - and that is true not only of dressage, but also show jumping, where it is encountered increasingly often.
In addition, the Haflinger horse is well suited to distance and trail riding, equestrian games, horse racing, skijoring, Western riding, equestrian vaulting and therapeutic riding.
Horsepower (HP) as a measure of the output of a machine goes back to James Watt (1736-1819) from whom people only wanted to purchase a steam engine if they were definitely superior to the horse. Apparently Watt determined the output of a horse in a coal mine, where the animals pulled coal from the depths to the surface via a pulley without a break. The idea of the unit of “horsepower” was to indicate how many horses 1 machine could replace.