The Haflinger gallop race on Easter Monday in Meran The Haflinger gallop race on Easter Monday in Meran

The Haflinger gallop race on Easter Monday in Meran

The grand entrance of the blondes: traditionally, the racing season at the Meran racecourse opens on Easter Monday with the Haflinger gallop race. Here you can find out everything you need to know about the race.

Year after year, the Haflinger horses fascinate the enthusiastic audience at the opening race of the Meran racing season - and have been doing so since the end of the 19th century. The Meran racecourse - incidentally one of the most beautiful in Italy and all over Europe - is the venue for this meeting of the fastest Haflinger horses. In several thrilling races, the versatile horses show that they are not only pretty to look at, but also very athletic.

Large and colourful parade through the centre of Meran

The big day begins with a large parade: All participating riders parade through the centre of Meran in traditional South Tyrolean costume with their festively decorated horses. They are accompanied by various bands, carriages with guests of honour, folklore groups such as Schuhplattler, Goaßlschnöller, folk dance groups and fanfares. Via Rennweg, Freiheitsstraße, Sandplatz, Kurpromenade (towards the theatre bridge), Piavestraße and Gampenstraße, the procession finally reaches the racecourse.

The best and fastest Haflinger horses of the season will compete there. The races are exclusively contested by mares; there have only been a few stallion races so far.
The mares compete against each other in different categories: there is the category of "older mares" (5 years and older), who first complete preliminary heats of 1,600 metres each, in which the finalists are determined. While the finalists can rest a little, the 4-year-old mares and the 3-year-old mares will each run 1,600 metres and 1,400 metres respectively. In a small final and finally the grand final, the best of the "older mares" will once again compete against each other for victory in the final.

Sport is the trump card - and the strength of the Haflinger
The sporting level of the mares is now very high. They are intensively prepared for this big day for months - usually starting as early as Christmas - with targeted training sessions. Speed, muscle development, endurance and technique are improved in daily training sessions. Both horse owners and riders have developed a healthy ambition over the decades, because in addition to the prize money, winning a Haflinger gallop race is a coveted and prestigious title, and not just in the relevant circles.

Only healthy mares may take part in the races. They must be registered in the national herd book and have veterinary proof of certain vaccinations and a suitable state of health.

Haflinger gallop races in the past
Until a few decades ago, riders not only wore traditional costumes for parades but also for races. The jockeys were usually children, as they had a clear weight advantage over the adults. Old photos from previous editions of the Haflinger gallop race can still be seen on the Haflinger Adventure Trail in Hafling, where the young riders are clearly recognisable.

Participation was also a logistical challenge. Back then, hardly anyone had a trailer for transporting horses. The participants from Hafling therefore usually rode their horses to Meran several days before the race to get the horses used to the surroundings and to complete the final training sessions on the racecourse.

The race nowadays
Nowadays, the rider's outfit at the race consists of white racing breeches, black boots and a jersey in the stable colours. The equipment naturally includes a riding helmet and a riding corset to protect the spine. Further requirements for participation are a minimum age of 12 years, an ASD racing licence, a minimum weight of 55 kg and a sports medical certificate.

Even though the jockeys' racing attire has been modernised and regulated, the entire day is dedicated to South Tyrolean tradition. Between the heats, there are performances by the various groups that have already taken part in the parade: Music bands, Schuhplattler, folk dancers or Goaßlschnöller contribute to a significant added value of the day dedicated to South Tyrolean traditions.

Closing of the racing season with Haflinger horses
The conclusion of the Meran racing season - how could it be otherwise - is a Haflinger gallop race. It is the second important race for the Haflinger horses and, as on Easter Monday, is reserved exclusively for them. The sporty and good-natured horses open and close the racing season at the Meran racecourse. Both races are organised by the South Tyrolean Haflinger Horse Sports Association.
Tourismusverein Hafling-Vöran-Meran 2000 | 3/21/2024
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