Now that we’ve talked about breed standards, history, types, and fitness, I think it’s time to wrap up with some Frequently Asked Questions about all things Haflinger! In addition to questions, you’ll find some common statements I see on social media, as well as some training tips and helpful hints.
Why do you shave their feathers? Isn’t the Haflinger a ‘hair’ breed, like the Gypsy Vanner?
Not exactly. Haflingers don’t grow feathers as prominently as Gypsies, Friesians, Fell Ponies, or even Clydesdales do, although most Haflingers have more feathering than your average horse might. Therefore, it’s not a sin to shave them off if you want to. It IS common practice, however, to let the mane grown long, although some people shorten or even shave the manes for certain disciplines or for ease of maintenance.
Can I clip a bridle path on my Haflinger?
Absolutely. Nothing wrong with that. Many people find that a Haflinger’s thick mane makes it harder for the bridle to stay in place and/or fit properly without a bridle path, while others have no problems leaving all that mane intact. Purely personal preference.
What a cute, coldblooded, draft horse!
Stop it. Read my previous posts now.
But I show my Haflinger in draft classes. So isn’t he a draft breed?
There’s a difference between a draft type and a draft breed. We are fortunate enough to have an extremely versatile horse in the Haflinger! However, showing your Haflinger in draft classes because he looks drafty doesn’t automatically make him a draft breed, even if the judge says that’s what he is. Remember: your Haflinger doesn’t have any Clydesdale/Belgian/Shire/etc in his pedigree. He may exhibit some of the characteristics of other draft breeds, which might make him suitable for entering in draft classes at shows, and doing draft work, such as log pulling, plowing, and other farm work. But he can’t be a draft breed if he doesn’t have draft blood. Make sense?
Why do you keep saying the Haflinger is not a draft breed? Who cares?
Well…maybe nobody cares. But I feel as though it’s important that I give you accurate information. Much of what you see on social media can be incorrect, as we all know.
Is the Haflinger considered a horse or a pony?
The Haflinger is technically considered a horse breed, although they do come in pony height, and can get permanent pony cards and be shown in pony classes. So: horse by breed, pony by height. Many people (myself included and VERY happily guilty) refer to them as ponies as a term of endearment…
Aren’t they driving horses though?
Yes! And they are also dressage horses, trail horses, lesson horses, vaulting horses, jumping horses, work horses, endurance horses, 4-H horses, family horses…
I’m tall, so I’ll need a Haflinger that’s 15hh+, and they don’t make those.
THIS DRIVES ME CRAZY. Ahem. First of all, yes, there are some Haflingers out there that are 15hh and even a little over (and a rare one or two that have hit 16hh…wow!). But honestly, you probably don’t “need” one that tall unless you are hugely tall yourself. I’ve seen Haflingers carry grown men over 6 ft tall and been fine (heck, Crumble’s done it and he’s 14.2hh). Obviously, you’ll need to take into consideration your fitness level and that of the horse, your weight, and your riding abilities, but if those things align, then why not? I’m 5’8″, and I have ridden Haflingers as small as 13.3hh with zero issues and without looking absolutely giant-like. Haflingers have well-sprung rib cages and wide barrels, which take up those long legs really, really well. Riding a 14hh Haflinger is much different than riding a 14hh Welsh pony. So, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!
What a beautiful palomino!
A palomino is actually quite different than a Haflinger. All Haflingers are genetically chestnut with flaxen or white manes and tails. Calling them palomino is never correct – so blow everyone’s minds when you post a photo on FB and say “Look at my cute chestnut!”
What about this breed I sometimes read about – the Avengalise? They look just like Haflingers.
That’s because they are Haflingers – the Italian version!
Can Haflingers do dressage?
I think my entire blog should answer that question 😉
I rode a Haflinger once and it was naughty/terrible/stubborn/threw me off/bucked/[insert other negative adjective].
I rode an Arab and he bucked me off in my first show. I also rode a Quarter horse who spooked and dumped me several times. Plus I rode a Welsh pony who used to run away with me. Repeatedly. Horses do bad things, whether it’s due to lack of training, bad training, waking up on the wrong side of the bed, responding to bad riding, or a myriad of other things. I’ve fallen off horses of all breeds innumerable times in my twenty years of riding, and of the 40+ Haflingers I’ve ever ridden, I’d estimate I’ve fallen off about FIVE times, if that. Horses buck. They spook. They bolt. Some more than others.
And guess what else? Haflingers are SMART. They will train you before you know it, so if you’re inconsistent or unfair, they will tell you. You might think you’re teaching them one thing, when in reality they’ve picked up on some small difference in your body language or expectations and before you know it, they’ve come up with a new trick. They will test your creativity as a trainer and owner. Even the ones who are “born broke” (and yes, they’re out there), can still learn bad habits – remember, they’re horses, not robots! If they get bored, they will make up ways to entertain themselves…and they are notorious for rivaling Houdini’s greatest escapes when it comes to keeping them in the pasture.
So the next time you find yourself with preconceived notions about Haflinger behavior, step back and look at the whole picture.
I’m looking for a horse for my child. We’ve never owned a horse before – would a Haflinger be a good choice?
First of all, I love that you are considering a Haflinger! They are wonderful, loving, fun horses, and can often make a good first horse for a kid. HOWEVER – this is all hinging on the assumption that you and your child are working closely with a trainer. I can’t stress that enough. Many Haflingers seem to be “born broke” (as mentioned above), because of their laidback personalities, but this should not be a substitute for correct, consistent training. Haflingers are smart (in case you haven’t heard me say it enough) and can easily take advantage of handlers who aren’t good leaders.
So please – first, make sure you have a good trainer to help you. Then, look for older, experienced Haflingers. The kind who have been there, done that. Safety should be your number one priority – not movement, not looks, not whether or not the horse is “fancy”, or “pretty”, or has a lot of hair that your child can braid. Those things comes second (or might not even be relevant…ask your trainer!). You might see prices of “child safe” horses go up compared to other horses, and that’s good. They are worth it. Better to spend that money on a good horse than a hospital bill!
I just got a Haflinger and we still haven’t figured each other out. Is this normal?
Absolutely. Many Haflinger owners will tell you that while the breed is naturally people-oriented and social, they tend to take awhile to form a bond/connection with their owners. Sometimes, this manifests itself in testing their riders while under saddle, or in other ways. It’s not uncommon to hear to people saying that it took them and their Haflinger several months (or more) to truly figure each other out – and that’s perfectly okay. Just keep plugging away, doing what you’re doing, taking lessons, hanging out, and getting to know each other. Your trainer can also help you decide if the Haflinger is the right match for you.
My Haflinger never seems to lose enough weight. Maybe he’s just big-boned?
We covered this a little bit in my previous post, but I’ll reiterate here, just in case. All Haflingers, regardless of body style and barring any health issues, can be fit. Some are even used as endurance horses, and successfully! Still, they ARE very easy keepers, so it’s a bit more difficult to help them reach their best level of fitness. Through consistent exercise and a good diet, it can be done, and most Haflingers tend to hold on to their level fitness pretty well once it’s achieved.
What saddle should fit my Haflinger?
Saddle fit for Haflingers can be challenging, due to their wide bodies, broad shoulders, and low withers. As far as english saddles go, I’ve heard that owners have had success with brands like Duett, Thornhill, Hennig, Schleese, Black Country, and Wintec. Do as much research as you can, and if you are able, find a good saddle fitter who has experience with wide horses.
I’ve heard that Haflingers have trouble cantering. Is this true? How can I help my horse learn?
In my experience, some Haflingers do find the canter more challenging, and could trot all day instead. In the past, I’ve found that a good roundpen comes in handy here, because you can teach them without worrying about running out of space or hitting a wall 😉 Likewise, if you have a horse on the lazier side, taking him/her outside into an open field is often great encouragement to finally canter! If you don’t have access to a roundpen or field, it might be worthwhile to find out if there’s somewhere you can trailer to practice. You can also lunge your Haflinger in an enclosed area to help them build up their cantering muscles before you start asking for a canter under saddle. And of course, a good trainer is invaluable for this process!
That’s all, Folks!
Thank you so much for joining me for this Haflingers 101 blog series. I hope I’ve shared some new and useful information with you, and I hope you’ll share it with others whenever you get a chance! I know it’s not obvious at all (ha. ha. ha.), but I am wholly, truly – and yes, obsessively – passionate about this breed. If you come across any questions about Haflingers, please: always feel free to comment here or any any of the Because Pony social media platforms, or send me a quick email. I am happy to help in any way I can, or to point you to someone who can get you the answers you need. These golden horses are such a special breed – let’s keep spreading the word!