History and origin of the breed:
The history of the Haflinger horse can be traced to medieval times when writings told of an Oriental race of horse found in the Southern Tyrolean Mountains which were once part of Austria, but now belong to Northern Italy. Many of the villages and farms in the Tyrol were accessible only by narrow paths requiring agile and sure-footed horses for transportation and packing. Artwork from the region from the early 1800s depicts a small noble chestnut horse with packs and riders traversing steep mountain trails.
The first official documentation of the present day Haflinger (named after the South-Tyrolean village of Hafling) was in 1874 when the foundation stallion 249 Folie was born of the half-Arab stallion 133 El' Bedavi XXII crossed with a refined native Tyrolean mare. All modern purebred Haflingers must trace their ancestry directly to Folie through seven different stallion lines: A, B, M, N, S, ST, and W.
During the years of World War II, there was a significant shift in breeding practices, as pack horses were needed by the military and a shorter, draftier Haflinger fitted the bill. Following the war, the height and refinement of the breed returned with an emphasis on developing a small horse that was versatile for both riding and driving, with a strong constitution, a solid conformation with substantial bone, and an uncomplicated personality.
The uniqueness of the Haflinger lies, in its chestnut coloring and white or flaxen mane and tail. The people-loving, willing and forgiving temperament that was established over centuries of living alongside and working with the mountain peasants, serving all purposes for all family members is perhaps its most notable trait. Haflingers very simply became part of the family.
The majority of Haflingers are still imported from Austria even today. State studs own the stallions in Austria, carefully maintaining the quality of the breed. The modern Haflinger is now found all over the world, active in such varied uses as draft work, packing, light harness and combined driving, western and trail riding, endurance riding, dressage and jumping, vaulting and therapeutic riding programs. Haflingers hold their own in competition with other breeds, often showing surprising athleticism and strength for their size.
Haflingers are especially suitable for children's dressage, although they are also strong enough to carry an adult. They are extremely friendly and enjoy human company. They are an intelligent breed and very quick to learn, although this can be problematic as they may take advantage of young or inexperienced handlers. They are often undertrained as they adapt quickly to new situations, showing fearlessness and a great willingness to please. However, with correct schooling the Haflinger has the potential and the temperament to excel in many disciplines. It is also a very long lived breed, with a lifespan of up to 40 years!
Haflingers range in colour from a light gold to a rich golden chestnut or chocolate hue with a white or flaxen mane and tail. The desirable height for the breed is between 13.2 hands (138 cm) and 14.3 hands (150cm), although they can be up to 15 hands. The horse's appearance should be elegant and harmonious, with a refined and expressive head with large eyes, a well shaped mid-section, and a well-shaped croup which must not be too steep or too short. The horse should be well muscled and show correct, clean limbs with well formed clearly defined joints. Breeding stallions should have unmistakable masculine features and brood mares should exhibit undeniable feminine lines and features. The head should be noble and lean and should fit well with the rest of the horse. The eyes should be large and positioned forward. The nostrils should be large and wide. Should have a light poll and correctly positioned ears. The neck is of medium length and should become narrower towards the head. There should be sufficient freedom through the jowls.
The legs should show clear, lean distinct joints, and equal stance on all four feet. Legs should be in a straight line when viewed front or back. From the side the front legs should be straight and hind legs should display an angle of 150 degrees through the hock and an angle of 45-50 degrees through the pastern and hoof to the ground. The knee should be broad and flat and the hocks wide and powerful. Pasterns should be long and well developed and the hooves should be round, distinct and hard.
The Haflinger has diligent, rhythmic and ground covering gaits. The walk is relaxed, energetic, and proud and cadenced. The trot and canter are elastic, energetic, athletic, and cadenced with natural self-carriage and off the forehand as well as balanced with a distinct moment of suspension. The hindquarters should work actively with lots of propulsion. This propulsion should transfer through the elastic back to the free moving shoulder and front legs. A little knee action is desired. The canter especially should have a very distinct forward-upward motion.
Breed standards are set by the World Haflinger Federation and the Tyrolean Haflinger Breeding Association.
Breed organizations existing to provide accurate documentation of Haflinger pedigrees and ownership, and also to promote the Haflinger breed, exist in many countries. Most are linked to each other through membership of the World Haflinger Federation.
The American Haflinger Registry (AHR), representing over 1100 North American Haflinger owners and over 10,000 Haflingers, was formed in 1998 from the combined memberships of the Haflinger Association of America (HAA) and the Haflinger Registry of North America (HRNA).
The Haflinger Society of Great Britain was founded in 1970 and holds the Stud Book for Haflingers in the UK, as well as running the National Breed Show for registered horses.
Other organizations include the Canadian Haflinger Association and the Haflinger Pferdezuchtverband Tirol (Tyrolean Haflinger Breeding Association) in the Haflinger's native country of Austria. This was the first organization to set up a studbook, which was created in 1920.