The historical development of the Haflinger breed is an immaculate success story: once a sturdy mountain horse, mainly used as a support and driving force, it has developed into a desirable horse that is calm, robust, an all-rounder, eager and able to perform, an easy feeder, resistant and suitable for all types of use. From the mountains of Tyrol the Haflinger horse has spread to over 60 countries across all the continents. The Tyrolean Haflinger Horse Breeders Association is considered the first true Haflinger Breeders Association in the world and the Stud Book in Zams which originates from the year 1920 is the first Haflinger stud book. Parts of it are exhibited in the museum of the Fohlenhof in Ebbs.
In 1946, after the Second World War the Association was restructured with a new breeding program with sufficient reference to the origin of the purebred Haflinger.
The Tyrolean Haflinger Horse Breeders Association has carried the Haflinger breed into the world and the world centre of the Haflinger Breed, the Fohlenhof Ebbs, became a part of the Tyrolean heritage and ambassador for the country with countless mares and stallions from the Association’s region, which includes Tyrol, Salzburg and Vorarlberg and holds more than 50 % of the Austrian Haflinger population.
A horse from the Tyrolean mountains
The Haflinger horse
The breed originiated in 1874 with the birth of the stallion 249 Folie from a Tyrolean Mountain mare and an Arab stallion in the South Tyrolean Alps. Since then, all stallions and mares can be traced back to this first registered Haflinger stallion. Contrary to many publications in many horse books, the Haflinger has no relation to cart horses in any respect. The origin of the breed is a small warm blood mountain horse. Cart horses have not really been present south of the Alps; also Noric horses were, just as they are today, only poorly represented. Knowing the geographical conditions and the structure of the small mountain farms, the reason why cart horses weren’t present, becomes obvious. Heavy draft horses would have been difficult to feed and basically unusable on the steep fields. The beginning of the breed at around 1900 shows a size measurement of about 150 cm and a lightweight foundation with a maximum of 18.5 cm. The breeding during the Second World War made the Haflinger into a small square horse and with the restructuring of the Tyrolean Association in 1946 the new trend towards the large-framed, light rectangular horse started. This reversal in breeding was carried out in Tyrol exclusively through purebred culture.
Organised Haflinger breeding began in 1921 with the founding of the first North Tyrolean Haflinger Breeding Association. Since then, the Haflinger horses are registered in stallion and stud books and have to be pure-bred to be enrolled into the Tyrolean Haflinger Horse Breeders Association. Today there are still all seven blood lines, to which the entire Haflinger world can be referred to.
These seven blood lines all stem from the Haflinger stallion Folie. Five of thes lines can be traced back to the stallion liz. 42 Mandl, born in 1904 and from him back to Folie’s son 54 Genter, born in 1897.
Only the A-line and W-line can be traced directly to Folie. In the A-Line is Campi, born in 1896, who stems directly from Folie and in the W-line is Sarn. Sarn was born in 1915 and does not directly stem from Folie, but the line is as follows: Sarn - Jenner - Hafling - Folie. therefore it was always an imperative to continue the A-line. In the picture you can see Anselmo from the year 1926, one of the most important stallions from that bloodline.
Today the A-line, which was almost extinct 50 years ago, is the world’s leading stallion line, the best example for this is the World- and European champion stallion from 2000, 2003 , 2005, 2008 and 2010, liz.200/T Abendstern, pictured right in 2008 in Luxembourg at the European Haflinger show.
Today the stud books show pedigrees up to 20 generations, which for a young breed is a very large family tree. In 2005 an estimated 45,000 registered mares got covered by around 2000 Haflinger stallions. The world population of Haflinger horses was nearly 250,000 in the same year.
These success figures show the development of a small local mountain horse to one of the world’s most popular breeds.
From working horse to leisure horse
Originally, the Haflinger was used as a lightweight workhorse in the high mountains and used there for work on a farm, for example as a pack animal to supply remote farms with food from the valley but also to work on the steep mountain fields and forests.
Due to the motorization after the Second World War this usage gradually diminished, however, even today, the Haflinger still provides the supply of remote mountain farms, helps with lumber work in steep forest areas or is used as a pack animal in different armies worldwide. However, this usage is very limited, so that for the Haflinger with its excellent intrinsic properties, its peace and serenity, and his child friendliness, a new area had to be found.
These qualities defined over generations are understandable when one knows that on the remote mountain farms 100 years ago, especially the youth or the older generation had to work on the farm and the middle generation worked in the valleys. These characteristics have helped to convert the Haflinger into a leisure horse. This process is described in publications and books of the Tyrolean breeder Otto Schweisgut, published in the early 1950’s.
The journey from working horse to versatile riding and carriage horse was very long, but has been completed in a unique way by the nowadays purebred Haflinger.
Haflinger breeding goal
The Haflinger horse is now bred as a leisure horse; therefore, particular characteristics for riding and driving are desired. An excellent character without flaws and an even temperament are fundamental requirements.
Important is the overall impression of how individual parts of a horse harmonize together. This includes a dry and expressive head with large eyes and a lot of charm. Breeding stallions and mares should have a clear gender expression.
The colour of the Haflinger can be all shades of chestnut, from pale chestnut to dark liver. The colour should be full and pure and sparse long hair is desired. Head markings are acceptable, but not required. Leg markings are not desirable, but are tolerated in accordance with the provisions of the World Haflinger Association without any deduction of points. The height of the Haflinger is between 140 and 155 cm. The head should be noble and dry and harmoniously fit to the size of the body. The training collar should not be too short. The foremost part of the back spine is the withers, which should be distinctive, wide, high and long. The back should be of medium length and well-muscled, and united in the movement vibration, capacity and balance. Ideal is a long, slightly inclined, strongly muscled croup, which is not too drained and split. The foundation needs to be in a correct position with clearly pronounced, but dry joints. The gait is correct, supple, with pure rhythm and without serious errors.
The world champion stallions and mares of the Tyrolean Haflinger Horse Breeders Association
show this type to perfection, and many of these winners of the past 20 years have been horses from the Fohlenhof Ebbs. 4 generations of world class stallions can be seen all year round by visiting the Fohlenhof. In addition, some of the world’s best mares, a family of 5 generations and many other breeding groups, including the World and European champion mares. The breeding goal has not changed for generations and is almost the same as 50 years ago.
What has changed though is the type of the modern purebred Haflinger, within the Tyrolean Association countless purebred Haflinger horses come very close to the breeding goal, something that could not have been found 20 years ago.
Today the purebred Tyrolean Haflinger is in the width significantly larger, more elegant, more charming than any crossed horse and through the consistency in breeding this will remain so in the future.
The Stallion 1074 Student in 1935 and the stallion liz.200/T Abendstern in the year 2008 as a riding horse show the type in its development, but also the use of Haflinger over 70 years ago in the same equestrian discipline.