Haflinger questions and answers
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Dorothy Maffei Long Island, NY
Q: My haflinger has a double mane, is it a breed trait?
A: Yes, many Haflingers have double manes (mane on both sides of the neck) which is an inherited trait. Most, however have manes that are mostly on one side or the other rather than both. It is so thick in most Haflingers that training it to one side or the other is difficult.
Q: My haflinger's mane looks like my Barbie's hair after she'd been left in the basement for 15 years, and I envy the haflingers with seemingly heavenly, sleek hair. I've tried leave-in moisturizers and endless brushing, but it springs back to the dry, thick, very coarse state the day afterwards. How do I achieve that flowing hair that I'm desperately trying to get before I take my senior picture with her?
Q: I have a 2 ½ year old Haflinger gelding, his brother and best friend 1 ½ year old died from complications from gelding leaving the whole family devastated. The older one was very lonely so I purchased another 4 ½ year old Haflinger gelding to keep him company. My 2 ½ year old was very happy to see another horse, but now he has started being really mean to the new addition. They don’t even graze in the same area of the field. My 2 ½ year old seems jealous and chases off the new one whenever I am working with them. Will he eventually not see the new guy as a threat? I feel bad for the new one and I don’t know how to help with the transition. Both horses get plenty of attention. Any suggestions?
A: Even Haflingers can have relationship problems. Your younger gelding is exerting his dominance over the new guy and usually this finally settles into a dominance/submission dance that works. It is always best to avoid situations that will aggravate their relationship--you'll need to grain and hay them separately so meal time does not become a battle. Taking the older one away for awhile (a few hours) may make the heart grow fonder for the younger one. Occasionally they never do become compatible and it is a constant struggle but most of the time this does sort itself out and they become best buddies,
Then you could develop the problem below.
A: The only solution is progressively more time apart, being worked separately and then together and then apart again. They need to realize they will survive separation from one another and to pay attention to their job. Go to http://www.briarcroft.com/training.html to read about two siblings who had never been separated and how they adapted in their training to working alone and without the other near by.
A: This is a common problem and hand feeding is discouraged as it definitely makes the problem worse. You need to avoid "playing" with their lips, as tempting as it is, and discourage them from using their lips by verbal command, "snapping" their muzzle with your fingers, or pushing their muzzle away as soon as they come too close. When they manage to allow petting or cupping of their muzzle with your hand without using their lips, give them plenty of verbal praise.
Q: I just purchased an unregistered 5-year old Haflinger gelding. Do you know how I would go about having him registered? A: He would be registerable only if his dam and sire are both registered purebred Haflingers and he was conceived when they were three years old or older. To register him requires that you DNA test him and that both parents be DNA tested to prove his parentage, as well as paying a late registration fee. If you need to know more, you can contact the American Haflinger Registry at http://www.haflingerhorse.com
Q: How do I find a wide saddle that fits my Haflinger?
A: From Gail Emmons, Klamath Falls, Oregon
A Bit About Saddles Fitting the Haflinger There is likely no more discussed subject concerning Haflingers than saddle fit. While the popularity of our gold ponies has exploded, the multi-million dollar saddle industry has had to respond with improved tack to fit the broad-backed Haflinger. The narrow trees of our ancestors’ saddles simply don’t fill the bill for this modern robust breed. In general, where horse tack is concerned, we get what we pay for. A no-name saddle off the Internet is likely going to be inadequate and possibly unsafe. What we consider a savings initially might end up costing us more in the long run. Saddle fit, of course, is very important. There are new methods of back mapping and saddle fit molds or gauges that can certainly help in getting a good fit. In early saddles, the panels were stuffed leather or fabric that sat on either side of the horses’ spine to protect it and give the rider a good place to sit. As saddles evolved, it became known that weight distribution could be spread out over a greater area of the back, which would reduce pressure points on the horse. Now we have gel pads, air pads and all sorts of methods to help distribute the weight of the saddle and rider, but the saddle still has to fit! In general, the more padding from blankets and pads the greater potential for saddle roll, which is exactly what we want to avoid with a round-backed horse. There are a number of no-slip pads and cinches or girths, which have come onto the market. Some of these employ a rubber layer which is definitely no-slip when it’s fresh and new. Sometimes, however, once that material becomes covered with a layer of dirt, it’s no longer no-slip and so it has to be washed frequently. Fortunately these accessories can be easily scrubbed or hosed off. Felt padding will often provide a little more grip as will real wool (not fake fleece which can become slippery). Both need occasional gentle washing, brushing or carding to keep the fibers fresh and grippy. Still even with the non-slip pads and girths, the saddle needs to fit! Unfortunately simply buying an extra-wide saddletree isn’t always the solution. Some saddles can be too wide and increase the potential for saddle roll. The saddle needs to fit a horse in length and skirt style too. Many Haflinger owners find a breast collar and/or breeching very helpful in stabilizing a saddle--especially in rough country. Neither solution will compensate for a poorly fitted saddle, however. One of the most useful innovations in recent years is the dropped-rigging saddle. The dropped-rigging or long-billet saddle puts the cinch rings or billet buckles lower on the horses’ body resulting in a more gripping saddle. The wrap-around effect causes more grip on the horses body. It also gets the buckles and cinch rings below the riders’ knees, which reduces bulk and rub on the rider. Tucker, Ortho-Flex, Fallis, Martin, Tex-Tan, Crates, Wintec and a number of other companies now make saddles with dropped riggings and/or long billets. The long-billets tend to fit a wide-range of horses since there are more holes to choose from. Tucker calls their rigging a “Enduro-balanced ride rigging” or “drop western rigging”. The Tucker Saddlery has an entire line of old west-style, endurance and plantation saddles. Ortho-Flex Saddleworks calls theirs a “dropped yoke rigging”. Ortho-Flex builds everything from western ranch saddles, to hunt, dressage and endurance saddles. If I were limited to choosing only one modern feature of a saddle, English or western, it would be the dropped rigging. Another excellent feature to look for in a saddle is the changeable gullet system. Experienced users say the easy change gullet is an excellent innovation to get a good fit on a horse’s back. The gullet system is ordered separately and one may also order a measuring device to fit the proper gullet. The “Easy Change Gullet System” is a standard feature in Bates and Wintec saddles. When talking saddles, there are additional names that continually come up as good quality saddles that may provide a good fit for Haflingers.
Here’s a look at a few specific brands that Haflinger owners have used and suggested: There are many top-flight saddle companies that build extra-wide saddles but the Duett Deutsche Sattlerei builds saddles “especially designed for wide horses”. Their website states: “Our saddles are made with top quality craftsmanship and details, excellent leather (smooth bridle or grained), and first rate design for a major German company which has been in business for over thirty years.” Several pages of the Duett website features many photos of Haflingers and other robust breeds wearing Duett saddles. They produce a full line of all-purpose, dressage, jumping, and trail saddles. Another high-end saddlery, County Saddlery, produces a whole spectrum of saddles in Narrow, Medium, Wide, X Wide, XX Wide and Custom widths, as well. Gaining more acceptance and more loyal fans are the synthetic saddles. Thorowgood boasts a specialized fit called “Comform™ for cobs, broad cob-types or large native breeds with broad, flat backs and low withers. Wintec makes a variety of styles that adapt to the wide-bodied horse. While synthetics are a matter of personal taste, the lower cost, ease of care and excellent fit can be a big selling point. In addition to the Ortho-Flex saddles, in the western flexible tree line, Tex Tan Flex Saddles have been suggested as a good potential fit for Haflingers along with the Bob Marshal Treeless Sports Saddles and Circle Y of Yoakum and Crates. Flex trees are a matter of personal comfort and individual purpose, however, and may not be suitable for every use. Just about any custom western saddlery will build a saddle to order with a wide traditional tree and most now are able to use the dropped riggings. If a person is going to the expense to have a saddle custom built, as with any saddle, it is wise to fit the saddle to both horse and rider prior to buying. A custom saddlery should have no problem fitting a saddle to horse and rider. Very often Haflinger owners will allow other Haflinger friends to try their saddles, which can be extremely helpful as well. Once a good fit is found for the horse then a good fit for the rider is essential and that is a whole additional discussion! Below are listed some starting places for saddles that Haflinger owners have found suitable. With the handy Internet one can even search for the desired features and do quick comparisons: http://www.tuckersaddles.com http://www.duettsaddles.com http://www.countysaddlery.com http://www.cratesleather.com http://www.textan.com http://www.ortho-flex.com http://www.circley.com http://treelesssaddle.com
Q: Within the past 6 months I purchased 2 Haflinger colts. One is now 20 months old and one is 6 months old. Do they need grained twice a day or is once enough. I give the 6 month old about 1/4 lb morning and night and his older brother the 20 month old not quite 1/2 lb am and pm. They are growing soooo fast that I think maybe I am feeding them too much. They are outside but not allot of grass this time of year I give them each a few flakes of hay each feeding also. I only have about 6 acres fenced for them.
A: Sounds like you are fine with your correct feeding amounts and schedule. Be sure you are giving them vitamins and minerals as a supplement if the grain is not supplemented. This is a period of rapid growth for them and as long as they are not looking fat, you are doing fine.
Q: I need some help, I have a Haflinger who....is well...big boned. I can't seem to find a saddle that fits him, a saddle dealer is trying to sell me a "Haflinger saddle" with a wide tree but to be honest I think he needs an extra wide tree, yet she assures me it will fit yet if I try it on him she will charge me for the return. What size does an average Haflinger really wear?
A: Most Haflingers are fine with a wide tree fit, but saddle fit is not easy to predict without a fitting done on your horse--differences depend on how round your Haflinger is, how much wither he has, and other factors. Brands of saddles that work well for Haflinger owners are listed on the Database page of the Haflinger Friends discussion group located at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/haflingerfriends . Check out that list and work with a saddle seller who will instruct you in how to take measurements that will help determine the best style and fit. A "Haflinger" saddle is really not that at all, but rather a marketing term for a wide tree saddle, some of which are ridiculously cheap and poorly made, so work with someone who is not into a using the Haflinger name as a gimmick but is wanting to make sure you and your horse get the best possible fit for the amount you are willing to invest.
Q: I am 11 years old and my sister is 15, we have been riding for 3 years.
We have never had a horse before and are thinking of getting a Haflinger but are not
sure if once we get one that is trained we will be able to keep it
trained or that it will end up smarter then we are. Do you have any ideas and do you think we could manage one. I will be happy with any feedback.
A: A well trained Haflinger doesn't forget that original training but can develop bad habits if not handled consistently and regularly. You would want to work with an experienced adult who knows how to train you as well as the Haflinger. Haflingers are smart but they are not smarter than most people, so if you are willing to learn along with your horse, you'll do fine with the right teacher.
Q: I have a friend that is selling a Haflinger. I really want him! But I don't know how old he is and if I have to train him. If he is still young what do I have to do train him? I take riding lessons at my neighbors house. I'm only 10 years old and I want to get a Haflinger. My Mom says probably in about a year I can get a Haflinger if I still wanted to. So then I would be around 11 years old. If I need to train the horse I want to get, should I train him myself or let my neighbor help me? I ride english. Is it OK to ride a Haflinger english?
A: It is always wise to have the help of a knowledgeable adult when you are training a young Haflinger even if you are an adult and not just 11 years old. Haflingers are best started under saddle after they turn three years old. Haflingers do great in English or western tack.
Q: I recently purchased an unregistered
Haflinger. He is quite the character, with a forelock down to his nose and
mane that will touch the ground when he is eating. He is very fun to ride and drive. My niece will be showing him at the local county fair in 4-H and open draft classes this year. I am wondering how I should prepare him grooming wise. He does have fetlock feathers, should I shear those off? Is the lattice banding appropriate for western and driving classes or just english? He does have a bobbed tail, how should I prepare that?
A: There is no set answer to this but with draft classes, you would definitely leave the fetlock feather on, and possibly do a row of rosettes at the top of his long mane and a rosette at the top of his docked tail or bun up his tail. For western classes, it probably is best to leave his mane long and flowing. For English classes, the lattice braid or French braid is a nice "finished" look. The fetlocks certainly can stay on for those classes, but don't give quite as "smooth" a look, but if a judge questions it, your niece can answer that it is a proud breed trait, like the Friesian fetlock feathers so the option is to keep them, not shave them off.
Q: What exactly is a modern type of Haflinger? I have read that Haflingers can be ridden by almost any size rider. I know that some horses may be bigger around than others and riders vary also, but among typical Haflingers, what would be the minimum size that could be ridden by someone almost 5'10"?
A: "Modern" refers to Haflingers that have been bred in the last 20 years or so, primarily a taller, more refined riding type of Haflinger as opposed to the shorter draftier Haflinger that resulted from the breeding down to a pack animal for military purposes in the two World Wars. Most Haflingers are able to carry upwards of 250 lbs, but length of leg of the rider can make a difference in their comfort in riding. Most riders 5'10" or taller are comfortable on 14 hand + Haflinger.
Q: Are Haflingers ok living outside or if they do better stabled? We live in Indiana where we have the worst of both worlds (hot summers and cold winters). Can Haflingers handle that if they have a shelter (but not stall)?
A: As long as they have shelter out of the wind and wet, they are fine. They have a very furry winter coat and in the summer, if they have shade and adequate water source, they'll do fine.
Q: We just purchased a 15 month old gelded Haflinger. My daughter would like to know when she could put her weight on him, sit not ride on him? What is their attention span at this age, when is enough enough?
A: Your gelding is still very young and not ready to bear weight until he is past his three year birthday. You do not want to stress his joints or his back before he is mature enough. You can have lots of fun working with him on ground work, using some of the techniques in books and tapes by John Lyons and other trainers but keep the training sessions short, usually not much more than 20 minutes at a time. Enjoy him and don't let him get pushy or lippy. Correct him quickly with your voice and body posture if he misbehaves.
Q: I just purchased an unregistered 5-year old Haflinger gelding. Do you know how I would go about having him registered?
A: He would be registerable only if his dam and sire are both registered purebred Haflingers and he was conceived when they were three years old or older. To register him requires that you DNA test him and that both parents be DNA tested to prove his parentage, as well as paying a late registration fee. If you need to know more, you can contact the American Haflinger Registry at http://www.haflingerhorse.com
Q: I just started training a 3 yr old haflinger mare. The owner tells me you never cut a bridle-path on this breed (so I haven't) is that correct? Thanks for your help.
A: Most owners do cut a small bridle path because the mane is so thick the bridle would sit up too high on the poll. So 1.5 to 2 inches is usually enough, but not the longer bridle path common in other breeds.
Q: What does the" liz." abbreviation, which is included in some sire's names with their registration numbers, mean? This appears in Otto Schweisgut's book and on some registration papers.
A: "liz" means "privately owned" as opposed to be owned by the Austrian government.
Q: I am on the shall we say, portly side, and was wondering if a Haflinger would be sturdy enough for me. I know they are commonly used for draft purposes, but have found nothing to say if there is a "weight limit" for them.
A: Most Haflingers can carry up to 240 pounds without much problem.
Q: Is a 10' x 10' stall adequate to house a Haflinger?
A: For younger Haflingers, it is probably fine, but is too tight a space for a mature Haflinger. 12' x 12' is considered adequate size.
Q: How do I house a team of 10 year old mares that have been trained to drive single and double + ride. Should I put them together in 1 large stall? Should I separate them.Or should I put them side-by-side in separate stalls only enough to let them lay down?
A: Haflingers adapt easily to a variety of stall situations, including standing tie stalls, though most owners prefer to use box stalls or enough space so their horse can lie down. Teams seem to do well stalled in adjacent stalls but if you want them to be independent enough to work separately, housing them separately is best so they are familiar with being without the other.
Q:I just bought a Haflinger gelding who will be 2 in May. He halters and leads and I am now sacking him out and getting him used to all kinds of things, taking him down the road, near dogs, cars etc. I bought him specifically for my two granddaughters who are age 2 years old so by the time he is trained they will be ready to ride.He was clicker trained when I purchased him to bow and smile with peppermints however he was too aggressive for the treats so I quit doing that. Can you suggest a good book on training him or should I leave it to an expert horse trainer? He is very smart and learns quickly and really outshines my two quarter horses. I can tie him up front to back with long ropes and he patiently works his way out of the ropes. I can pile blankets and saddles and hang ropes off his head and he is totally fine with that as well. I want a good safe horse for my grand daughters and did quite a bit of training for my quarter horses but not sure where to start with this little guy...looks like around 3 years old I can get in the saddle. I weigh 130 pounds is that too heavy to start on him or should I find someone smaller? I do own a round pen.
A: Haflingers are smart and quick to learn good and bad
habits. If you have
knowledge, patience and willingness to train him yourself, with consistency and confidence, by all means, do it yourself, but stay smarter than him. You can ride him at 3 at your size, no problem. It may take awhile for him to be seasoned enough to be trustworthy for your grandchildren though so don't assume because he is easy going, he is ready for a child. The Haflinger Friends group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/haflingerfriends has lots of training advice and knowledgable people whose brains you can pick.
Q: When is a Haflinger mature enough to be ridden and how much growth is left after age 3?
This is a controversy among Haflinger owners/trainers, but most start their Haflingers under saddle after the third birthday, as they still are growing up until age 5 or even 6. Most average an inch or so after their third birthday, sometimes less.
Q: I am looking for a horse and am loving the Haflinger breed. Everything about them sounds wonderful, however NO breed is perfect! So, tell me, what are some common faults with this breed? I am especially interested in disposition.
First, the vast majority of Haflingers have good minds and are trainable,
but by their very nature being docile, innately less fearful and more
intelligent than many other breeds, they tend to get undertrained as
they learn and adapt quickly, and appear to be more comfortable and know
more than they really know. Haflingers work for beginners only after
extensive training and miles and only with supervision/instruction for
Second, Haflingers do bottle things up inside and get mad and yes, they also
can "get even." They have been known to "explode" if they are asked to
do something beyond what their comfort level or skill level is.
Sometimes "explode" simply is a "shut down" mode--i.e. won't move--which
is much easier to work with than shying, spooking, bolting, bucking, rearing and charging which they also will do out of frustration, and an attempt to
Third, the average novice handler needs significant assistance to train a
Haflinger from scratch or to maintain training on a "trained"
Haflinger. Haflingers know an inexperienced handler and will assume,
often correctly, that they can have the upper hand, and will take it. I
believe this "take charge" attitude is also innate in Haflingers and
has its adaptive advantages in certain circumstances--if Otto
Schweisgut's Heini (http://www.haflingerhorses.com/stories.htm) had not
"taken over" in the Christmas blizzard during WWII, Otto would not have
survived to save the Haflinger breed and this website would be superfluous.
Lastly, a Haflinger is the absolute best horse in the world if you learn to be smarter than your Haflinger.
Q: Two vets have told me that my 17 yr. old Haflinger gelding has
foundered in the past. I have owned him for about a year. Both vets
tell me NO grain & one told me to keep shoes on him. Two farriers have
told me that he has never foundered & has excellent feet & grain would
be no problem. I use him for western pleasure only. In spring our
pasture is a mix of grasses with mostly coastal bermuda & fescue. One
vet told me to keep him off the pasture in spring. With so many
opinions, I am really confused. Could I get your take on this?
A: You have a difference in opinion between vets and farriers (not the first time!) but your nutritional management of your older gelding should be the same either way. Geldings rarely need grain at all unless they are working heavily, but need a vitamin/mineral supplement appropriate to your pasture/hay supply. Unlimited pasture is never a good idea for most Haflingers--they are prone to overeating, and can be laminitis-prone, especially if they have foundered before. Have a grazing schedule that limits him on grass in the spring, and generally, as summer progresses, the protein content of the grass diminishes and he can have extra grazing time.
Q: My Haflinger has a double mane. Should I train it to one side only, or just keep it clean and combed?
A: Most Haflinger manes are double sided to some degree, and if not symmetrical, can be trained to the side with the most hair, but most owners just let it be wherever it lands. If you are showing, you may want to braid it to one side in order to show off the neck on the bare side. There are no rules one way or the other.
Q: I would like to know which bit has been found to work the best on a Haflinger. I ride western on trails and need a bit that gives me good control for stopping especially.
A: There was no consensus on this question when presented to the Haflinger Friends list. Most people agree that the "stop" is not in the bit, but in the training. Some people use hackamores or bosals, some use curb bits, but most use snaffles. Haflingers have shorter strong necks, so "fighting" them to a stop doesn't work. Training them to a stop does.
Q: I'm investigating the Haflinger. You mentioned that they are "easy keepers". How much hay or feed does that translate into?
A: This varies with the age, work load, and region where the Haflinger lives, but the average amount fed to a non-hard working Haflinger (which is the majority of them) is 10-12 lbs. of good local grass hay twice daily and minimal (if any) grain. They need a vitamin/mineral supplement for the area they live. Growing, pregnant, lactating and working Haflingers may consume a pound or two of grain daily, but it is preferable to supply extra calories in the form of vegetable or corn oil. Overfeeding a Haflinger is very easy, much too common, and can lead to temperament changes, metabolic imbalances, founder and colic.
Q: I am planning to enter my Haflingers in a halter competition. I need to know what the appropriate tack and show attire would be. I also need to know what the general arena procedure typically is for the Haflinger halter classes.
A: This is dependent on where you are showing, whether it is open breeds or just Haflingers, western or English discipline, pleasure or draft. The wisest thing is to ask the show organizers to tell you what the expectations are for the class.
If it is an all Haflinger halter class, pleasure-type, then you would show them in a plain leather halter, with only a bridle path clipped, as well as trimming ears, beard, and perhaps muzzle. Let the mane flow freely. Whether or not to clip the feather off the fetlocks is personal preference but is generally a good idea in pleasure halter, and optional in draft classes. In draft classes, some exhibitors show their Haflingers with rosettes in the mane and the tail bunned. You can wear light colored slacks, paddock boots, white shirt or blouse, no hat is necessary.
If it is an open class, all breeds, then you go with the discipline. Western attire is appropriate for a western halter class.
In general, the halter classes are conducted based on the judges' preference--usually walk away, turn, and trot back. In sporthorse halter classes, the walk and trot take place on a triangle.
Q: Do they always come in that color?
A: Not always! Depending on the seasons, they can be creamy blonde to deep chocolate chestnut, but the majority are a light to medium chestnut, either golden or red. Ideally, they should have snow white mane and tail, but a few have some red, gray, silver or black hairs in their mane. There is a fabled black Haflinger that everyone talks about, but no one has actually seen.
Q: Do they ever get bigger than this?
A: What's not big about a Haflinger? They are endowed with substantial bone, broad back and chest, and can pack up to 300 pounds. Remember, closer to the ground means it is easier to get on and off. Fifteen hands is the upper limit for height, but most Haflingers are in the 14 hand range.
Q: Are they always this friendly?
A: Yes, especially at feeding time! Seriously, they are quite people-friendly and naturally curious.
Q: Can an adult ride a Haflinger?
A: Sure! If an adult can ride a 14 hand Arabian horse, they surely can ride a Haflinger and there is more barrel to take up one's leg.
Q: Are they considered a pony?
A: Not historically. They are small horses--bred smaller for the mountain environment they lived in, with less feed and forage available. Those that are under 14-2 hands are considered "pony height" for purposes of showing, but they are not considered a "pony" breed.
Q: How much do they eat?
A: They would eat all day if given the invitation. The reality is that Haflingers require less feed than most light breed horses and can certainly founder if allowed to overeat but if you try to tell them that is the case they are sincerely offended.
Q: Are they half-Belgian?
A: No, they are shrink-dried Belgians--just add water! Actually they are not at all related to Belgians.
Q: If this is a Haflinger, then what is a Wholinger?
A: A Belgian!
Q: If this is a Haflinger, then what is a Quarterlinger?
A: The result when your Haflinger stallion gets in with the neighbor's Quarter Horse mares.
Q: Are they good kid's horses?
A: Depends on the kid. With training for both, yes!
Q: What do you do with them?
A: You mean besides cleaning after them, feeding them, grooming them and worrying about them? We love them! And they ride, drive, jump, pack, vault, log, plow, and look awfully cute!
Q: How come they cost so much?
A:They don't any more--they have become quite affordable!