Haflinger Breed Information

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There is something unique about the appearance of the Haflinger horse. Standing between 13 and 15 hands high, it is tempting to call this horse a “pony”. But given the Haflinger’s heritage of being a tough, strong, hardworking soul in the Tyrolian mountains of Austria, this horse is built for power and hardiness. In its native Austria, the Haflinger is sometimes referred to as a “prince in the front, a peasant behind” due to the size of its muscular hindquarters. The Haflinger has a well-shaped head, sometimes reflecting its remote Arabian ancestor, with a small, almost delicate muzzle, wide dark eyes, a friendly and intelligent expression, set on an elegant neck. His striking chestnut coat can be blonde, or as dark as chocolate brown, and the blonde mane and tail is ideally snow white, quite heavy with the mane often falling double on the neck naturally.

The Haflinger descends from a race of mountain ponies that have grazed the Alps for centuries. These ponies, tough and strong, were used as all-around helpers of the Austrian farmer. Subsisting on sparse rations in the winter, the Haflinger’s ancestors were selectively bred for temperament, hardiness and longevity. Mountain farmers used them for plowing and transportation, packing up steep trails, pulling logs from the forests. Only those horses who could be handled by all members of the family were kept and bred--thus the docile and friendly nature of the modern Haflingers. With the introduction of a small amount of Arabian blood in 1874, a foundation Haflinger sire “FOLIE” was born, and is found in the pedigrees of all purebred Haflingers.

Although the world around him was changing, the Haflinger continued to work on the farm and provide transportation to his family as he had for centuries. The mountainsides were not well adapted to mechanized farming, and the princely faced Haflinger continued to plow and till the soil long after the advent of the industrial revolution. This willingness to work, strength, thriftiness, and surefootedness made him a desired military pack horse during World War II, traveling the coldest and most difficult fronts of the war.

After the World War, the breeding was taken over by the Austrian government, and has become one of the most strictly selective and examined of warmblood breeds in Europe. The first Haflingers were imported to the United States in the 1960’s, with one herd arriving in the state of Washington (purchased by the company Heisdorf and Nelson) and the other herd joining the famous Lippizans at Tempel Farms in Illinois. There are now over 10,000 Haflingers in North America, with most imports having arrived within the last ten years from Europe. Breeders who have turned to Haflingers remark not just on their undeniable appeal and people-oriented personalities, but also on their intelligence, boldness, and resilience. They learn quickly and are sensible, attributes that has earned them a place in the world of therapeutic riding, as well as on trails, in the dressage ring, jumping and combined driving.

Haflingers are found in two types. The heavier, draft type of Haflinger might be seen skidding logs, plowing an Amish farm in the midwest, or competing at the local draft competition at the county fair. The pleasure-type Haflinger is a superb driving horse, jumper, and due to a long flowing, animated stride, a serious dressage mount. Cheerful and willing to work, the Haflinger is a horse for everyone, easily able to carry a large adult, and gentle enough for the most timid beginning child rider. Perhaps, most of all, the Haflinger is a friend and companion. Over the centuries of living so closely with his human family, the Haflinger developed a temperament that is not simply unflappable, but actively outgoing and engaging. It is said that “Haflingers can do anything, with a smile!”

People who switch from other breeds to Haflingers are often amazed by their new horses’ intelligence, quickness to learn, and utter desire to please. These new owners are only just learning what Austrian Haflinger owners have known for centuries. When it comes to versatility, ability, and looks, it’s hard to beat the blonde horses of the Alps.

Breed standards set by the World Haflinger Federation and the Tyrolean Horse Breeders Association

Appearance and color: Chestnut color in all shades from light to dark with light colored manes and tails.

Height: Between 138 cm. ( 13-2 hands) and 150 cm. (14-3) stick measurement at age 3.

Type: 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.

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.

Neck: Should be of medium length and should become narrower towards the head. There should be sufficient freedom through the jowls.

Front-section: Well pronounced withers that reach far into the back, a large sloped shoulder and a deep broad chest.

Back: Medium length, well muscled, and when in motion should combine elasticity, balance and tension.

Mid-section: Well connected to both forehand and hindquarters, with sufficient girth and curved deep ribs.

Hindquarters: A long well muscled croup, slightly sloped and not too much split.

Tail: Not too deeply set.

Legs: 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.

Movement and basic gaits: Diligent, rhythmic and ground covering gaits. The walk should be relaxed, energetic, and proud and cadenced. The trot and canter should be 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. Especially the canter should have a very distinct forward-upward motion.

Personality traits and health characteristics: Sound, strong character, a good disposition, sturdy all purpose type, willingness to work, efficient, easy keepers, resistant to disease and easy to acclimate.