There's no disputing that Haflings are a hardy breed – hardly as rock and sweet as honey – but that shouldn't be taken as an excuse to disregard their health care. Like any horse, you've got to take good care of your Haflinger – it might be the most important aspect of the horse and equestrian relationship.

No matter how much field work you give them, or how many rides, or how educated a trainer you are – when your horse is sick and miserable, so are you.

So what's a devoted Haflinger owner to do? First, become an expert in all aspects of horse care. Talk to fellow Haflinger owners – not just about the breed, but about other breeds too. Sometimes you'll find a horse expert right up the road who's chock full of tips about good feed and good trails and the best professional caregivers.

But don't stop there – go online, too. There's more horse information online today than ever before. Not all of it is top notch but plenty of it is helpful and instructive. You might find other Haflinger owners out there – if you do, pick their brains a bit. And don't be shy about sharing your own expertise as well.

At the top of any horse care list, you have to have an excellent equine veterinarian. Optimally,your vet will visit rarely to administer some basic vaccines and the like. Still, even for that routine stuff you want someone who knows their stuff and wants to please. When you ask questions do they listen carefully and give you responsive answers? Do they talk about what they're doing and why they think it's necessary? You have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.

Not only that, your horse should feel like they're part of a team as well. So keep a close eye on how your vet interacts with your Haflinger. Are they gentle and patient? Do they take a moment to introduce themselves to the horse? How's their "bedside manner?" And how does your horse seem to feel about the whole thing? If they seem bored or only mildly antsy you're probably okay. But if they're a bit more agitated than usual, take that into consideration.

Your horse will always keep you posted about what they like and don't like. Give them the respect of listening!

Your vet isn't the only caregiver that counts in your new Haflinger family. You also want a good farrier to keep the horse's feet trimmed and shod, if that's your decision. Most horses need a good equine dentist as well, though you'll often find veterinarians who do this for you.

In general, when looking into other equine professionals, the same basic rules apply as to veterinarians. Do they include you in the process? Is your horse content with them?

When it comes to horse health care, take your time and ask around. They deserve the best from you – be sure you give it to them.