Haflinger or Avelignese - Two Names for One Breed
Some horse breeds are so distinctive it is nearly impossible to mistake them for any breed other than what they are. A Shetland is one example and the Haflinger is another. The Haflinger has a golden coat, a profuse flaxen mane and tail. Add a compact, solid body on short, sturdy legs and what else could it be but a Haflinger?
The breed is named for the town of Hafling in the South Tyrol Mountains in what was once Austria. The area is now northern Italy. It has the alternative name of Avelignese (Italian for Haflinger). The Hafling Municipal coat of arms includes a Haflinger.
These little mountain ponies are tough, powerful and hardy. They were a vital part of the peasant farmer's life. Just as the Norwegian Fjord is always a dun and the Suffolk Punch always chestnut, so the Haflinger is always gold with a flaxen mane and tail.
In the 1870s, indigenous horses of the area were upgraded by introducing Arabian blood. Registration No 249 was a colt called Folie. This outstanding horse founded seven stallion dynasties and all purebred Haflingers can be traced back to one of the seven stallions. The influence of the Arabian can still be seen in the attractive head of the Haflinger.
Haflingers were used as packhorses during the Second World War. However they were unsuccessful when used under desert conditions by the Indian Army as they were not able to cope with the high temperatures of the desert.
Once the war was over, the Austrian government took over breeding operations and looked towards producing a lighter, slightly taller animal. The ideal was to be a light carriage horse which was also good under saddle.
Stallions are owned by the state. There is rigorous testing for conformation, soundness, fertility, movement, temperament, colour and size. If the stallion passes, he is branded with the Edelweiss brand. This has the edelweiss flower with an H at the centre for Austrian bred horses and an HI for Italian bred animals. Haflingers are remarkably consistent. All have good temperaments and are sound and tough. Breed standards are controlled by the international World Haflinger Federation (WHF) which has 22 member associations in 18 different countries.
Great Britain welcomed their first Haflingers in the 1950s, followed by the United States in 1958, Australia and Japan in 1974 and finally Canada in 1977.
The Haflinger is still on the short side with most measuring 13.2hh to 15hh. It is always chestnut with great masses of flaxen or white mane and tail. The chestnut coat can vary from a rich gold to liver chestnut to a light gold.
The profile is slightly concave. The head is refined with a broad forehead, large, dark eyes, small pony-like ears and open nostrils. The neck is muscular and the body deep and strong. The back is broad, the croup slopes slightly over the tail which is set on rather low. The muscular legs have good bone with broad knees and clean joints. The Haflinger is energetic and willing and covers the ground easily on hard, round feet. There is some knee action which makes him attractive in harness. He has a calm, kindly disposition which is also a good trait in a harness horse.
The Haflinger has always been a willing workhorse in the high altitudes of his home region. He serves as a pack or draught animal and is sure-footed with great longevity. Like the Norwegian Fjord, he is small but strong and sturdy. He has a similar sensible manner. Both are ideal mounts for older riders and adult novices. The Haflinger is lively enough to suit teenagers and is ideal as a trekking mount. They are also used for vaulting and therapeutic riding as well as pleasure and competitive harness disciplines.