Haflinger Horse: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

Haflinger trotting in a pasture

Bianca Grueneberg / Getty Images

Hardy, strong, and compact, the Haflinger is a highly popular horse among both children and adults. These small horses are athletic and multi-talented – they excel in dressage, jumping, trail riding, driving, and more. Haflingers are often very friendly toward people and though they may be shorter than other riding breeds, they’re plenty powerful.

Breed Overview

Weight: 800 to 1,300 pounds

Height: 13.2 to 15 hands

Body Type: Short, stocky build with strong hooves and legs

Best For: Many disciplines, including driving, trail riding, and dressage

Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years

Haflinger History and Origins

The Haflinger originated in the Tyrolean Mountains, which run between Italy and what is Austria, today. In medieval times, horses carrying riders and packs navigated narrow trails to access these mountains. This was a challenging task that demanded mountain horses that were agile, surefooted, and strong.

In 1874, a colt named Folie was born. Folie was by a half-Arabian stallion and out of one of these mountain mares. Folie became the foundation stallion for all purebred Haflingers. The breed was named after a village called Hafling, which was an Austrian territory at the time.

In 1958, Haflingers were imported to America, where the breed quickly became popular among both riders and drivers.

Haflinger Size

Haflingers are compact horses ranging between 13.2 and 15 hands on average. While they may be small, they’re sturdy and strong. Even though some of these horses are only pony-sized, they’re capable of easily carrying full-sized adults.

Haflinger mare and foal grazing
Astrid860 / Getty Images 
Young Haflinger doing an extended trot in a pasture
 slowmotiongli / Getty Images
Haflinger grazing in front of a mountain
 Frans Sellies / Getty Images

Breeding and Uses

During World War II, the Haflinger was bred to be short and stocky, but since then the breeding focus has shifted to developing versatile horses that can be both ridden and driven, reflecting the modern breed traits common today.

Thanks to its versatility, the Haflinger performs and succeeds in many different activities. It’s a popular dressage, jumping, and Western show horse. It’s strong and sturdy enough to serve as a vaulting or packing mount. It also excels in pleasure driving, endurance riding, and trail riding. Its gentle temperament and people-loving personality make it ideal for therapeutic riding programs, too.

Pair of Haflingers pulling a carriage through town streets
 Josef F. Stuefer / Getty Images

Colors and Markings

This breed is known for its golden chestnut coat and cream- or white-colored mane and tail. The Haflinger’s coat can range from a light gold to a darker chestnut or liver chestnut. Many Haflingers also have white points on their lower legs and faces.

Haflinger stud being posed by a breeder
 Kit Houghton / Getty Images
Light colored Haflinger walking in the snow
 Lubo Ivanko / Getty Images

Unique Characteristics of the Haflinger

The Haflinger has many unique characteristics. It’s known for its strength and compact build, which offer many advantages. A single Haflinger can carry adults and compete in many disciplines, but that same horse is also well-suited and well-sized to carry children, too. Haflingers are known for being people-oriented and for having laid-back temperaments. They’re ideal family horses, thanks to their temperaments and versatility.

Diet and Nutrition

Most Haflingers are easy keepers, so the key to keeping them healthy is in a carefully selected and controlled diet. Most of these horses need little or no grain, but if a Haflinger’s workload requires it to have grain, it’s important to choose a low-sugar and low-starch option. Haflingers also require little hay, so feeding hay in a slow feeder can help the portions to last longer.

While Haflingers love grass, many of them shouldn’t be allowed to indulge in its rich sugars. Many Haflingers need to wear a grazing muzzle if they’re out on pasture, and this is particularly important if the horse has metabolic issues or a history of founder.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

While Haflingers are often friendly toward people and have a relatively laid-back temperament, some are known for testing their riders and developing a bit of a hard-headed attitude. Because these horses are so strong, if they decide to use that strength to pursue their own ideas, they can overwhelm beginner riders. Professional training and consistent handling can help with this.

Haflingers tend to be healthy, but the breed is prone to some potential health issues:

  • Laminitis: This painful hoof condition can result in coffin bone rotation and sinking, separating from the hoof wall. It’s often caused by horses eating too much grass or too much rich grain.
  • Equine Metabolic Syndrome: This condition can result in a horse being obese, developing a resistance to insulin, and being at a higher risk of laminitis. Horses with EMS need careful maintenance to keep them healthy.

Grooming

This breed requires moderate grooming. Its thick and long mane, forelock, and tail can require some extra care and maintenance, especially during muddy winters and springs. Regular detangling with a quality leave-in detangler and mane and tail comb can help to prevent hair breakage.

Haflingers are known for having durable, healthy hooves, but it’s important for owners to pick out their horse’s hooves regularly, including before and after rides. The Haflinger will also benefit from regular currying and grooming, which can help to bring out the natural golden sheen of its coat.

Pros
  • Hardy and surefooted

  • Easy keeper

  • Strong enough for adults to ride

Cons
  • Can develop a pushy attitude

  • Needs careful diet maintenance

Champion and Celebrity Haflinger Horses

  • 249 Folie, a stallion born in 1874, is perhaps the most famous Haflinger. Folie was the foundation sire and all modern-day Haflingers have bloodlines that can be traced back to him.
  • Prometea, a filly who was born in 2003, was the result of a clone. Italian scientists bred the filly, and she was the first cloned horse to be born.

Is the Haflinger Horse Right for You?

Haflingers can be a great choice for many equestrians. Their small stature makes them easier to mount and dismount than larger horses, and the fact that many of these horses can be both ridden and driven is a great perk, too. Haflingers tend to be calm and even-tempered, making them a practical option for riders who are beginners or who are looking to build their confidence. The breed’s versatility is also ideal if you’re interested in many different disciplines, or if you’re looking for a horse that you could share with a child or a friend.

Since Haflingers are easy keepers, you can expect to save some money on feed costs. As long as you’re prepared to limit the horse’s grass intake and carefully develop a diet that works well for your horse, this breed can be a great addition to your barn.

How to Adopt or Buy a Haflinger

Haflingers are popular horses, and it’s common to find a well-trained, well-bred horse selling for $5,000 or more. Competitive show horses can cost $10,000, $20,000, or more, though prices will also vary depending on your location within the country.

If you want to buy a Haflinger, it’s best to look for a reputable breeder or training program. Haflingers tend to be healthy, but always consider investing in a pre-purchase exam and taking a talented trainer with you to evaluate any sales horse that you’re considering.

You’ll sometimes find that horse rescues have Haflingers available for adoption. If you’re thinking of adopting a horse, ask plenty of questions about its background, training, and temperament to make sure that it’s suitable for you. It’s also advisable to invest in a pre-purchase exam when adopting a horse so that you’re aware of any significant health issues or limitations that your new horse may have.

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