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Use and characteristics of the Haflinger
The Haflinger is one of the horse breeds that breeds very true to type. This makes all Haflingers very similar in appearance, having the rich sorrel colouring with flaxen mane and tail that is part of the appeal for those who buy a Haflinger. A closer look reveals gradations in coat colour from almost chocolate-coloured to pale gold. There is some variation in conformation too, from a lighter riding type to a sturdier, more draught-like type, with different qualities prized by the people who sell a Haflinger. The height standard has varied over the years and today Haflingers are between 13.2 hands (54 inches/137 cm) and 15 hands (60 inches/152 cm) high. Haflingers combine the best of both horse and pony characteristics, being easy to keep and compact, yet capable of taking on a big workload. Their long, broad backs have been developed for pack work and as harness ponies, they cover the ground with speed and energy. Haflingers were also used by the military as ideal equines for campaigns in remote, mountainous terrain.
Origin and history of breeding Haflingers
As with many modern breeds, little is known about the Haflinger in early times, but from the 19th century onwards the breed records are exceptionally good. The two main origin theories are, firstly, that the ponies are the descendants of the mounts of 6th-century Gothic cavalry. Alternatively, it has been suggested that they descend from a stallion from Burgundy that was a wedding present to the 14th century Margrave Louis of Brandenburg on his marriage to a Tyrolean princess. Certainly, horses from various breeds have influenced the Haflinger. The name comes from the village of Hafling, the centre of the breed in the 19th century when it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Today, Hafling is in the Alto Adige region of Italy and here the breed is known as the Avelignese, after the Italian name for Hafling. The modern history of the Hafling begins with an Arabian stallion, El Bedavi XXII, who was the sire of the foundation stallion of the breed, now known as 249 Folie. Today, all Haflingers trace back to Folie through seven distinct bloodlines.
Haflingers in equestrianism
While the Haflinger breed has sometimes struggled to survive, particularly during and after both World Wars, today the future looks brighter. Austria and South Tyrol remain the prime sources for Haflingers, and pure-breds are hot-branded with the Austrian Edelweiss. There are other studs throughout the world today, and they have become a popular choice for endurance riding as well as driving. Members of the British Royal Family have owned Haflinger harness ponies. The late Duchess of Devonshire, as Patron of the Haflinger Society of Great Britain, did a great deal to establish the enthusiastic following there.