Use and characteristics of the Leonhard
The Leonhard is the outcome of years of development using three foundation breeds, the Welsh Cob, the Haflinger and the Pura Raza Española (PRE). Individuals of the breed can stand between 13.3 hands (55 inches/140 cm) and 16 hands (64 inches/162 cm) high, meaning there’s a versatile height range available for those who buy a Leonhard. The aim is to bring out the best qualities of each of the foundation breeds so that the surefootedness and strength of the Haflinger combine with the elegance and elevation of the PRE and the power and drive of the Welsh cob. The proof of the success of this combination can be seen in the interest when an owner decides to sell a Leonhard. Many coat colours are available, from black to sorrel.
Origin and history of breeding Leonhard horses
Johann Abfalter’s St Leonardshof Farm in Grabenstätt/Chiemgau in Bavaria was already a well-established producer of nutritional cheeses when Abfalter conceived the idea of producing cheese made from mare’s milk. This was an unusual approach, as it is rare to encounter the commercial use of mare’s milk in modern Europe, although it is still part of the culture of many societies in central Asia. The use of mare’s milk has very ancient origins since it began in what is now Kazakhstan 5,000 years ago. The three breeds chosen to contribute to the programme, the Welsh Cob, the PRE and the Haflinger were selected because of the diverse qualities they would bring. In order to produce the milk, the mares would need to be in-foal and the philosophy of the farm was not compatible with selling on the foals for meat. The aim was always to provide as natural a life as possible while producing wholesome, nutritious products. Right from the start, the intention was to produce a breed with the right qualities for children and families while creating nutritional cheese from the organically certified milk of the mares in the herd. The breeding programme began in 2008 and by 2011 the Leonhard had gained official approval, with the foals rated by the Bavarian Breeding Association for Small Horses and Special Horse Breeds. In their first few weeks, the foals receive all the milk they need from their mothers and only after this is any surplus used for making cheese. Breeding the Leonhard is still developing, with Welsh Cobs and Haflingers contributing to the first generation and the PRE pairing with the resulting offspring.
Leonhards in equestrianism
Abfalter’s breeding programme prioritises two qualities: a good temperament and versatility. The Leonhard’s free-moving, ground-covering action and elasticity of movement makes the breed suitable for many equestrian activities. In the decade or so since the establishment of the breed, the Leonhard has been awarded several gold medals.