Wednesday, December 7, 2011

haflingers are like oxymorons

They are two different things at the very same time. 
  • A Halfinger approaches food like they have never eaten before, with such hunger and vigor. They could eat a whole bale of hay and still be searching for more food! Yet. . . they are such easy keepers and do not need a lot of food to survive. The reason that they are easy keepers is that they were born from the mountains of Tyrol in Austria (which is now a part if Italy). The food was sparse, so only horses that could thrive on small amounts lived and were bred. I know Shyloh wishes she had the metabolism of  Mocha, the TB a few stalls down! To watch her eat is to think she has not had any food for a week!
As a side line, the original Halfinger sire is called 249 Folie, born in 1874. There are seven lines of Haflingers that can be traced back to him: A-line, B-line, M-line, L-line, S-line, ST-line, and W-line. 
  • The Haflingers were selectively bred for their easy-going temperaments and ability to be handled by every member of the family. Yet . . .when they get something stuck in their minds, such as what they do or do NOT want to do, their stubbornness is unparalleled! So far, Shyloh has taken in stride the move to this barn and then the move to a stall inside. She is also not complaining about being stuck inside for a little over a week due to dangerously muddy conditions and flooded pastures. But, when I was riding her yesterday, she thought she was done and was doing everything in her power to turn and take me to her stall! Little did I know that Shy can side pass and turn on her fore front without any cues!
Another history lesson. . .Haflingers first came to America in 1960. Their stud book was closed in in the late 1940's so no new blood could be introduced into their line. 
  • Haflingers generally have a willingness to work and please their person attitude. They can perform in all disciplines in the horse world: dressage, jumping, driving, western, trail riding, therapeutic riding, vaulting, and endurance. Yet. . . they will make YOU work for their trust! Since I have started riding Shy, she has been an absolute gem! Her attention to me when I am on her is amazing and she really seems to take her job seriously. But the work I have to put into just getting on her is something else. Every time we line up at the mounting block, I lift my leg up on the first step and she swings her rear end away. I get down, walk around, and tap her back. No problem. Her front feet are planted, she is not going anywhere, just making me work for her. This is repeated 5-10 times, until she finally decides that she is done, I've done enough work, and just stands there for me to get on her. Then our little rides have been great!  
Yesterday, Kathy asked to ride Shy. I do not think that Shy was ready to let someone ride her just yet, because her mounting block behaviors were different than with me, she actually propelled herself forward! And Shy really likes Kathy! Kathy handles her well on the ground and Shy responds well to her. We tried a few times, but eventually we listened to Shy tell us she was not ready for someone else to ride her, and she let me get back on her. But Shy has no problem following Kathy around the arena while I was on her back! She was obviously looking for Kathy to give her treats. 
  • A Haflinger is a small horse breed. They range from about 13.2 hands to 14.3 hands. Yet. . . they have the biggest personality of all the breeds (in my humble opinion)! I swear, Shyloh does some stuff on purpose to either crack me up (think her signature face) or frustrate the heck out of me (think "catch me of you can"). Even her sassy attitude speaks magnitudes about her personality! And watching her with other horses is always fun. She interacts so well with them. For the most part, Shy will just go with the flow of whatever the other horse wants to do, but if another horse pisses her off, she is sure to let them know with a little buck!

More Haflinger info. . .they are war veterans! The Haflingers fought in World War I and World War II. They were used as pack horses on the front lines. After WWI, the breed was almost wiped out because of the changing borders. These "war" horses are the most gentle horses with the kindest eyes you will ever see, another irony!
  • The Haflingers are incredibly intelligent, sometimes too smart for their own good! It is also this intelligence that makes them very curious to learn about their surroundings and apply their knowledge. They will watch every move you make. Yet. . .you can ask them to do something you know that they know, and if they do not feel like it, they will look at you like you are absolutely crazy! Shyloh makes a "thinking" noise, which I have also come to call the "you want me to do what?" noise! 
I may be slightly partial to the awesomeness that is Haflingers! I hope you enjoyed the little bit of Haflinger history that I have gathered in my perusing on the interweb!
Shyloh wanted out the door!


  1. I learned a method of getting a horse to stand perfectly still for mounting - It might take a day or two because they can't believe what's happening to them! (LOL) but in the end, they stand like statues! Once it gets through their head, they remember. ~ Rachel

    (Isn't Bob the Equestrian a brave man?!)

  2. Even though I've had my Haffies for a few years, I didn't know everything that you shared. And yes, they are easy keepers and opinionated and jokesters and... and... and!!

  3. Rachel, what is this method?

    Dreaming, and they are amazingly wonderful! when they are not frustrating the heck out of you!

  4. It’s called ‘Reverse Psychology’ and works with people, too. The method also can be used with getting them to load into a trailer.

    First, prepare your horse for riding – the whole procedure: grooming, picking feet, saddling. Take them to an area that you can lunge with not too many obstacles and decent footing. Make sure you have at least a six-foot lead rope snapped onto the bridle.

    Prepare to mount up. If the horse moves AT ALL proceed to lunge the horse, not letting them make more than three laps in one direction, change direction, lunge until they are breathing moderately heavy.
    Proceed to mount up again. If the horse moves AT ALL lunge again until they are breathing heavily. Attempt to mount up again. If the horse moves AT ALL lunge again. Usually they are prepared to stand at this time. Mount up and allow them to air up completely. Then dismount, and lunge again, moderately, not breathing heavily.

    Proceed to mount up. If the horse moves AT ALL lunge again. Do not ride the horse this day. Only sit on them to completely air up, then lunge. When they are quiet and you’ve mounted give them a treat and do not ride off. Let them stand. The only rest allowed is when you are on them, standing quietly. If they move off, dismount and lunge.
    Reverse psychology – the only rest allowed is when you are mounted. When you are on the ground, it’s work, work, work. When the horse is standing quietly for 15 – twenty minutes, dismount, untack and do the grooming procedure like you’ve been riding for hours.
    This lesson/session should not take more than an hour.
    Repeat the lesson the next day. Do not ride off during these lessons. Only rest allowed is while standing perfectly still. This is also a good time to practice mounting on the ‘off’ side. If they don’t accept it, work, work, work.

    It’s a great investment of the time it takes. You will never have trouble with them standing still for the rest of their lives. Really. I’ve done this with my own horses, with school horses, young horses, older horses. It really works. The lazier the horse, the faster they figure out what is being asked. -R-

  5. Camryn here:
    Yup have to say that method would work for sure. Mom did something similar when I would move off from mounting. I don't do that anymore!!!

  6. RM, thanks! I am going to try this weekend!

    Camryn, Glad to hear a success story with the method!

  7. LOL - I've had plenty of people ask, are you ever going to ride that horse? Just standing around, seated on my pony. LOL

    Another good practice is the 'dreaded blue tarp.' After all the running around and fleeing, the only place that he was allowed to rest was while standing on the blue tarp.

    The next day he come into the arena, saw the blue tarp and immediately stands on it. See, Mom, lesson over! - Rachel G. M. -

  8. We have a Fjord. Just like Haffies really. The "making them move if they don't stand still at the mounting block" technique worked a treat with her!!

  9. R.M. and Helen, I do need to try that technique! I am waiting for a day when the barn is not so busy and I can have the arena to myself. Right now, I found a temporary solution, but I need her to stand when she is not against a wall.

  10. Martine, I wouldn't get a horse without knowing a little something about the breed :) Plus, I like to learn.

  11. Love your blog! I have a Haffie (born in Tyrol and of the W line) and a Haffie x Arab, both incredible horses and everything like you describe! Look forward to reading more about Shy =)

  12. Sharon, Thanks! A Haffie born in Tyrol, how lucky! I will HAVE to check that out!

  13. I have a haffie that is an escape artist. If she can't jump it, she just uses that big thick mane as insulation and walks through the electric fence tape. Any suggestions?
    Oh, and I've used that work method for years to get difficult horses to trailer load. I have a hard headed QH mare who had to be lunged so much that now, when I point her at the trailer, she lunges one circle around me, then jumps into the trailer. It's funny to watch. It's the only way she will load!

  14. Hello T! So far I have been lucky and she only has one escape attempt under her halter.

    Funny about your QH!


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