Wednesday, January 8, 2014

hump day haflinger series #1

For your very first Hump Day Haflinger, I present not one, not, two, but a whole hitch of Haflingers!

Ever wonder what it would be like to sit atop a giant hitch wagon while controlling eight horses? Scary, right?  Thrilling, maybe?

Kyle Love of Second Star Halfingers in Indiana shared with me his team of horses and what a judge at a hitch show is looking for in a winning team. I saw this hitch and Kyle drive over the summer at the Great Lakes Haflinger Association Show. Kyle really makes it look so smooth and easy as the hitch goes around the arena. Trust me, it is not. One horse is testing my limits, but eight? It really is amazing what the drivers and horses can do.
Just look at all that awesomeness!
When driving the hitch, you are not just sitting on the wagon and letting the horse do all the work. There is a lot that goes into it. Six horses used to be the big thing in hitches, now many farms are driving all the way up to eight! Kyle describes driving an eight horse hitch to that of driving a semi truck from behind. It takes focus to make sure each horse is doing exactly what it needs to do, from making sure that the eveners are straight so that each team in the hitch is pulling the weight it needs to pull to making sure that the horses are all responding and pulling the lines just right in order to make the turns in the arena. As if that isn't hard enough (and remember, the driver has 4 sets of lines in his hand), he has to steer the lead (front) horses in one directions and the wheel (horses closest to the wagon) in another direction, especially around corners. Kyle says coming out of the turns feels like you are being pulled out of your seat!
Getting all decorated and ready to be hitched!
Hitches often come with a co-pilot, someone to watch the teams in front for any sudden stopping and listen to the announcer for changes in direction. When the hitches line up, the co-pilot jumps down and heads the lead team for safety. 

At Second Star Haflingers, they have over 25 horses and use nine or ten for their hitch team. The 2014 hitch line up will include:
Fancy Girl CHA
Noble Prince WWA
Mister Flamin Hot 2SH
Magic Mark 2SH
Mister Cash 2SH
Rachel's Foolish Rose 2SH
Cameo 2SH
Calypso 2SH
N Focus 2SH

As you can see, most of their Haflingers they breed themselves and come with the 2SH or Second Star Haflinger at the end of the horse's name indicated what farm that horse came from. Second Star Haflingers has begin to breed their own hitch horses, as they are looking for a specific type of horse. They want an athletic, modern, draft style Haflinger with traits that keep them hardy and sound. I have seen their horses, they are big! The Haflingers they prefer need a big foot, a clean hock with a nice flat bone with a nice curb joint, draft horse hind leg angles, and a high set tail. They want a long neck. The shoulder should be laid back to reflect the angles of the pasterns to set the motion that is desired. The horses should also pick up their hind feet and flex their hocks.
That leg!
All these conformation traits get put together to make the different hitches; from the single cart, team cart, tandem, unicorn, four, six, and eight horse hitches. When they show, the judges are looking for how the team works together as a whole, horses that lean on each other or bump into each other are not something the judges want to see. The larger horses are placed at the wheel (closest to the cart) and they graduate to the smaller horses at the lead. The judge wants to see horses that match in color, size, animation, headsets, and presence. Each pair should look like once horse from the side.

The general pattern of the hitch classes is a couple laps at the walk and trot around the arena in one direction, reverse on the diagonal, a couple laps at the walk and trot int he other direction, then line up facing the judge. When the teams line up, the judge looks at the quality of the team before they are asked to reverse. The horses are expected to back up as a team. 

Second Star Haflingers have done some amazing things as a team: 
  • 2010 Second Place AHR National Champion Six Horse Hitch 
  • 2012 Indiana State Fair Haflinger/Draft Pony Six Horse Hitch Champion 
  • 2013 Indiana State Fair Haflinger/Draft Pony Six Horse Hitch Champion 
  • 2013 National Champion Mare team with home raised mares. 
  • 2013 Undefeated Eight Horse Hitch 
I look forward to seeing Second Star Haflingers again at the Great Lakes Haflinger Association this summer! Did I mention they used pink for the horses decorations and carts? I hope I provided a decent explaination of the hitch teams. If not, please feel free to ask questions!

Exiting the arena


  1. Aw man... it makes me so sad to see they hyperflare their feet like they do with the bigger drafties :(

    1. Yeah, it is scotch-bottom shoes. While it is not something I would do to Shyloh (plus she is way too small to be in a hitch), they do it for the leg action. I do not understand why they take off most of the heel to pad it up. Most of the square look is epoxy.

  2. Between Shyloh and Paddington, I am quickly becoming (mildly) obsessed with Halflingers....

  3. This series is great, I can't wait to learn more about Haflingers (honestly I didn't know there was this much to learn!)

  4. They are gorgeous! Really cool post!

  5. Thanks for the fabulous post. You taught me a lot! I was interested to see how high the horses carry their heads. Like Andrea, I noticed their feet - they seem too long for my tastes. It seems like that could cause issues in hoof health

    1. Usually, they are only shod for show season and it is a process to get to that level of shoeing. But I can tell you, at least in the big draft hitches, that they stink like thrush when they go by. Yuck!

  6. This is a seriously cool post! I have loved Haflingers for years - the first barn I ever rode at had a whole herd of them - but I've never seen them driven in the big hitches before!

  7. Wow, I learned so much. I've only pulled muck carts myself. Would be way cool to pull something pretty & with friends. Mom says no way though, she's to chicken :P

  8. Wow, I can't even imagine all that goes into driving, especially a team of 8! Great post!

  9. Replies
    1. Now imagine being at a place with 8 of these teams! 8 more times the cute!

  10. Great post, well written and here.. respected!

  11. Awesomeness is the perfect description, love it, thanks for sharing :-)

  12. CUTE! Minus the feet. I'm with Andrea on this one.

  13. Wow, I have never seen Haflingers set up like this in a hitch. How incredibly fancy looking.

    Let alone 8....blows my mind trying to figure out how those reins would have to be coordinated. My goal is to drive one...successfully. ;)

    1. They actually have a person to set the lines (reins) before they get on the wagon. I have no idea how it is done, it is very cool though!


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