It is truly remarkable that one hundred years ago the Haflinger was a local mountain horse in Austria and today there are nearly a quarter of a million of the breed around the world! Obviously, the breed itself merits this popularity, thanks to its versatility, handsome features and pleasant temperament, but it also had a great deal of help from its dedicated breed organization which manages the breeding goals of the Haflinger around the world. Here we'll take a look at the World Haflinger Federation, how they keep the breeding goals on track, and just some of the success that the Haflinger has seen in competitions around the world.
Amazingly, the Haflinger did not start to be exported until the 1950's, making its rapid ascent in numbers worldwide even more incredible. As the numbers grew, the Haflinger Pferdezuchtverband Tirol, or the Haflinger association in the horse's native Austria, recognized the need to take control of the breeding goals of the horse around the world in order to maintain the conformation and performance of this impressive horse. In 1975 they created the World Haflinger Foundation which serves as the only worldwide umbrella organization for the breed. The WHF is in charge of making the rules for the necessary testing that Haflingers must undertake in order to be included in the studbook as well as training and authorizing international judges of the breed. Today there are twenty-two different member organizations in eighteen countries around the world.
One of the most important duties of the World Haflinger Foundation is to lay down the rules of the important testing that horses must take to be eligible for registration. Testing can start as early as one year for those yearlings that have a predisposition for performance. Yearlings can be tested on conformation, temperament, basic gaits and health problems. Older horses will be tested on the same traits in order to be accepted into the studbook, and judges may also ask to see the horse run free. Horses must have reached a minimum height by the time they are first tested for the studbook at three years. A final measurement of the horse is taken at the age of six years. Testing can be a very stressful time for an owner or breeder because the judges' decisions are final. If a horse is not accepted for any reason during a test, he will always be considered disqualified.
Whether it is because of the strict breeding practices or because of their sheer numbers, Haflingers have succeeded in competitions all over the world, and these successes tend to run in the family. For example, stallion Afghan II became the first Haflinger world champion stallion in 1990, followed by his son Amadeus in 1995, and his grandson Abendstern in 2000. But it isn't just Haflingers from Austria that are earning their places in the winner's circle; other notable winners include Aristocrat, a national winning stallion in the United States, Damatteo, who was the overall winning mare at the European show in 2003, and Nordwest, a European reserve winning stallion.