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Haflingers are one of the more popular horse breeds used to pull wagons in our semi-annual trail rides. During our recent journey, I was asked by a young boy if the Haflinger breed is good riding horses for beginners.
Haflinger horses aren’t typically a good breed for beginner riders. They are intelligent horses that test their handlers and often take advantage of inexperienced riders. But with the correct training techniques and proper care, Haflingers can be suitable horses for beginner riders.
Many beginner riders choose the Haflinger horse breed based on its size and look. However, there are many other things to consider when shopping for a beginner’s horse other than the breed’s physical traits.
Haflinger horses’ temperament isn’t suited for beginners.
We used our neighbor’s young Haflingers for long trail rides, and it was soon evident that they are brilliant and gentle animals. The horses cooperated when we hooked them up to the wagon and never exhibited any signs that concerned me when the kids were playing near them.
We had such a good experience with the horses that I discussed getting one for my grandson. The owner, who is a long time horse trainer, quickly shut the door on that idea. She explained that they are difficult horses to ride and train.
I asked her what traits make them unsuitable for beginners? Without hesitation, she stated,
“it’s not because they aren’t smart but the opposite; they are so intelligent that they continuously test riders’ horsemanship skills. When riding a Haflinger, it’s critical that the rider stays focused and gives firm commands, or the horse will take control or may refuse to move.”
The trainer continued:
Most Halfinglers immediately know when a novice rider sits on their back, and they respond accordingly. They don’t want to leave the barn or slow walk well behind other horses. I don’t understand why people want to use Haflingers for beginner riders; you can find many better-suited horse breeds.
After talking to her more on the subject, she agreed that Haflingers has traits that you look for in beginner horses; they are small, surefooted, smart, and easy to keep.
And they are trainable to be suitable horses for beginner riders. While horses are individuals, there are common traits of a breed, and you need to consider these when shopping for a horse. Every horse is different.
Rebuttal: Haflingers are good for beginners
Donna Kuck, a breeder and seller of Haflingers for many years at Cedar Lane Farm, has a differing opinion regarding whether Haflingers are good horses for beginner riders.
Because of Ms. Kuck’s experience with the breed, I believe her opinion carries weight and should be considered when discussing a Haflinger’s suitability as a beginner’s horse. We communicated by email and she provided the following in regards to Haflingers for beginner riders:
“I have been involved in breeding and selling Haflingers for many years. There is only a small portion of the ones I have had in my barn that fit her description.”
“Many nice Haflingers can and do take excellent care of all types of beginner riders and handlers. They are in great demand as therapy horses and are solid and sound as well as easy keepers. They are confident horses generally, not as nervous as many breeds.”
It’s essential to remember horses are individuals. With proper training and care, Haflingers can be suitable for beginners. Youngsters that bond with the Haflinger on the ground is less likely to have problems when riding.
The breed’s temperament is key when choosing a horse for a beginner rider. And researchers believe that temperament is genetically based so that we can expect certain traits in a breed.
But it’s essential to be aware that social conditions alter an individual horse’s behavior. So with the correct training and proper care, Haflingers can be suitable horses for beginner riders.
Haflinger horses are smart, gentle, and social animals and make great pets. But these characteristics may hinder their ability to be a good riding horse for an inexperienced rider.
A good beginner horse has a calm temperament.
Horses and riders need to cooperate to be successful, even when only going on a short trail ride. Working together is vital for inexperienced riders. A balanced team decreases stress and reduces the risk of injury.
Beginner riders are more likely to have a positive experience if they match their physical skills, knowledge, and personality with the temperament, experience, and physical abilities of the horse.
A good horse for beginners has a calm temperament, is willing to work, and comfortable to ride. Haflinger horses have some characteristics of a beginner’s horse but not all of them. They are comfortable to ride, have a good temperament, but often refuse to work.
A novice rider should only ride a horse with a calm disposition and isn’t quick to spook. Steadfastness is a quality found in Haflingers; they don’t scare easily.
Haflinger horses aren’t willing to work for novice riders.
A willing horse is one that doesn’t need much encouragement to work. A rider without much experience frustrates when a horse refuses to move. A hard-headed horse can turn a horseback ride into a miserable experience.
An experienced horseman knows how to work with horses to get them to respond, but an inexperienced rider may get upset and quit riding. Haflingers will push a novice rider to their limits.
Haflingers have a comfortable gait and pace.
A good beginner horse has a comfortable gait and pace. Your horse’s gait should allow you to sit in the saddle and ride without making you tense.
And the horse walks at an even pace fast enough to keep up with other horses, but not too quickly that you’re always pulling back on the reigns to slow down for other riders. Haflingers have a comfortable and even pace.
Haflinger Breed Characteristics
All Haflingers have chestnut coats. The most common color is a pale chestnut coat, which is light gold and flaxen, almost white, mane and tail. They resemble a palomino horse.
Haflingers may have white markings on their heads and legs. However, leg markings are not desirable for breeding stock. White marking extending above a horse’s knees is frowned upon.
Haflingers should stand a minimum of 13 hands and not over 15 hands tall. They typically range in weight between 800 and 1300 pounds.
Haflinger horses conformation is harmony, all aspects in proportion and the gender differences distinct. A Haflinger with proper structure strides in rhythm while displaying good power from their hindquarters.
Head and Neck
A Haflinger has a lean head with wide nostrils and large eyes. Their heads are in proportion to its body and display an appearance of elegance. Its neck is of medium length and slims near its head.
The withers of a Haflinger are pronounced and flow into its back, and they have large sloping shoulders and a deep chest. Their backs are medium length and muscular.
Haflingers have well- developed hindquarters with a distinct croup. The joints in their legs are pronounced, and they typically have long pasterns that don’t set into a low angle.
Their legs are typically uniform, strong, and straight with round hard hooves. As with all aspects of the Haflinger breed, the legs should be in proportion to the rest of the horse’s body.