I think for most people, ‘types’ just happen. Whether it’s the kind of boy you want to date, or the car you want to drive, we all tend to gravitate to phenotypes of certain things.
Most of my life, I have been a draft-cross type of girl. So, it should come as no surprise when I say there are 2 different breeds that have played huge roles in my life. Those would be Haflingers and Irish Draughts. First, let’s discuss the ponies. Because, duh, ponies.
When I was still a horse-crazed but scared-to-death pre-teen, my parents acquired their first Haflinger, hoping to find an all-around pony that the whole family could ride. Marla was picked up out of an old Stablemates magazine (anyone remember those?) and though not fancy, was as dead broke as they came. It wasn’t long before I was riding bareback all over the trails and gaining confidence cantering through the woods.
Seeing the success of Marla, we soon bought our second Haflinger, Tanner. He was another Stablemates find, and was wandering around someone’s front yard in the mountains of NC when we picked him up. For a while Tanner was still a major step for me, but gradually I became brave enough to ride him and he quickly became my main love. Once we got past the trying-to-run-me-into-trees phase, it turned out Tanner was a pony of many talents- foxhunting, trick learning, pony jumpers, parades, swimming… we even kicked everyone’s butt in a barrel racing once (short backs = turn on a dime). The only thing he couldn’t tolerate was arena/flat work.
We soon sold Marla and started going to legitimate Haflinger auctions. Dixie, a beautiful 3 year old sporthorse type mare, joined our group, along with Mac, a rare true liver chestnut 3 year old stallion. I foxhunted Dixie, one of the best foxhunters I’ve ever had, and evented Mac. We traveled to the NC State Fair and showed the two geldings successfully in hand and under saddle, and to this day it’s the only money I’ve ever won showing.
All these Haflingers, and a couple more, eventually left us for other homes where they could share their special talent. As for me, I ended up being granted a special Haflinger scholarship for my use of the breed as a breed ambassador.
I am so glad to see these wonderful, and surprisingly athletic (good jumpers, too!), ponies start to appear more and more in local shows of every discipline. I would definitely advocate for the breed as a great addition to any family, as all-around types that are super cute to boot! My dream is that, when I’m too fragile or too scared to event anymore, to get myself a nice sporthorse type Haflinger and plan for dressage world domination. One can dream, right?