Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How I Happened on Haflingers; or How I Did Everything Wrong But it Looks Like it Might Have Been Right!

I bought my beautiful boys two years ago. It was a freak accident. I didn't go out looking for Haflingers. In fact, I had really only seen a team of Haflingers up close and personal one other time. That was when my family and I went to an 'Old Time Farmers Horse Gathering'. What fun! There were teams of stately draft horses plowing, harrowing, doing 'old time' chores and pulling wagons.  We hopped on a wagon ride with some beautiful looking, but rather small horses. A man on the wagon asked the driver what kind of horses he was using. He chuckled and said, "These are Haflingers. They do all the work of a draft horse, but they are half the size." That stuck with me. It was filed away....someplace on a dusty shelf in my brain.

A few years later I was volunteering at a therapeutic riding center and they were looking for horses.  (I think every therapeutic riding program is always looking for horses!) The instructor had found a young Haflinger, but the Board would not let her purchase it as the horse was 'too young' for the program. The founders of the program felt that horses needed to have quite a bit of experience to be reliable horses for the program, and thus wouldn't consider any horse under 10 years of age. The instructor talked to me a bit about this breed of horse, explaining about their versatility, their work ethic, their level-headedness and so on. Haflingers are the perfect size for a therapeutic riding program because they can carry weight, but are not so tall that it is a challenge to assist riders who are astride. She commented that Haflingers, in general,  have a great disposition and that they would be perfect for the program. I did some research about the breed to learn more, so I had more to file under 'H' in my brain. If not for the instructor throwing in the towel and giving up her job with the program, I might have been a half owner of the Haflinger. We talked about buying it together, schooling it and then selling it to the program once it was proven to be a good match.

I love draft horses. I love their solid build. I love their huge feet. I love the way they move. I also love driving. For years I have envisioned myself behind a team of Percherons, or Clydesdales, or Shires. I never pictured driving or riding Haflingers! I had the chance to attend a clinic and to work with Percherons and Belgians. I'm not sure if I ever really got the backs of the Belgians clean! I couldn't see! Even standing on a milk crate I could only reach so high... Hmmm.... I wonder....
Harnessing the beasts was interesting. When I grabbed the harness, slinging the breeching over my shoulder, followed by the saddle with the tugs entwined, then grabbed the hames and pulled it off the hook, I felt like I was sinking under the weight of the harness.  I felt like a telescoping leg of a tripod that wasn't tight enough.  That harness was H-E-A-V-Y!! It took two of us to get it up on the horse's back! Hmmmm..... maybe...
Horses generally eat 1.5 to 2 percent of their body weight in hay each day. OK, so the Belgian I was working with weighed 2400 pounds. Doing the math, he'd eat, at minimum, 36 - 48 pounds of hay a day - almost a bale! Oh, and don't forget that the food is processed and comes out the other end... in bigger piles! Hmmm... perhaps....

There is a wonderful draft horse and mule auction in Colorado. It is so much fun to attend any one (or all) of the auctions held each year. They have all kinds of things up for auction: Big horses and little minis. Driving horses and saddle horses. Saddles and harnesses. Carriages and wagon parts. Bric-a-brac and tools and junk. There are usually at least three different "rings" going on simultaneously. Attending the auctions is something we do. Sometimes we come home with something; a cast iron bird bath, a shovel, a blacksmith vise, or bird houses. Sometimes we come away without having raised our auction card one time. Then... there was the year I came home with a team of Haflingers!

WHAT?!!! I screamed at myself? One never, NEVER, NEVER buys a horse at an auction... let alone two of them! That was my long held tenet. The purchase of a horse should include a deliberate, carefully executed plan. One should get background information about the animal(s). One should have the horse(s) vetted. One should get x-rays of the inner workings! One should engage in a proper trial of the horse(s). But, my heart trumped my brain. Oh, and the auctioneers kept telling me to bid... they'd say, "Come on, you know you want them." and my hubby kept urging me to keep going! Finally, the gavel fell, "Sold"! I was the instant owner of 2 wonderful Haflingers!

The boys being driven at the auction

It hasn't always been a cakewalk. Things haven't always gone the way I anticipated. But, the horses are sound and healthy. They have provided me with wonderful experiences and great memories. If I had a CTRL-Z* function for life, I wouldn't undo my purchase. Absolutely not!

* hitting the CTRL key and Z will undo key strokes on the computer


  1. I just loved reading this post. I also bought my first haflinger 2 years ago at auction. He was a work horse/plow horse/amish buggy horse/logging horse his whole life and had been hitched as a team or with several other horses most of the time. They also said he was "broke to ride". Well, he was "broke" but definitely not formally trained. He basically knew stop, go, left and right, but wouldn't always respond. Fast forward to today, we have done group rides of almost 20 miles, have won quite a few ribbons both riding and pleasure driving, in showmanship classes, and yesterday...Grand Champion Registered Haflinger at our county fair in halter!! I know exactly what you mean by it not always being a cakewalk, but SOOOO worth it. What a journey it has been so far. And the best part in my opinion is seeing his head over the stall door everyday when I walk in the barn and hearing him call out his greeting especially for me. He always brings a smile to my face and I'm so proud of him and how far he's come. I really enjoy your blog, and your sense of humor.
    Amy in Ohio

  2. Thank you for sharing the story about how Doc and Pippin came into your life! Sometimes the best things are not planned!

    I may be slightly biased. . .but Haflingers are the BEST horses out there! They have the best, and most fun, personality, they keep us on our toes, but are willing to please, and their versatility is unmatched!

  3. "I wouldn't undo my purchase. Absolutely not!" Doc and Pippin heave a big sigh of relief....

  4. touching story...thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Fabulous story on how two Haffies fell into your lap. lol!


  6. Just don't go to too many more auctions. I love the drafts, too. But, I think that the Haffies are perfect for so many people who want an all around horse. I'm sure that Pippen and Doc are very glad that you followed your heart that day.

  7. Sometimes you gotta follow your heart, it's usually the right thing to do. We all have to keep it in check at auctions, but there are honest seller's & good horses - just look at your boys! Thanks for sharing your haffie story, it's a great one!

  8. I'm just so intriqued by these horses. I think it would be so fun to drive them around. Is it more fun than riding, do you think?

  9. Doc and Pippin are beautiful horses and are very lucky to have connected with you. Do you drive them?

  10. Awesome story. So glad you succumbed to the pressure and bid for you boys. I imagine their both quite happy with the outcome.
    I know I've never moment of regret when it comes to my Camryn. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Why was the previous owner selling the horses? Weren't they "work horses" in their previous life?


  12. That was a fun read!

    I bought the best horse we ever had at an auction.
    Terry at Moondance


What thoughts do you have?

Another Loss

 It is so amazingly strange to be without a dog at our feet. We lost Tucker, very unexpectedly, just before Thanksgiving.  With all of the b...