For centuries, people have adored Austria’s native Haflinger. This versatile, athletic and family-friendly breed originated in medieval times in the Southern Tyrolean Mountains of today’s Austria and Italy. These horses can be found pulling carriages all over the world.
Horse: Wintersons Gold MMH (“Spike”)
About Max: A retired NFL football player, Max discovered Haflingers when his wife and daughter started taking riding lessons in California. Haflingers reminded him of his beloved Labrador retrievers because of their similar friendly personalities.
About Spike: The 7-year-old, 14.2-hand gelding is what Max refers to as a “forever pony.” He says that when Spike first started combined driving, he would tiptoe through the water obstacles. Now he splashes through as fast as he can.
What kind of driving do you do?
Spike and I started at the lower levels of combined driving and progressed to Preliminary level.
What do you love most about driving?
I like driving because it’s a team sport. It’s not that different from working with my teammates on the line of scrimmage. You have to work well together and trust each other. I also enjoy the horses and sharing the sport of driving with my wife and daughter. For us, it’s a family thing.
What is your favorite thing about Haflingers?
They are easy keepers, smart and easy to train. They’re very versatile.
What is your best driving-related memory with Spike?
Once, Spike was frightened by a couple of horses being led by a golf cart. He had never seen anything like that, but he trusted me and we got past it.
Why does Spike make a good driving horse?
Spike is very easygoing and has a lot of heart. He’s well-rounded, well-behaved and athletic—sport-sized, I like to call him. He is tough enough to get through the obstacles phase yet refined in dressage.
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This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe!