True Tale: I Rode a Haflinger

A Haflinger's comfortable gaits and easy-going temperament will win over any rider.


One of the best parts about being a horse person, I think, is getting out there and riding all different breeds and types of horses. I’ve been lucky enough to ride a
Saddlebred, Icelandic, Rocky Mountain Horse and Paso Fino, among others. Most recently, I got the opportunity to ride a beautiful Haflinger dressage mare named Bailey.

Bailey was sweet and calm. I tend to initially feel nervous on a new horse, but I was completely at ease with her from the start. She never spooked and was actually very focused on me.

Kim and Bailey


It had been a while since I’d ridden, and there’s always a little bit of a learning curve when getting to know an unfamiliar horse. But not once did Bailey get frustrated with me as I worked to figure her out. Even when we ventured outside the arena for a romp in the grass, she remained even-keeled and tuned in to me.

While many people look at the Haflinger’s short stature and assume it’s a pony, the breed is technically a small horse. Bailey’s movement reflected this with a smooth stride that was comfortable to sit at the trot. I personally appreciate the Haflinger’s closer relationship to the ground, since I’ve had plenty of falls in my equestrian career! Plus, it’s just easier to mount and dismount from a smaller horse.

Bailey’s manners on the ground mirrored her good nature under saddle. She was quiet and well-behaved whether she was on the cross-ties or being held by the reins or lead rope, and she was a good model for the camera. (She hammed it up for our staff photographer!)

The mare also had the looks to match her beautiful personality. Her creamy flaxen mane and tail were thick and smooth, with long, full eyelashes to match. Her eyes were soft and kind, and expressed her welcoming attitude from beginning to end.

Bailey isn’t the only encounter I’ve had with the Haflinger breed. During my foray into vaulting, I practiced my scissors, stars and other maneuvers on the back of a sturdy, trustworthy Haflinger. She was also very easygoing and smooth-moving—particularly important in that sport.

I enjoyed getting to know Bailey, and she was a stellar ambassador for her breed. From my experience, I’d be willing to bet that the Haflinger is a game little horse for any equestrian pursuit.

Haflinger Conformation


About Haflingers

The Haflinger traces back to a breed discovered during medieval times in the Southern Tyrolean Mountains of what is now Austria and Italy. These horses served as transportation through the mountains, as they were nimble and surefooted over the rugged, narrow paths.

The first official documentation of the modern Haflinger, named for the Tyrolean village of Hafling, began in 1874 with foundation stallion 249 Folie. To be registered, all Haflingers must trace their ancestry back to Folie.

The Haflinger is a small horse that is bred to be versatile for riding and driving. It can be seen competing in dressage, jumping, vaulting, pleasure driving, therapeutic riding, and more. The breed’s easygoing temperament makes it a good family horse as well. All Haflingers are chestnut in color (varying in shade) with a flaxen mane and tail. White markings on the head are desirable.

Liked this article? Here are others you’ll enjoy:
Haflinger Horse Breed Profile
Video: Haflinger Horses
Haflinger Horse Desktop Wallpaper

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!


  1. I have owned a Haflinger for 3 years now — actually she owns me!! She is a wonderful partner in all pursuits! We trail ride, Dressage and jump. She loves it all!! They are very intelligent horses, thus easily bored. So mixing it up is key. She’s the Belle of the barn. Every one who meets her loves her and she happily stands for the attention and admiration!

  2. My Haflinger’s bad!! She’s a good jumper though & a lot of fun, but sometimes frustrating. Taught me most of what I know about staying on through tantrums & reading their emotions. She makes it known when she’s done! Beautiful, though. Love her.

  3. I would have to say my Haflinger Angus is the best horse I have ever had! So calm and kind with a can-do attitude! I LOVE Haflingers!!!

  4. I love my haffie Cisco! He’s laid back but has that get-up-and-go when I ask for it! Plus he’s great with my son who is 2yrs old, they are buddies!

  5. The only problem I have with this article is the picture of the overly tight nose band!! Take a close look, it looks like it could cut off the horses air!! This makes me cringe for that poor horse.

  6. Haffies are fun little horses! Plus I’m Austrian (I have relatives in the Tyrol region) so I’m kind of drawn to the breed. I saw them all over the Alps when I was in Austria. Fun little horses, sometimes a bit naughty (kind of a pony attitude sometimes), tons of energy. Kind of reminds me of the Morgan horse.


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