The American Haflinger Alliance (AHA!) was formed in 2021 by three Covid-quarantined horsewomen to help Hafluvers like themselves dream big, do stuff, and have fun with Haflinger horses. In just a year, this new Haflinger fun club had more than 150 members, an influx of innovative programs, and a growing world-wide, virtual community that encouraged all members to enjoy their Haflingers. Our recent trip to Austria for an intensive week of Haflingering certainly met the goals for big dreams, action, and fun!
Just two years ago, several of us Haflinger owners were chatting online, bemoaning the cancellation of the 2020 Haflinger World Show, traditionally held at the Fohlenhof — Austria’s famous breeding facility located in the small Tirolean village of Ebbs. We’d planned to make the trip to the only-every-five-years World Show to see the premier Haflinger breeding stallions, their exceptional offspring, and to learn about all things Haflinger from the source. Covid not only quashed our travel plans for 2020, but also for the rescheduled 2021 World Show which was eventually (and understandably) cancelled.
But what, wondered Haflinger Alliance co-creators Jessica, Michelle, and Suzi, would happen if our club planned our own trip to Austria instead of waiting until 2025? How could we pull off this big dream to do stuff with Haflinger horses, and make it so fun that members would actually follow us across the globe to horse around? Recruiting experienced Haflinger traveler and AHA! member Karen Young from Twin Birch Farms in New York to serve as our crazy captain (and savior!) the horse tourism plan came together in the fall of 2021.
Soon, Karen had prepared an exciting itinerary featuring visits to famed Tyrolean Haflinger breeders in picturesque Austrian villages, charming overnights and meals at traditional guest houses and quaint restaurants, stops at museums and historic towns, and a grand finale visit to the Fohlenhof itself, the center of Austria’s world-famous Tyrolean Haflinger breeding and training co-op. Our visit would coincide with the Fohlenhof’s annual weanling filly sale, so we could see premium youngstock presented and sold at public auction. Then, we learned that the Fohlenhof’s 75th Anniversary would be celebrated the day after the filly sale — an amazing bonus for our trip! Karen even arranged for our very own Haflinger-savvy Austrian guide to help us find our way, communicate with our hosts, and most importantly, help us order at restaurants!
With big plans in hand, the Haflinger Alliance began to market the Austrian Haflinger Adventure ‘22 to our members and via social media as a casual travel group adventure. By our planning deadline, we had a total of 14 members signed up to go to Austria! Haflinger Alliance co-founders and Karen were both excited and even a bit apprehensive — after all, we’re a virtual horse club, not travel experts. But, with our usual, “We’ll figure it out!” battle cry, we moved ahead with reserving rooms, contacting breeders, and buying tickets for the filly sale. Like Haflinger owners around the world, we were committed to dreaming big, doing stuff, and having fun.
(Part two of our Austrian Haflinger Adventure will be posted in a few days… please read along!)