Sunday September 25- Fohlenhof 75th Anniversary Celebration and Souvenir Shopping!
Sunday was the last day in Austria for most of the Haflinger Alliance group, although a few travelers had headed home on Saturday. We stayed at the comfortably convenient Sattlerwirt Hotel in Ebbs again and met for our usual hearty breakfast before heading to the Fohlenhof for the 9:30 AM general assembly meeting of the World Haflinger Breeding and Sports Federation https://www.haflinger-world.com/news-en/#c1159. This group comprises representatives of most of the Haflinger breeding organizations in the world, and our American Haflinger Alliance members were grateful to be allowed to attend as guests.
The meeting was held in a lovely room above the Fohlenhof offices filled with Haflinger history, memorabilia, and trophies and attended by approximately 50 interested parties and those who attended via internet. While the business portion of the meeting was conducted mostly in German, we all appreciated an important presentation by Dr. Federica Gobbo, a veterinarian from Padua, Italy on concerns with EHV1 and West Nile viruses in horses. Dr. Gobbo’s presentation was in English with a PowerPoint as well, and we learned that concerns with these viruses are certainly not limited to the US. It was a privilege to spend the morning among the influencers of the Haflinger breed and note their dedication to improvements in both breeding and sport uses for our beloved horses.
We chatted with several new Haflinger friends after the meeting then made our way to the presentation arena for the Fohlenhof’s 75th Anniversary Celebration. This was a wonderful bonus for our group as when we first started making plans for the Filly Sale, we didn’t even realize such an important event would take place the very next day. Our trip was filled with good luck and serendipity, and the anniversary celebration was another unexpected delight. It also featured some of the showcase presentations that visitors to the every-five-years Haflinger World Show enjoy, highlighting the versatility, athleticism, and trainability of Haflinger horses. Several of our group had planned to attend that event in 2020 which was cancelled due to Covid- now we got a taste of the showcase from the World Show without having to wait until 2025!
The 75th Anniversary Celebration kicked off with our favorite brass band, and then gracious introductions of dignitaries and VIP’s by Lukas Scheiber, Chairman of the Tyrolean Haflinger Breeder’s Association and President of the World Haflinger Breeding and Sports Federation. The afternoon’s festivities began with a dressage quadrille of licensed stallions, glorious golden beauties ridden by Fohlenhof riders in smart dark colored uniforms trimmed in gold. It’s certainly impressive to see eight mature breeding stallions in perfect formation and rhythm concentrating on their performance rather than each other. After the precision of the stallion quadrille, we were thoroughly entertained with two Haflingers towing ‘skiers’ in a skijoring demonstration complete with a slalom course and ski jump! The horses loved it and the arena footing made a good substitute for snow as the crowd cheered for the thrilling demonstration.
Next up, four young stallions were presented as the Class of 2022, provisionally approved as breeding stallions for next year. The four were different in bloodlines and yet remarkably consistent in beauty, type, athleticism, and quiet temperament. It will be fun to follow their breeding careers. We then enjoyed a terrific vaulting demonstration with a troupe of six skilled young ladies performing on a cantering Haflinger gelding who carried up to four athletes at a time in increasingly complex formations. The vaulters then helped the next horse, handsome liz.483/T Narkas, demonstrate his jumping prowess as he soared over the striped poles held aloft by the vaulters themselves. The next demonstration featured a single golden stallion performing high-level dressage movements, in long lines and later under saddle, followed by a four-in-hand team of stallions put to a marathon vehicle galloping in and out of narrowly-spaced gates as they would in a combined driving competition.
We next enjoyed a team jumping exhibition. The stallions cantered in precise formation over a large set of jumps in the center of the arena, performing precise drill team maneuvers while changing directions over the jumps at exactly the right moment. The thrilling finale of the Haflinger show was next, a four-abreast set of beautifully matched stallions pulling a Roman-style chariot. This team, trained and presented by noted German trainer Claus Luber, thrilled the crowd with their speed and handling, the chariot’s wheels spinning dirt into the stands as it seemed destined to spill as the stallions galloped around the arena. But Herr Luber was in complete control, waving to the crowd as his stallions showed off their obedience and precision movement at top speed. It was a breathtaking performance, and a dramatic final performance for the show.
After Haflinger Luber’s demonstration, the performers came to the arena for their curtain call, including 18 of the Fohlenhof’s licensed breeding stallions all together under saddle or being driven. It is a testament to the good nature of Haflingers that not only could they show the crowd so many different skills, but could all stand quietly together to receive their applause. It’s impressive to know that the Fohlenhof stallions are more than beautiful: they are well-trained and useful riding and driving horses with skills to compete on more than their good looks. We were delighted to have seen the show events, and the many approved stallions ‘at work’ as they celebrated the 75th anniversary of the program that they were the product of: the Fohlenhof and the Tyrolean Haflinger Breeder’s Association.
As we made our way out of the stands after a golden afternoon spent watching our favorite horses show us their many skills, some of our group gathered to take a short trip back to the village of Soll, to the Hochfilzer Haflinger Farm. We wanted to look at the filly we had planned to bid on one more time, and see if perhaps we might be able to purchase this beautiful horse privately since she had not passed through the sale the day before. Those of us interested in the group purchase invited our new friends Hanne and Lina from Denmark to join us for two more opinions about the filly “Hannika.”
All of our impressions of the weanling’s quality were reinforced when we saw her again that afternoon, and we decided to pursue the private sale option. After several phone calls and WhatsApp discussions, our group made a deal with Gabi Hochfilzer to purchase the filly, and we celebrated our purchase Sunday night at a great local restaurant. We had certainly lived the Haflinger Alliance moto of “Dream Big, Do Stuff, Have Fun” by creating a trip to Austria, visiting lovely Haflinger farms in the spectacular Tyrol region, eating and schnappsing our way through the countryside while touring historic cities, riding Haflingers in the Alps, seeing soldier Haflingers, playing with young stallions on the Alm, attending the famous Fohlenhof filly sale, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Tyrolian Haflingers in Ebbs, and then forming a group to bring home the most amazing golden souvenir ever: an Austrian Haflinger filly.
Thank you for following the American Haflinger Alliance’s Austrian Haflinger Adventure ’22. We hope you’ll keep in touch as we share the story of our filly “Sassy” as she is imported to the US and her further adventures. The logo for our virtual Haflinger club features a vibrant little horse jumping for joy; her name has been Sassy since three Hafluvvers started the Haflinger Alliance during Covid lockdown in 2020 to create a virtual community for people who love Haflinger horses. We never dreamed that two years later our club would have over a hundred members from around the world, would arrange a trip to the home of Haflingers in Austria, and that we’d return with a real, live Sassy.
We are deeply grateful to everyone who helped make this adventure happen, and excited to share the continuing story of the fun, friendship, and adventure to be enjoyed with Haflinger horses. Please consider joining the Haflinger Alliance at www.haflingeralliance.com. We are not a registry; we are a virtual club of Hafluvvers from around the world who love having fun promoting and enjoying Haflinger horses.