Over time the requirements and uses of the breed have, of course, changed significantly. Therefore, breeders have in the last few decades set themselves the ambitious goal of aligning the characteristics of the breed to the requirements of leisure horseback riding and leisure sports in general. So far, they have achieved great results.
The requisites the Haflinger had to offer in this undertaking were ideal. Originally used as a cart horse, it is excellently suited for carriage driving, in which sport it impresses with its affable, intrepid character as well as dedication and stamina. Carriage driving has become a highly popular sport in South Tyrol as it is fun and challenging for every age group and because it can be practised by even the elderly.
However, the Haflinger has also proved to be ideal when it comes to equitation and today stands its ground in all disciplines and competition classes. This is not only the case for dressage but also for show jumping, where in recent years an increasing number of Haflingers can be found. The efforts of breeders during recent decades have been very successful and have led to the creation of a modern breed with excellent qualities of gait, which in turn are of particular importance and great advantage in both dressage and show jumping.
Its nerves of steel, its intrepidness, stamina and sure step on rough grounds make the Haflinger an ideal companion for long-distance and trail rides.
In fact, among horse lovers the Haflinger, when trained accordingly, is considered something of a "life insurance" on cross-country rides. This might be why it has become so popular among those who love to ride for pleasure.
Hacks are a particularly enjoyable activity on the back of a Haflinger: these little bundles of energy can handle trotting away over long distances without any difficulty whatsoever. And strolling along in a slow and relaxed pace while simply taking in the landscape is just as enjoyable as letting the wind blow through their blond mane on a gallop.
Many riders have also discovered the Haflinger's talent for competitions in which agility and speed count above all. Therefore, a growing number of these versatile blonds can be seen performing well at equestrian games because of their athletic, compact and strong bodies. Another advantage of the Haflinger is its dexterity, which allows it to accelerate to a high speed over short distances and then stop suddenly, for example to complete one of the many skill or agility tests, which require a very calm horse whose movements can be controlled by the rider down to a single inch.
An increasingly popular event with fans in South Tyrol and abroad alike are the Haflinger gallop races, which is a long-standing tradition.
In recent years, Skikjöring has also started to attract large numbers of Haflinger and sports fans.
Lately, the lively blonds have also made a name for themselves in Western riding, yet another discipline in wich the Haflinger benefits from its character and physical properties. Trail courses, barrel racing, pole bending and cutting bear no difficulty for a Haflinger, and they also excel at reining, the ‘royal discipline’ of Western riding.
Thanks to its kind nature, imperturbability and liking for humans, the Haflinger plays a significant role in hippotherapy and therapeutic riding. With its strong back and solid physiology, it can carry a lot of weight in a calm and stable manner.
All these characteristics also define it as an ideal horse for vaulting.
In short: the Haflinger can undoubtedly be described as an all-round talent. However, suitable training is always necessary. It would be wrong to assume that every Haflinger is an ideal horse for the family, leisure riding and sports simply because of its character. However, it does have the necessary assets which, with appropriate training, can allow the small horse outperform the big ones. It is also important to bear in mind that every equestrian discipline demands different physical characteristics of a horse. A western horse can therefore differ substantially from a show jumper.
Keeping all this in mind when choosing a Haflinger, every fan of this bright animal from the Italian mountains will be able to find the ideal horse with the right training, thanks to the vast diversity and quality this breed has to offer.