Training Haflingers - The Horse Forum
View Poll Results: What has your experience been like with Haflingers?
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post #1 of 11 Old 08-25-2011, 12:54 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
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Question Training Haflingers

I bought a team of Haflingers. They arrived at my ranch in Chiloquin, Oregon, from the breeders farm In Michigan, on July 5, 2010. They were the team from Hades.
I couldn't catch them unless I put feed in their stall and closed the door. They were nervous about being touched during grooming. They were afraid of spray cans and everything else around here. You couldn't turn a hose on them. When painting hooflex on their hooves they shook like little leaves. They jumped and cringed when I put the harnesses on them.
The trainer I was using told me to separate them. Put one in the stall and work and bond with the other. This I did for about two weeks. Separating them for a couple of hours a day and then putting them back together. They began to bond to a very small degree.
They were represented to have been started with older more seasoned horses, then started as a team by the age of 3 and 4. I got them as 5 and 6 year olds.
The trainer hooked them to a tire. They were frightned out of their wits. He hooked them to a stone boat. They were frightened out of their wits. So, he said ground drive them and work with them until April of 2011, I'll take them for six weeks and by then they should be all you ever hoped for.
I eventually lost all faith in the trainer and sent them out to a Natural Horsemanship Trainer to learn to be ridden. I felt we would bond better riding than driving. The trainer had them for 5 weeks. They came back, just as nervous, just as beligerant as they were when they left. Although the trainer had absolutely no problems with them. They were ridden 2 1/2 hours a day for 6 days for 5 weeks.
When they came home the trainer and I went for a ride. We were using snaffle bits. When I ground drive them I use a Liverpool in the most severe setting. The one I was riding decided he didn't want to go up the hill and peeled off to the left down a very steep embankment and pulled the reins right out of my hands. I recovered the reins, turned him back onto the road and proceed to trot up the hill. He decided that was not what he wanted to do and peeled off to the right up a very steep embankment. I pulled him back to the road and finished going up the hill. The trainer said her mount had an attitude but otherwise followed instructions. My mount was nervous, shying at butterflies and anything that touched his body.
Well, folks, what is your opinion. Should I continue to work with them, sell them, take them to the slaughter house, eat them, give them away, or just run screaming into the night. I've got nearly $6,000 in them. Their new harness can be worn by another team. But no matter what I do will I get my investment back in this economy? Only God knows.
After reading every thread on Haflinger's I'm beginning to wonder if they haven't been testing me for over a year. I've owned many horses in my life. I've ridden nervous, high strung Tennessee Walkers but these guys take the cake. I am 75 but I still ride a Tennessee Walker, Quarter Horse, Standardbred and maybe Haflingers. I've taught 4 horses to drive and have been driving since 2004. I haven't had much experience with teams and no one here seems capable of putting them to the cart.
Input anyone?
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post #2 of 11 Old 08-25-2011, 05:29 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Beautiful rural NSW, AUSTRALIA
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The team from hades.

The only thing I know about haflingers is that they are eyecatching chestnuts with flaxen manes/tails. I'm interested to hear what other members who have experience with them have to say. Good luck

No matter what road I travel, I'm going home and if I'm riding a horse I am halfway there.
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post #3 of 11 Old 08-25-2011, 08:16 AM
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My extensive (cough) experience with Haflingers involves my one mare.

To me it sounds like your problem involves less the breed of the horse and more someone who was not honest with you when they sold you a pair of horses and you, how you interact with them.

My mare is what most people would describe as in your pocket. Literally. She loves humans. You can just see her go, "Oh look humans are coming, I must go see what they are doing," when I come out to the barn/pasture.

She was trained to drive before I bought her. Best I can tell she is far more trained than I ever imagined. I am a novice driver and she is being so very good for me. I could not ask for a better pony.

She is green when it comes to riding. She is learning and trying very hard to figure out what I am asking of her. Her forgiving personality is making it such that she is safe even when I totally mess up the cues and she has no idea what I want of her.

Having been to one Haflinger breed show I would say that the vast majority of the horses there appeared to be of similar brain as my pony is.

(And yes, I know Haflingers are a horse breed so she is not a pony as far as they are concerned.)

Although the trainer had absolutely no problems with them.

This and some of the other things you say in your original post makes me think the problem is more you (your dealings with them) than these horses.

Why not send them back to the trainer and go there and work with the trainer for a period of time?

Nothing wrong with selling them if they are not for you. To give them the best chance I would suggest sending them back to the trainer for a refresher and having the trainer sell them for you.

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post #4 of 11 Old 08-25-2011, 11:52 PM
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Location: Missouri
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My first project horse was a halfinger. She was stubborn, nervous as ever, so eager to please that she would go literally wherever you asked her and stay there. She'd grind me against walls and posts.. she'd turn last minute at a trotting pole and send me flying. She'd buck and rear and bolt when it was bath time.

But all the turmoil and stress and wanting to kill her, she's an absolute dream now. Still green but if you are confident she's confident.

Halfies are wonderful but they do tend to be quite high strung in a different way than Arabs or thoroughbreds can be.

The key to her was being firm but not being mean. Teaching her the right way, and fixing the wrong way as soon as you could. Sometimes that meant lots and lots and lots of half halts.. lots of lunge work... and a lot of patience. And I mean A LOT of patience.

Having more than one will make them all work off of each other's emotions.. so be careful. It's great to work on at a time and then slowly introduce and work dually with them.. then adding more and more until you have your whole herd.

It'll take time, and did I mention patience? :P

And LOTS of reassurance. Not babying..but telling "good!" and giving pat downs. Halfies also seem to be super treat addicts.. so be careful :P You don't want a group of galloping halfies after one little treat in your pocket.
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post #5 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 12:35 AM
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I love love love my Haflingers. But THEY ARE HORSES! And each horse in themselves is different. It's not the breed that is your problem. I think you got yourselves two badly started ponies. My girl is a DREAM! She's broke broke broke. Road safe, lunges, leads, ties, baths, stands for farrier, loads, unloads, stalls, easy keeper (too much of an easy keeper), beginner and kid safe, not spooky at all. Goes off on her own, does well in a group, rides through the city, goes across bridges, water.. you name it. She's one of those once you found them don't let them go type horses.

I had another Haflinger as well. And although she tended to bunny hop (come to find out it was a stifle issue) she did what you asked and tried her best to please.

Now I have two Haflnger crosses and a 1/4 Haflinger. I only have one horse out of five that has no Haflinger in her (which she might, she's grade and just as fat as my Haflinger! lol). But I can't get enough of this breed. They can be pushy with other horses, break things and way too smart for their own good. But mine are completely human oriented. Enough to where I call for my girl and she comes running. They love to be messed with and really honestly aim to please. They have big brains and a big heart to go with it.

I honestly think that your problem could be fixed with some work with you with a trainer. Do you have any pics of them?

100% Anti-Slaughter and PROUD of it!
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post #6 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 03:53 PM Thread Starter
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Smile Training Haflingers

I'll try to answer all three suggestions. They just came back from 30 days with the trainer @ $1200.00 per month. Going back isn't in my budget.
I plan on riding them at least once a week. Our trailer (over our property) take about 1 1/2 hours if we walk it.
Then I am going to put them to the cart as singles and then drive them at least once a week as singles.
I am not going to put them together as a team until next spring. I may send them out for a month with a driving trainer if I can find someone local that is competent.
The only one available is one who I have no faith in. He's got 37 years of experience with driving horses but he make a decision hooking them to a stone bat that was disasterous for the horses. They were in a horrendous wreck with him. They had a very traumatic accident with my husband. They drug him through the aisleway of the barn into one of their stalls and my husband ended up with a broken arm (a man 5 foot 6, 140 pounds and 78 years old). I originally thought that they were so traumatized with the move from Michigan to here and they never got over it. Now add the two wrecks to their traumatized little minds. And what have you got? A recipe for disaster.
I can't put them in the driving horse sale until April of 2012 so I will just work with them and see if we can't get over their lack of trust. I have never hit them, I have never abused them, I feed them 3 times a day, groom them at least once a week and ground drive them at least once a week. They have nothing to fear from me. That is why it is so confusing that they have no trust in me.
I am a very high strung, energetic person. My voice is deep and loud. I am not soft spoken. So, either they get used to who I am or they will just have to go down the road. It could also be that this is a big act and thy are just manipulating me. But when they jump and cringe when I touch them it makes me think they are just plain freaked out.
Thanks everybody for the input.
They were raised by a breeder, who broke all of his horses with older, more experienced horses. He put them together as a team as a 3 and 4 year old and drove them for a year before I bought them as a 5 and 6 year old. He worked them alone so they had to behave. They are not used to having anyone but him handling them. I would say they don't like women but the trainer is a young woman.
Some of the input I see on this website tells me that the horses mature at eight. That's less than a year away. Maybe it has something to do with growing up. Maybe they just don't adjust as fast as some horses. Maybe it takes them longer to overcome trauma than other horses. If they are that sensitive I can see how that would be possible.
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post #7 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 06:41 PM
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I do not know where to start. You have no concept of how horses think or react and you give them a lot more credit for a lot more reasoning power than they have. Let me take it one thing at a time.

They began to bond to a very small degree.
Please forget everything you think or have heard about 'bonding'. They operate in the here and now and they work totally from a 'respect' aspect. No matter how often you feed them and brush them and say nice things to them, they are going to respond to each and every interaction you have with them according to what they have learned to do from your past similar interactions. In other words, you can feed and pet them until they die of old age and it will not make one bit more comfortable with you putting harness on them or driving them. They only respect you in the ways they have been given a reason by you to respect you.

I originally thought that they were so traumatized with the move from Michigan to here and they never got over it.
Again -- they operate in the here and now. They were never traumatized by their trip. Horses are sent or hauled all over the World and as soon as they are back on their feed and water, they are ready to go to work or train.

Now add the two wrecks to their traumatized little minds. And what have you got? A recipe for disaster.
Wrecks are unfortunate happenings that do shape a horse's future responses and reactions. All too ofter, they are reactions. The best thing you can do is quickly repeat the situation with controls in place that do not let another wreck happen. Sometimes you can just tie a horse up ad go through all of the steps that caused the wreck the first time. Some time you have to go so far as to use restraints that do not let the horse react and blow up and wreck again. I have driven horses with a front leg rope where I could pull up a front leg when the horse tried to bolt. I have harnessed horses with 4-way hobbles on them so they had to stand still and find out there was nothing to fear and nowhere to go. One thing is sure, the sooner you do it and get the horse past it, the better the resolution is.

so I will just work with them and see if we can't get over their lack of trust
Put all of the 'trust crap' in the same deep hole you put the 'bonding' crap. I know it sounds a little crude, so I will apologize in advance, but I just do not know what else to call it. Horses 'trust' those that they respect and know (not think) have the leadership qualities that they SHOULD trust. Look at it this way -- Why should they trust you with their lives and well-being when they do not even respect you enough do what you ask them to do? They won't. They have to look up to you as a leader and as the 'person in charge'.

Although the trainer had absolutely no problems with them.
This tells me that I am right. It is not the team as much as they do not respect you. You have put pressure on them and have backed off at the wrong time. You have taught them that they are in charge and it is a very big, new scary world for them and need a leader that does not accept any foolishness from them.

Everything they do is exactly what I would expect them to do. Given your age, I think you bought the wrong team. You should have bought the 20 year old team the breeder used to train the young teams.

These horses need a job, not more training. Do you live in ranch country? They need a job on a bobsled or a feed wagon and need to feed someone's herd of cows all winter and then need to go to the draft horse sale. If you still want to drive a team, find an old semi-retired team that will take care of you.

I am 65 and used to break feed teams for ranches in the Western Colorado mountains where ranchers still fed with teams in the winter and quite a few still put up hay with teams. I have a LOT of experience with training teams and quite a few of them came after big-time run-aways or other wrecks. I would not take on driving a young team today with all of that experience behind me.

I hate to sound so dismal and wish I could be more encouraging, but I just cannot think of a good resolution for you and a young, half spoiled team. I have had Hafflingers in the past. They are more 'quick-footed' and more reactive than the heavier breeds. I had no problems with them. There are a lot more of them around now that there was back when I broke a lot of teams. They are sure cute. There are a lot of them around here now. I do not know of anyone that has any problems with them. The local parades always have several teams in them. Billy Cook [owner of Billy Cook Saddle and Harness Co located here in Sulphur, OK] has a nice team of them that pulls his wagon in every parade. The Amish East of us have a lot of Hafflinger teams and I do not think they have any trouble with them -- but then they sure do not take any foolishness from any horse.
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post #8 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 07:59 PM Thread Starter
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Well, that's what I get for listening to todays breed of trainer.
I guess what I should find is a teamster to take them for a couple of months and then put them in the Madras sale. Maybe an experienced teamster will buy them and I can buy a team retired from farming, like you said.
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post #9 of 11 Old 08-26-2011, 09:08 PM
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I think you figured it out. You and your husband have no more business with this young team than I would have. When you get up to our age, we no longer bounce or bend --- we break and it takes us a lot longer to get back up. While they might be the best looking team out there, they are not as forgiving as an older seasoned team.
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post #10 of 11 Old 08-27-2011, 04:08 PM
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I don't care what any one says Haflingers are different, everyone that I have brought in here has been stand offish to start with, and kind of have that 'prove it' attitude. They always remind me of foster kids, that kind of testing to see if you are a worthy leader

I have 4 adults here that I have bought, and only one that I can't communicate with, I know that she is the sweetest pony out, I saw her working with her previous owner, but I can't get on with her, and strangely enough her yearling is the same, whatever it is that they need from me, I just don't have, and I will be looking to move them on.

The others with consistent and firm leadership have all come around and become great little citizens!
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