The modern-day Haflinger Horse was christened in 1874, named for the Tyrolean village of Hafling, then an Austrian territory, but today located within Italy's northern boundaries. At that time, a refined mountain mare, bred to a proud Half-Arabian stallion, produced a colt named Folie. Today, all purebred Haflinger horses trace their ancestry back to Folie, through at least one of seven stallion lines.
After World War II, the Austrian government took charge of breeding the Haflinger Horse, and today Haflinger horses stand out among the European warmblood breeds for their stringent examination and approval process. The first Haflinger horse breeds were imported into the United States in 1958.
Ruth Schwab is managing director of the American Haflinger Registry, which represents 9,000 members and 20,000 registered horses. The AHR offers popular recreational riding programs that award year-end prizes and recognition to members who pleasure ride and drive their Haflingers.
"I've never known horses quite so people-oriented," says Schwab, a lifelong horsewoman. "They'll mug you for attention! Currently, my Haflinger is teaching me to drive, patient creature that he is. Whether your interest is trail riding, driving, or simply owning a delightful family horse that you can trust with your children, Haflingers do it all with a smile."
When Charles Bobo was stationed in Austria at the end of World War II, golden horses used by the residents of pretty mountain villages and farms caught his eye. When he returned stateside after 30 years in the Air Force, Charles and his wife, Francis, founded Foothills Farms in South Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1969, they bought a three-quarters Haflinger gelding.
That was just the beginning. Ten years later, the Bobos purchased an eye-catching purebred Haflinger mare named Celota, from an Amish friend in Ohio. She was bred to a top stallion of the breed, Alpen Konig. Celota's colt, and many more to follow, were the foundation of the family's Haflinger herd, which today numbers 32 horses.
One of their former stallions, Arlin, was the first U.S.-born Haflinger stallion to be inspected and approved in the United States. Today, Arlin's sons and daughters grace the rolling countryside at Foothills Farm.
The Bobos' son, Michael, took over management of the farm in 1990. His pride and joy is the driving school his family founded in 1982. Students make the pilgrimage to South Carolina from across the country to learn to drive the Bobos' golden horses.
Michael is fond of saying, "Our Haflingers and the Blue Ridge Mountain trails seem to go together like almonds and chocolate - that is, perfectly."