Breed row may see British Haflingers renamed ‘blondes’

  • British Haflinger horses may have to be renamed “blonde horses” if the breed society can’t patch up relations with its Austrian mother studbook — the Haflinger Pferdezuchverband Tirol (HPT) — before March.

    Under a rule of the Austrian body, only World Haflinger Federation (WHF) judges, who judge a minimum of 250 horses per year and have at least four years’ experience, can carry out gradings and inspections.

    This led to all but two of the Haflinger Society of GB (HSGB) judges getting downgraded in a crackdown earlier this year.

    But the HSGB continues to use unqualified judges, claims the director of the HPT Johannes Schweisgut, who is threatening to sever ties with the HSGB and prevent horses graded by them being deemed Haflingers.

    The HSGB denies this, saying the unqualified judges are only at gradings to assist and for training, and all decisions are made by WHF inspectors.

    But Mr Schweisgut told H&H: “Photographs of gradings show six people [judging] and I am getting complaints.”

    In August, Mr Schweisgut asked the HSGB to start training new British inspectors and, in the meantime, to use foreign experts to judge their horses.

    He claims to have removed the HSGB’s right to use the edelweiss — a brand denoting a pure-bred Haflinger — and has threatened to ask Defra to take away its studbook status if it uses unqualified inspectors in next spring’s gradings.

    Mr Schweisgut added: “I hope we can sort this out, but if the inspectors have insufficient knowledge, it can do great damage to the breed.”

    Britain’s two qualified inspectors are former HSGB vice-chair John Newman and Tom Crane, who plans to retire.

    Mr Newman told H&H: “As a breeder, I think this is a serious matter. If we lose studbook status our animals will not be registered Haflingers.”

    He resigned from the society and has been advised, by Mr Schweisgut, not to judge the March gradings unless the HSGB comes into line.

    But HSGB secretary Carolyn Hallett does not believe there is a crisis. She said the matter will be discussed at the AGM in January but says the society already conforms to HPT’s rules.

    “We would be very grateful to have a rational conversation with Mr Schweisgut but he will not speak to us,” she added.

    A spokesman for Defra said: “We await the outcome of discussions, but have no plans
    to remove [studbook] approval at present.”

    This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (22 October, ’09)

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