MORE than a decade ago, when building the foundations of Mirabelle Farm, a bespoke heirloom fruit orchard on the picturesque Mornington Peninsula, Amanda and her husband Andrew had ambitions of creating something “aesthetically beautiful, productive and of exceptional quality”.
The boutique farming operation embodies those values today and it’s also the same ethos that has propelled Mirabelle Farm Haflingers, a stud established in 2010, to boast impressive Australian, American and Tyrolean haflinger bloodlines.
In order to build their dream home on the 11 ha block, council required them to have a working property, which horse breeding fulfilled, so Haflingers were of course chosen as the preferred breeding option as the athletic allrounders are both “beautiful” and “productive”.
“Originally I assumed the breeding operation would remain small, however, given the breed’s people-centric nature, superb temperament and extraordinary versatility it’s very hard to stop at only a few – they are addictive,” Amanda said.
Although Amanda had always loved horses, she admits when she first established her stud she was out of practice, having not touched a horse since her Pony Club mount was sold 29 years earlier.
“I faced a very steep learning curve,” she said.
While many studs begin with an investment in a stallion, Mirabelle Farm was founded through female genetics, stemming from Ambassador bloodlines, with the purchase of Latina, a 21-year-old in-foal mare, and Lily, Latina’s two-year-old filly.
“Lily is now 16 years old, and she’s still my main riding horse, she has passed on her kind eye to all of her foals,” Amanda said.
Ensuring her horses have longevity for future owners is a key ambition of the breeding operation, with Amanda investing heavily into thorough training.
The training began at first with herself by expanding her groundwork, handling and training skills through spending time with a then young Kristy Sparkes, a professional horsewoman who is now managing and campaigning Grand Prix dressage horses.
“Breeding horses to have a perfect temperament and ensuring they receive a great education means they will have prosperous futures at their new homes,” she said.
“The most rewarding element of breeding horses to me is seeing them go on to loving homes and hearing from my buyers on how pleased they are with them.”
Amanda doesn’t start horses under saddle until they are at least four, as she feels they take a little longer to mature, and given Haflingers are ridden well into their 20s and have exceptionally long careers, she feels there isn’t a need to rush ridden training.
She also believes its paramount to find the correct trainer for her horses.
“If you think about the background of Haflingers, the fact they were bred in harsh conditions in the South Tyrol mountains and used as workhorses that were ridden, driven and completed agricultural tasks by the whole family, it’s clear they have been bred to be smart, strong and to work all day.
“Because of that, there is no chance you can bully a Haflinger into learning something, you have to work with them as a partner.”
In recent years, Amanda has worked with Katrina Park, of Cadence Horse Training, who specialises in instilling correct horse posture and movement through her training methodologies.
Katrina has been hands on with Mirabelle Farm Affogato, a four-year-old home-bred stallion who is by Amore Mio, a German stallion, and out of Amanda’s special mare Lily.
“Affogato had a paddock accident which has left his front knee deformed, but working with Katrina, she is ensuring he has correct movement through loading up his back end, which will hopefully set him up to perform soundly.”
The stud has also welcomed Wincent, a rising three-year-old colt, out of Shalina (X Michelangelo) and by Winterzauber (X Walzertraum) imported from Tyrolean breeder Daniela Monz.
“His breeding has the perfect mix of athleticism and temperament. When I am looking at lines of horses abroad, I only consider stallions that are competing under saddle, I think that tells you a lot about the horse,” she said.
As the stud was founded on female genetics, it’s fitting Amanda has also described Musique of New Horizons, a mare imported from breeder Mary Procopio, of New Horizons Haflinger Sporthorses, Michigan USA, as a cornerstone horse in her breeding operation.
“This mare is the best American breeding has to offer, she is registered with Westphalen North America and is by Stella TVR, who is a performance-tested Haflinger stallion,” she said.
Across the past 13 years Amanda faced many challenges, learning curves and highs and lows to build the stud. Sadly, in 2021, Andrew passed away which was a huge blow to the operation as although he wasn’t an active horseman himself, he was a driver and supporter of the stud.
“He never wanted me to sell any of the horses because he loved them all,” Amanda said.
“I put Wincent down to grief, I think that’s why I purchased him, and I am so grateful I did as I know he will have a promising future.
“I think the fact I have two stallions on my property is a testament to the breed, I never thought I would handle a stallion, but they are both perfect gentlemen and I couldn’t imagine Mirabelle Farm without them.”