THE opportunity to secure premium Haflingers during the Bunderra Stud dispersal sale in 2009 wasn’t missed by Louise and Jon Venticinque, who jumped in, “boots and all”, purchasing three mares and a stallion to start their own breeding operation. The couple, based at Raymond Terrace outside Newcastle in NSW, used these horses and a strategy of importing exceptional genetics into Australia to build their own Jindabri Haflinger Stud, which focusses on producing all-rounders with superb temperament.
Starting the stud in 2007 has led to unique opportunities for Louise and Jon who have since represented the breed with their horses at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, twice at the Sydney Equitana, and at local events including the Tocal Field Days and participating in the Scone Horse Parade. Louise is dedicated to supporting the breed and has also fulfilled the role of Australian Haflinger Breeding and Sports Association Treasurer since 2009. Louise, who grew up riding horses as a teenager, said their stud journey all started when her interest in the horses was piqued when she glanced across a Haflinger stallion being paraded at her local show.
“I remember seeing this stallion, and apart from the fact he was very pretty, he had a remarkable temperament, which showed us everything we needed to know about the breed. They are a rare breed, very striking, but they are exceptionally versatile and have a marvellous temperament,” Louise said. “They are people focused and just have a lovely way about them. “We often invite people here to our farm so they can have what I call the ‘Haffie experience’. They always come up to our visitors and people just love them.” Jon has a penchant for training young horses and has always particularly enjoyed working with their Haflingers.
“Our training approach is to work with the horses so we gain their trust, and after that we find they will always try their hardest for us,” he said. “It’s so rewarding when you are working on something with a horse, and you can see it click for them. I often plan on doing some training at the back of our arena for just five minutes with our horses, but I lose track of time, and end up finishing up about five hours later.” The athleticism and stamina of Haflingers has been further highlighted to Jon recently, who newly tried his hand at an endurance fun day, riding the stud’s now gelded stallion Winter Stolz. However, Jon was with a group of riders who accidently took a wrong turn and ended up travelling 20km, opposed to the intended 10km trail. “We trotted and cantered around the whole way, and he did remarkably well for a horse who hasn’t had much work,” Jon said.
Louise said other competitors remarked on Winter Stolz’s calmness and swift ability to adapt to the sport. “That’s just Haflingers for you, they take it all in their stride,” she said.“When Jon had finished up someone asked the vet if they were going to check our horse’s heart, the vet looked at our horse and said, ‘look at him, he’s got his head down eating grass, he is fine’.”
A highlight in the breeding career for the couple has been attending two World Haflinger Shows at Fohlenhof Ebbs in Tyrol, Austria, which gave them the opportunity to peruse Europe’s best horses and network with other breeders. “Being within the breed has allowed us to form so many friendships, I can remember when we attended the World Haflinger Show in 2015, which was a last-minute trip, we were in the local pub in Ebbs and caught up with about eight other Australian breeders,” she said. “There is always a wonderful atmosphere whenever Haflinger breeders get together. When we have a classification day everyone is so excited to see the new horses.”
Louise and Jon are today both semi-retired, and said they find great joy watching their grandsons, Nate (8) and Finn (6), enjoy Haflinger horses. “Our Haflingers are just so gentle with them, Nate and Fin are still mostly being led, but Nate is always saying ‘let me go, Granddad!’ and he will ride around the arena on his own,” Louise said. “And not long ago, with little Finny, he was riding our mare Essienna, and I said to him, ‘if you want her to move sideways while we walk, place some weight on her side with your leg and open up your rein just a little’, and the mare moved over perfectly for him. “I was just so chuffed to see that mare listening to him closely. They really are a remarkable breed of horse.”