ALTHOUGH he had coveted breeding lineage and exemplified much-demanded traits needed in the Australian market, the owners of proven Haflinger stallion Abendsturm reflect it was a risk to back the horse and import the 10-year-old sire from Germany to NSW.
Chrissy Kemp, alongside her husband Peter who run Ballindeane Stud outside of Tamworth, bought Abendsturm in 2010, which marked the couple’s first foray into Haflinger breeding.
“We jumped into breeding in a big way,” Chrissy said.
“We thought if we were going to do this, let’s just dive in headfirst, and do it properly. You only live once.”
The leap of faith has reaped rewards, as today, Abendsturm has produced 42 registered Haflingers, three of which have won the Australian Haflinger National Pony of the Year a combined four times.
He is a horse that has undoubtedly influenced the Haflinger breed nationally, infusing more height, superb confirmation and willing athletic ability across his progeny.
The global search for a stallion was sparked when Chrissy and Peter were struggling to secure the correct sire for their own Haflinger mares, two loveable Haflingers purchased for their then young daughters Scarlet and Rosie.
“At that time, there weren’t many stallions available in Australia, and unfortunately, the top sires were all related to our two mares,” Chrissy said.
Peter, an experienced horseman and devoted polocrosse player, developed a penchant for identifying the ideal stallion, and began the process of trawling the internet to pour over international breeding papers, scrutinise competition videos and negotiate with foreign owners.
Eventually Abendsturm was identified as a suitable candidate, as the couple chose to settle for nothing short of world-class genetics.
Abendsturm is the son of champion Haflinger Abendstern, a sire with unmatched accolades as he has won the Haflinger World Show in Austria three times to hold the title for a 15-year stretch. He was also named the winning stallion at the Haflinger European Show in Luxemburg in 2003 and is a proven dressage champion.
Abendsturm’s dam, Ann-Maren, was a solid workhorse at Pony Park, a riding centre about an hour north of Hamburg that breeds performance Haflingers as well as quiet mounts to be used in their school holiday riding programs.
“We could see Abendsturm had that perfect blend of having a great temperament that was equally matched with a high level of performance,” Chrissy said.
“He was Pony Park’s main show horse and an intermediate level dressage horse, so we had plenty of videos of him competing.
“His breeding shone through as he mirrored his dad’s tall and very athletic ability and his mum’s kind and calm temperament.”
However, selecting a sire proved to be the easy part, as importing horses to Australia from Germany is complex, time-consuming and costly.
“It was certainly a labour of love to bring him over here, in the end it cost just as much to import him as it did to buy him,” Chrissy said.
The impact of being isolated in tight quarantine pens, constantly having blood tests performed and travelling such a long journey had waned on Abensturm.
The family affectionately call him Arbie, and Chrissy said when he was unloaded on their property, he was skittish and terrified of their cattle. They suspected he may have spent most of his life in a stable.
For a little while, Chrissy and Peter took it back to basics with Arbie and worked with him using their horsemanship skills to help him transition into his new life.
“It wasn’t too long, and we had him running with some mares in our big paddocks and he adjusted beautifully from there as a working stallion,” she said.
Today, Arbie has been gelded in his retirement and is living the good life on their property, being well taken care of alongside a few of the family’s other Haflingers and Australian Stockhorses used for polocrosse.
Chrissy believes Haflingers are securing a burgeoning place in the equine industry but believes they will always be a “boutique breed”.
“I think there is a certain power with them being boutique, as it means they will always be special. They are such a unique horse, very clever and such characters,” she said.
“We often practice polocrosse together in our arena, and sometimes, when I ride across to pick up the ball with my racquet, my Haflinger will pick up the ball instead with her teeth. They just never stop surprising you.”
Chrissy enjoys her Haflingers most when she’s in the steep hills outside of their property, hitting a challenging trail.
“Haflingers come to life when they are in the mountains, they find a new energy, and can just power up hills with sure footing. They will go all day when they are out exploring, that’s when I feel they are in their element.” she said.