First Time West Coast Haflinger Wins Both Top American Haflinger Awards

MARIKO FLH - Owned and ridden by Marjorie Puckett, Friday Harbor, Washington
2008 AHR Champion High Point & Awards in the Riding Division
2008 AHR High Point Tracking for Recreational riding accumulating over 400 hours
2008 H.O.P.E. award

Never before has a West Coast Haflinger won either of the top two national awards, let alone both.  The awards are sponsored by the American Haflinger Registry to be announced in the April/May 2009 issue of the Haflinger Horse.  “Recreational riding and show competition is fun and rewarding, the best way to promote your horse.  The program can also serve as a recording of horse activity in your immediate area and the need to keep equine friendly areas open” said Marjorie.

“To win this award, Mariko competed over a seven-month period in 11 multiple breed horse shows against more than 1,200 horses.   He won 73 blue ribbons earning horse and rider seven English High Point Championships, eight Western High Point Championships, two Reserve High Point Championships and two Show Series Championships (one in English the other in Western).  These winnings do not include his many blue ribbons in carriage competitions”. 

Mariko FLH was sired by Mahon (M.T. Magon NTF × Lydia Sue AKH) out of Cassy-Mae LURAY (Winsome WSAH × Celandine). His breeder is John M. Graber of Five Leaf Haflingers in Grabill, Indiana.

Back in 1958 as a student at the University of Washington, I set aside all thoughts of being able to continue to own a horse. Forty years later, I retired from Orange County, California, to a six-acre farm on San Juan Island, in the far northwest corner of the State of Washington. The island is thrust back nearly 100 miles from the open Pacific Ocean, sheltered by Vancouver Island, Canada. Reachable only by boat or plane, this remote part of the world has no traffic lights or congestion and is perfect for carriage driving. The hundreds of acres set aside as its watershed also serves islanders with miles of hiking and riding trails.

Now I was ready to ride again. It didn’t take long to decide on the Haflinger breed with its strong bones and legs, the “do it all” horse with athleticism. Their gorgeous good looks, ideal height, intelligence, calmness, and “want to do it” disposition were perfect for this senior citizen, who hadn’t ridden in 45 years. The additional cost to ferry hay to the island was another plus for this easy keeper.

Mariko FLH came to me by way of Roger and Carol Arbuthnot of Mesa, Arizona, in the early spring of 2006, where they competed with him in combined driving events. The couple had purchased Mariko four years prior from his breeder/owner, John Graber of Five Leaf Haflingers in Grabill, Indiana. This gentleman and his Haflinger facility continue to have a sterling reputation and Mahon geldings had proven out.

Mariko received one month of training to brush up on carriage driving and road worthiness from Don Eckhardt at The Driving Training Center in Snohomish, Washington, before he was delivered to my island farm.

Because I expect a Haflinger to do everything, in the winter of 2007 Mariko received three months of performance horse training from Shelli Mehaffey at Stanwood Equine Center on the mainland. I traveled once a week by ferry to Shelli’s stable to ride and learn with Mariko. We were introduced to picking up leads, side passing, executing Western and English horsemanship patterns as well as showmanship and halter classes. Shelli pushed us and encouraged us. She trailered us to two training shows, then took us to the Oregon Gold Show in Bend. Far from relaxed and very inexperienced while riding, I still held my breath at the canter, bracing for Mariko’s sure-to-come spook while at the same time trying to not look down. We placed low in the performance classes, but the next day was different. Carriage driving was Mariko’s first love. With limited hours of carriage driving instruction for myself but with Mariko’s past experience and additional expert driving training from Don Eckhardt, we were able to win 10 of the 11 driving classes.

For the rest of 2007, I was determined that Mariko and I would be equally good in performance classes as in driving. We practiced, practiced in the rain, bundled up in icy weather, and took the ferry to the mainland, leaving the day before a show so we would be ready for the opening class. Mariko and I gained experience and confidence. Soon we could do almost everything: side passing, trail competition, jumping, training level dressage. You name it, we did it. One of my friends laughingly tells that she wouldn’t be surprised to see the “do-it-all Mariko” cleaning stalls, pushing a poop cart, maybe even driving a car and trailer.

We both got more training from Shelli Mehaffey and it was she who pointed out that most breeds have a competition within the breed where hours of recreational riding or show winnings are compiled. We signed up for the AHR 2008 AHR High Point & Awards competition in the Riding Division as well as tracking hours for recreational riding. My training program with Mariko was a constant mix of arena or pasture performance work-outs mixed with fun, relaxing trail riding.

Mariko, the happy clown with a tremendous work ethic, is nicknamed “the golden goose.” When bridled, he has a very wet mouth that drools slime. He seems to enjoy depositing this onto the other horses or riders, even onto the turned back of an occasional judge who pauses nearby for a chat. In the show ring, Mariko will listen for the click of the announcer’s microphone and will anticipate, then change into the gait announced before I am ready. Always the clown, on several occasions during the later part of the show year he has let fly a quick hind leg kick to the arena wall. He finds this amusing, but I am left struggling to act as though the bang didn’t come from my horse. When he gets bored with a judge that he thinks is taking too long, keeping the class working in a canter, Mariko will change leads with every stride, six or seven times down the long wall. This is sure to light up the faces of the audience, and I hear them chuckling, but Mariko knows he is in for a stern talk when we get out of the arena.

A Haflinger should be in every horseman’s household, they are truly the “do it all” equine and partner.

Contact Honey Lane Farms:
Marjorie Puckett