Ahal-Teke Horses

Ahal-Teke Horses

The exotically beautiful, extravagantly graceful and versatile Ahal-Teke breed has overcome many setbacks during its 3000-year history, but its influence on other horse breeds cannot be denied. Now, the ancient breed is returning to the spotlight, with its athleticism, stamina, speed, agility, and exceptional movement winning admirers. The Akhal Teke is considered to be one of the oldest of modern domesticated equine breeds in existence. The breed as it is known today first appeared in Turkmenistan, Central Asia, in Kara Kum, a rocky, flat desert surrounded by mountains, which played a significant role in preserving the Ahal Teke’s purity. Tribesmen of Turkmenistan first used the horses for raiding and they were selectively bred for speed and agility. Pedigree records were maintained orally by Turkmen tribesmen.

The Akhal-Teke is the only remaining pure strain of ancient Turkmen horse, a breed whose common ancestors bear a succession of different names over time: Massaget, Parthian, Nisean, Persian, Turkmen and finally, Akhal-Teke. Excavations in southern Turkmenistan have uncovered skeletal remains of tall, fine-boned horses dating back to 2400 BC. The breed name, however, dates back only to the end of the nineteenth century. It consists of two words: “Akhal,” the long oasis nestled in the foothills of the Kopet Dag Mountains and “Teke,” after the Turkmen tribe, the dominant nomadic people who inhabited the oasis and for centuries raised the Turkmen horse.

Geography significantly contributed to the unusual characteristics of the breed. The region’s harsh desert conditions — the sandy Kara Kum desert occupies 90% of Turkmenistan — favored survival of a horse that could tolerate extreme heat, dry cold and drought. Fresh grass, essential to the high bulk diet required by horses, was available only a few months of the year; the domesticated Turkmen horse learned to survive on meager rations, mostly a low-bulk diet of high protein grains mixed with mutton fat. The cult of the horse, a common feature among many Asian cultures, was an essential part of the bellicose Turkmen culture. A good horse could make the difference between life and death for its rider. More than that, the Akhal-Teke was a source of great personal pride to its owner and an esteemed part of the human family to which it belonged: blanketed in cold weather, often fed by hand and decorated with neck and chest ornaments. To this day Akhal-Tekes often bond closely with their human partners; they are usually sensitive to the way they are treated. Responsive to gentle training, they can be stubborn and resentful if treated rudely. The Akhal Teke is an excellent sport horse. It is perfect in marathon racing; dressage, breaking in and flat race conquer. In 1935 thirty Turkmen riders with their horses made a very long trek and covered 4,300 km from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days. All horses successfully overcame the difficulties of this trek, the major part of which run through the Karakum and other desert terrain. Shortly afterwards the Akhal Teke stallion Zenith set a record by covering 300 km in 19 hours. The Akhal Teke proved itself as an endurance horse. If necessary the Akhal Teke can stay without food and water for much longer than other horses and could easily endure terrible heat.

In 1960 at the Rome Olympics the Akhal Teke stallion Absent, ridden by Sergei Filatov won a gold medal in dressage and was called “Horse of the century”. Later at the Mexico Olympics a new rider on Absent became champion in team riding. The whole world admires and applauds the circus ensemble “Horsemen from sunny Turkmenistan”, which perform on Akhal Teke horses.

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