The Akhal-Teke,from Turkmen Ahalteke, [ahalˈteke]) is a horse breed from Turkmenistan, where they are a national emblem.They have a reputation for speed and endurance, intelligence, and a distinctive metallic sheen. The shiny coat of palominos and buckskins led to their nickname "Golden Horses".These horses are adapted to severe climatic conditions and are thought to be one of the oldest existing horse breeds. There are currently about 6,600 Akhal-Tekes in the world, mostly in Turkmenistan and Russia, although they are also found throughout Europe and North America.
There are several theories regarding the original ancestry of the Akhal-Teke, some dating back thousands of years. The tribes of Turkmenistan selectively bred the horses, recording their pedigrees orally and using them for raiding. The breed was used in the losing fight against the Russian Empire, and was subsumed into the Empire along with its country. The Akhal-Teke has influenced many other breeds, including several Russian breeds. There has been extensive crossbreeding with the Thoroughbred to create a fast, long-distance racehorse and as a result all Akhal-Tekes have a Thoroughbred ancestor. The studbook was closed in 1932.The Russians printed the first stud book for the breed in 1941, including over 700 horses.
An Akhal Teke Stallion
The Akhal-Teke typically stands between 14.2 and 16 hands (58 and 64 inches, 147 and 163 cm). These horses are well known for those individuals who have a golden buckskin or palomino color, a result of the cream gene, a dilution gene that also produces the perlino and cremello colors. A number of other colors are recognized, including bay, black, chestnut, and grey. Aficionados of the breed claim that the color pattern served as camouflage in the desert. Many Akhal-Tekes have a natural metallic sheen to their coat, particularly noticeable in those with cream gene colors.Akhal-Tekes are not thought to carry the dun gene or roan gene.
The Akhal-Teke has a refined head with predominantly a straight or slightly convex profile, and long ears. It can also have almond-shaped or "hooded" eyes. The mane and tail are usually sparse. The long back is lightly muscled, and is coupled to a flat croup and long, upright neck. The Akhal-Teke possess sloping shoulders and thin skin. The breed is tough and resilient, having adapted to the harshness of Turkmenistan lands, where horses must live without much food or water. This has also made the horses good for sport. The breed is known for its endurance,as shown in 1935 when a group of Turkmen riders rode the 2500 miles from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days, including a three-day crossing of 235 miles of desert without water.The Akhal-Teke is also known for its form and grace as a show jumper.
The quality of the Akhal-Teke horses are determined by the studbook manager. For over forty years now this has been the same individual, which has led to continuous criticism and dissatisfaction from breeders all over the world. Depending on type, conformation, pedigree, quality of offspring and achievement in sport, the horses are designated as either Elite or Class I or Class II. There are usually 2 annual grading events in Moscow, Russia called the "International Sport Meeting and World Championship “Heavenly Argamak”" and "Golden Akhal-Teke Cup Shael" where breeders present their best horses to a group of judges. At the World Championship a group of judges evaluate the horses in age and gender categories as well as in various sport disciplines and a halter class.
The ancestors of the breed may date back to animals living 3,000 years ago, known by a number of names, but most often as the Nisean horse. The precise ancestry is difficult to trace, however, because prior to about 1600 AD, horse breeds in the modern sense did not exist; rather, horses were identified by local strain or type.
According to one theory of origin, the Akhal-Teke were kept hidden by tribesmen in the area where the breed first appeared, the Turkmenistan desert Kara Kum, which is a rocky, flat desert surrounded by mountains. Others claim that the horses are descendants of the mounts of Mongol raiders of the thirteenth and fourteenth century.
The breed is very similar to, and possibly the direct descendant of the Turkoman horse, a breed believed to be extinct, though a related strain may be bred today in Iran. Other breeds or strains with Turkoman roots also include the Yomud, Goklan and the Nokhorli. Some historians believe that the two are different strains of the same breed. It is a disputed "chicken or egg" question whether the influential Arabian was either the ancestor of the breed or was developed out of this breed. But a substantial number of Arabian mares have reportedly been used to improve the breed in the 14th and 19th century. It is also possible that the so-called "hot blooded" breeds, the Arabian, Turkoman, Akhal-Teke, and the Barb all developed from a single "oriental horse" predecessor.
Tribal people in what today is Turkmenistan first used the Akhal-Teke for raiding. The horses were their most treasured possession since they were crucial for income and survival. They selectively bred their horses, keeping records of the pedigrees via an oral tradition. Horses were managed and trained in very specific ways. Stallions were tethered next to the tent while mares and foals were free to seek forage. The stallions were covered from head to tail with up to seven layers of felt, which kept their coat short and shiny. Before raids they were put on a sparse diet to prepare them for the long ride through the desert with no water and hardly any feed. The horses were called Argamaks (divine or Sacred Horses) by the Russians, and were cherished by those who valued their speed and stamina in the desert and loyalty to their owner. Han emperors from China sacrificed armies to obtain just a few of the precious "Argamaks".
In 1881, Turkmenistan became part of the Russian Empire. The tribes fought with the tsar, eventually losing. In the process, however, the Russian general Kuropatkin developed a fondness for horses he had seen while fighting the tribesmen, founded a breeding farm after the war and renamed the horses, "Akhal-Tekes", after the Teke Turkmen tribe that lived around the Akhal oasis (near Geok Tepe). The Russians closed the studbook in 1932 which included 287 stallions and 468 mares. Stallions are not gelded in Central Asia. The studbook was printed in 1941.
The Akhal-Teke has had influence on many breeds, possibly including the Thoroughbred; the Byerly Turk, which may have been Akhal-Teke, an Arabian, or a Turkoman Horse), was one of the three major foundation stallions of the breed. Three other stallions thought to be of Turkoman origin, known as the "Lister Turk", the "White Turk", and the "Yellow Turk" were among a number of minor stallions from the orient who contributed to the foundation bloodstock of the Thoroughbred breed.The Trakehner has also been influenced by the Akhal-Teke, most notably by the stallion, Turkmen-Atti, as have the Russian breeds Don, Budyonny, Karabair, and Karabakh.
The breed suffered greatly when the Soviet Union required horses to be slaughtered for meat, even though local Turkmen refused to eat them.At one point only 1,250 horses remained and export from the Soviet Union was banned. The government of Turkmenistan now uses the horses as diplomatic presents as well as auctioning a few to raise money for improved horse breeding programs.
In the early twentieth century, crossbreeding between the Thoroughbred and the Akhal-Teke took place, aiming to create a faster long-distance racehorse.The Anglo Akhal-Tekes were not so resilient however, as their Akhal-Teke ancestors, and many died due to the harsh conditions of Central Asia. After the 2,600 mile endurance race from Ashkabad to Moscow in 1935, when the purebreds finished in much better condition than the part-breds, the studbook management decided to consider all crossbred horses born after 1936, as not purebred. Horses with English Thoroughbred ancestors born prior to that date were allowed to remain inside the studbook (e.g. 044 Tillyakush, grandson of Thoroughbred Burlak, 831 Makh, granddaughter of Thoroughbred Blondelli and great-great-granddaughter of Thoroughbred Junak, and line founder 9 Ak Belek, a direct descendent in the male line of the Thoroughbred stallion Fortingbrass). Due to this fact there doesn't exist any Akhal Teke today whose ancestry doesn't contain a Thoroughbred. Since 1973, all foals must be blood typed to be accepted in the stud book in order to protect the integrity of the breed. From 2014 on, a DNA test based on hair follicles is sufficient if the DNA of the parents is on file. A stallion not producing the right type of horse may be removed. Nowadays, artificial insemination is allowed as well as embryo transfer. The surrogate mother, however, needs to be a pureblood Akhal Teke mare for the foal to be registered in the General Studbook as a pureblood Akhal Teke.
Turkmenistan has a separate agency, Turkmen Atlary, responsible for the breeding, training and maintenance of Akhal-Teke horses.However, the agency's work has been the focus of criticism from the President of the country, who holds the agency responsible for decreasing numbers of horses and inadequate facilities for their breeding, training and management.
Turkmen Atlary, in its capacity as the administrative arm of the International Akhal-Teke Horse Association, hosts a meeting of the association once or twice a year upon invitation in Ashgabat. Most of the bigger breeding farms and national Akhal Teke associations as well as Akhal Teke owners and representatives of the horse industry from around the world attend. There is a horse racing organization called "Galkinysh" .In Ashgabat, the Ahalteke equestrian complex,one of the largest in Central Asia, is a horse-breeding center. The former Akhal-Teke horse Holiday, celebrated on the last Sunday in April, has been renamed 'Turkmen Horse Day'
Akhal-Teke under Saddle
Free Jumping Akhal-Teke
The Akhal-Teke, due to its natural athleticism, can be a sport horse, good at dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, and endurance riding. A noted example was the Akhal-Teke stallion, Absent, who won the Grand Prix de Dressage at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, while being ridden by Sergei Filatov. He went again with Filatov to win the bronze individual medal in Tokyo in the 1964 Summer Olympics, and won the Soviet team gold medal under Ivan Kalita at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. However, by today's studbook standards he wouldn't be admitted as Akhal-Teke, owing to the Thoroughbred ancestry of his dam Bakkara. Other notable Akhal-Tekes include the 1986 winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Dancing Brave.
Akhal-Teke horses are bred all over the world. In addition to their motherland there are breeders in Russia and Central Asia, in Germany and other European countries and USA, Uruguay and Australia.
Akhal-Teke is presented in the official coat of arms and banknotes of Turkmenistan, as well as on stamps of both the Turkmenistan and other countries.
Akhal-Teke horse in postage stamps and bank notes
In different cities of Turkmenistan are monuments to the Akhal-Teke.The largest number of sculptures located in Ashgabat.
Golden-dun stallion, born in 1991
Farther: 1084 Yalkymly, bay stallion, 1987 (974 Aygytly, dark bay, 1981 — 1879 Yalanchy, bay, 1977). Fackir-Palvan’s line.
Mother: 2158 Dobaraly, chestnut mare, 1981 (918 Senagat — 1760 Jakhan). Scack’s line. Fackir-Palvan’s line. Such famous racehorses as Soltanguly, Everdy-Teleke, and Sluchay form Yanardag’s pedigree.
Measurements (2002): 159-163-173-19,5 sm.
Breed’s value: 10-9-10-9
Class: superstrain (specimen)
At the age of 2-9 Yanardag took part in 31 races on Ashkhabad hippodrome winning first prize-places 26 times.
Speed: 500 m — 0.29,9 sec, 1000 m — l min. 07,5 sec, 2000 m. — 2 min.19sec
It was awarded «Altyn Asyr» prize (2 times), the prize of the State Association «Turkmen Atlary», «Gelishikli» prize, «Serdaryn buysanjy» prize in important prize-races. Yanardag has a unique golden-dun colour, characteristic for all Akhalteke horses, a magnificent carriage and a graceful gait. Yanardag’s movements are swift and easy. When saddled it easily rushes ahead. It was recognized to be a champion on show-exercising of Akhalteke horses in Ashkhabad city in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In 1999, it was recognized to be a breed’s world champion at the World Akhalteke horses exhibition held in Moscow.
Yanardag’s majestic profile lies in the centre of the State emblem of independent neutral Turkmenistan as an embodiment of a classic image of the Akhalteke.
Dun stallion, born in 2006
Father: Piyada, dun stallion, born in 1990 (967 Pudock — 2183 Bostan), Peren’s line.
Mother: Kenar, bay mare, born in 1999 (Gapbar - Atgulak), Fackir-Palvan’s line. Measurements: 156-157-175-18,5 (7,5-7,5-7,5).
Breed’s value: 3 performances, 0-1-2.
In 2008: a gold star of Turkestan and the champion among Akhalteke horses (Tashkent city)
Golden-dun horse, born in 1990
Father: 967 Pudock, bay stallion, born in1973. (914 Polotli— 1539 Caplyya). Peren’s line.
Mother: 2116 Bostan, bay mare, born in 1981 (955 Kemal — 728 Bamy). Gaplan’s line. Peren’s line.
Piyada’s pedigree is composed of racehorses that were distinguished with beauty and speed by father and mother’s lines. Its grandparent Polotli has been recognized as a champion among Akhalteke racehorses at the Agricultural exhibition in Moscow. Piyada is a champion among Akhalteke horses in 1993.
Measurements (2000): 159-160-172-19 cm.
Breeds value: 9,5-9-9-9-8
Class: superstrain (specimen)
Piyada has a high starting speed. It covers quickly short distances. When during the races a competition of Piyada and falcon was arranged in 1994, it left behind the hunting bird and finished the first. At the age of 2-12 it participated in 32 races on Ashkhabad hippodrome and won prize-winning places 28 times. It was awarded «Beyik Serdaryn Buysanjy» prize 8 times. In 1998, it was recognized as a winner of «Soltanyn Gyuli» show-exercising among Akhalteke horses. In 1999-2000 — a winner of «Altyn Asyr» show-exercising among Akhalteke horses. A stud-horse. More than 30 of its scions inherited remarkable breed’s qualities.
Light dun shot with gold horse, born in 1990
Father: 1082 Edenli, chestnut stallion, born in 1976 (890 Kemerli (Kemkhan) — 1508 Yyldyrym). Kir-Sackar’s line.
Mother: 2148 Gyulistan, dun mare, 1984 (1009 Serdar — 935 Gyulyaydy). Scack’s line. Kir-Sackar’s line.
Erekdag is related to such stallions as Serdar, Spesivy, fast mare Gyulsary and other magnificent racehorses by mother’s line.
Measurements: 162-162-178-19,5 cm
Breed’s value: 8-9-8-5-8.
Class: superstrain (specimen)
In 1992-2000 Erekdag participated in 48 races on Ashkhabad hippodrome and was awarded prize-winning places 24 times.
Speed: 500 m — 30,5 sec, 1000 m — 1 min. 08,2 sec, 1800 m — 2 min. 06,8 sec,
2000 m — 2 min. 20,2 sec.
In 1994, it was proclaimed a champion among Akhalteke horses. In 1996, in the races dedicated to the Day of Independence it was awarded a honorary prize at a distance of 800 m. In 1996, it became a possessor of the Challenge Cup of the National equestrianism centre after completing a 120-km run. Erekdag is used as a stud horse and gives a wonderful posterity that has golden-dun color. Its descendants are distinguished with the brightest and most characteristic peculiarities inherent in the Akhalteke breed.
Black stallion, born in 1992
Father: 989 Garader, black stallion born in 1977 (894 Kerven — 1520 Elsona). Kir-Sackar’s line.
Mother: Garaly-2, black mare born in 1985 (914 Polotli — 1558 Kepele). Peren’s line. Kir-Sackar’s line.
Measurements (1995): 160-163-170-19,5 cm.
Breed’s value: 9-9-8-8.
Class: superstrain (specimen)
At the age of2-7 Kursant-2 participated in the races on Ashkhabad hippodrome. It was a prizewinner of major events for prizes of «Boynou», «Bolshoi Ashkhabad» (Derby), «Myataji» and «Melekush» where it showed a high racing speed.
Speed: 1000 m — l min. 7 sec, 2000 m — 2 min. 17 sec. A champion among Akhalteke horses in 1998.
Kursant-2’s pedigree includes such renowned fast horses as Keymir, Talant, Angar, Enish, Polotli, Garaly, and Garader.
Bay stallion, born in 2003
Father: Goar -17, dun stallion, 1986 (944 Govkher – 2005 Menaka-15). Gelishikli’s line.
Mother: Tamaly, black mare, 1992 (Yelbek – 2477 Tomasha) Kir-Sakar’s line.
Measurements: 162-160-172-19.5 (7.5-8.0-7.5).
Breed value: 9-3-5.
28 times participated in races. The winner of “Achylysh” (3d place, 2006), “Tangryguly Gaty” (2d place, 2006), “Yapylysh” (1st place, 2006) prizes, the champion of 2007 show. In 2008 won the races for “Russkiy argamak” prize (Pyatigorsk city, the Russian Federation).