Use and characteristics of the Akhal-Teke
The long-legged “golden” horses of Turkmenistan have been prized and admired for centuries. They stand between 14.2 (58 inches/147 cm) and 16 hands (64 inches/163 cm) high. While not overly tall, they are incredibly athletic, thanks to their long bodies and legs. An interesting conformation point is that their lower legs have relatively short, strong cannon bones, so the additional length is mainly above the knee. Since the quality of a horse’s feet is often the most important consideration, anyone planning to buy an Akhal-Teke will be reassured to discover that these horses have some of the finest and strongest known. The magnificent metallic honey gold that is seen in certain special individuals is particularly cherished by breeders who sell an Akhal-Teke. The breed displays many other coat colours too, including black with a gorgeous purple-blue metallic shine. Bred for the harshest of conditions, they can withstand the heat of the desert and thrive where many other breeds would struggle.
Origin and history of breeding Akhal-Teke horses
Admirers of Akhal-Tekes can claim a long and interesting history for their breed. The name Akhal-Teke is likely to mean "horses of the Teke people from the Akhal Oases". In Russia, they were known as “Argamaks”, meaning Divine Horses, and this may be the origin of the semi-mythical “Heavenly Horses” that were prized along the Central Asian Silk Road as far as China. During excavations at Pazyryk in the Altai Mountains in Siberia, archaeologists discovered the preserved remains of tall horses resembling modern Akhal-Tekes dating from 3,000 years ago. Centuries later, the Turkoman was a type of horse known and prized in Europe from late medieval times onwards. These animals are likely to have been very similar to the modern Akhal-Teke breed and were possibly some of their immediate ancestors. The early studbook of the Thoroughbred has numerous references to “Turks” and so it is well-known that horses of this type made a major contribution to the breed. Indeed, the modern Thoroughbred and Akhal-Teke display many similarities and shared genes, although some of this happened in the 20th century when TBs were used in the breeding programme in the USSR.
Akhal-Tekes in equestrianism
Traditionally, Akhal-Tekes lived very closely with the Turkmen people and were fed by hand on a special diet. When being prepared for racing, the Turkmen used a highly ritualised blanketing procedure on their horses. In the 1930s, a group of Turkmen riders made an extraordinary crossing of 300 miles of desert in three days without water. The Akhal-Teke stallion Absent became a famed dressage champion in the USSR. Today, an interesting new breeding programme unites the Niimíipuu (Nez Percé) people, traditional producers of Appaloosa horses in America, with Turkmen breeders of Akhal-Tekes in Turkmenistan.