Saturday, January 24, 2015

AKHAL-TEKE HORSES

If you are like me, you never heard of this horse breed before.  And if you are not like me, I humbly suggest that you try to be more like me, because I am such a darling and perfect little dog in so many ways!  Hahahaha!

Akhal-Teke, cremello color
But anyway, now I will talk about Akhal-Tekes, which are very beautiful horses with a special, unusual sheen to their coats.  They have slender bodies and necks, long legs, and sparse manes and tails.  They look like they might need to wear a horse blanket all the time to keep warm, but they are actually very tough and well-adapted to the harsh climate of Turkmenistan, which is where they came from originally.  In that country, they are much loved and are considered a national emblem.

Turkmenistan Postage Stamps
The ancestors of the Akhal-Teke breed have been around for a very long time, like maybe as long as 3,000 years.  They were known as Nisean horses and by some other names at first.  The people of Turkmenistan used them for traveling long distances and for raiding.  Because the horses were so important to the survival of the people, they were thought of as treasured possessions.  They were carefully bred, and their pedigrees were kept in the oral tradition.

http://www.akhal-teke.org/akhal-tekes-in-art.html
Akhal-Tekes were ridden into war against the Russian Empire, but Turkmenistan lost that fight, and their country was swallowed up by the Empire.  The Russians admired the horses, though, and soon started breeding them, too.

Uzbekistan Postage Stamp
Eventually, Akhal-Tekes made their way into lots of other countries.  Currently, there are probably about 6,600 of them throughout the world, but the biggest numbers are still in Turkmenistan and Russia.

Old postcard of an Akhal-Teke wearing "jewelry" around the neck.

The first Akhal-Tekes to come to the U.S., in 1979, were imported by Phil and Margot Case, of Shenandoah Farms in Virginia.  One of the mares they brought to their farm from an auction in Russia was named Oliva.  She was a descendant of a famous Akhal-Teke dressage stallion, Absent, who won medals at the 1960, 1964, and 1968 Olympics.  Soon the Cases were producing lots of purebred Akhal-Tekes who competed well in jumping and dressage.  In 1982, they founded the Akhal-Teke Association of America.

http://www.akhal-teke.org/
The thing that this breed is best known for is its coat, which is very shiny and not like the coat of any other breed.  The reason for the sheen is that within each hair, the opaque core is reduced in size or may be totally absent.  That leaves more space for the transparent part of the hair.  This transparent part bends the light as it enters and sends it out again, sometimes with a golden cast.

Photo by Artur Baboev, Wikipedia
This special sheen can be present in any coat color, but it shows up best in horses that are buckskins, palominos, cremellos, and perlinos.

Akhal Teke Stalliion - Samovar (his color is Perlino)
Owned by Central Asian Equines
Photo by Heather Abounader
Akhal-Tekes are still very athletic, just like they were in the days when the Turkmenistan tribesmen used them for raiding.  Nowadays, the most common activities for the breed are dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, and endurance riding.

Free-jumping stallion Dirkhan, 2009 (Dargan-Formoza) line Kaplan
Photo:  Artur Baboev     Wikipedia

So my advice to you, if you like shiny things and animals with a special sheen to their coats, is to get an Akhal-Teke horse.  I don't think you will be sorry!


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