Name of breed: Akhal-Teke
Country of origin: Turkmenistan
Breed origin: One of the oldest living breeds of horses, the precise ancestry of the Akhal-Teke is difficult to trace. The breed is very similar to, and possibly the direct descendant of the Turkoman horse, a breed believed to be extinct. As a treasured possession used by tribal people in Turkmenistan for raiding, the horses were crucial for income and survival. They were managed and trained in very specific ways. Stallions were covered from head to tail with 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 next-to-no food.
In 1881, the Akhal oasis became part of the Russian Empire. The Russian general developed a fondness for the horses he had seen with the local tribesmen, and founded a breeding farm after the war, renaming the horses Akhal-Tekes after the Teke Turkmen tribe that lived around the Akhal oasis.
In the early 20th century, cross breeding between the Thoroughbred and the Akhal-Teke took place, aiming to create a faster long-distance racehorse.
Distinguishing features: The Akhal-Teke have a reputation for speed and endurance, intelligence, and a distinctive metallic sheen. They usually stands between 14.2 and 16hh and are primarily buckskin or palomino in colour. Known as the ‘Golden Horses’, aficionados of the breed claim that the colour pattern functioned as camouflage in the desert. The Akhal-Teke is a tough and resilient breed, 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 and they are known for their endurance, and their form and grace as show jumpers.
Modern day Akhal-Teke: There are currently just over 6000 Akhal-Tekes in the world, mostly located in Turkmenistan and Russia, although they are also found in parts of Europe and North America. Due to their natural athleticism, Akhal-Tekes are good at dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing and endurance riding.