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The Akhal Teke horse, along with the Russian Arab, (which ranks with the best in the world) is a most unusual and incredible breed of horse and one of the oldest of breeds.
This breed originated in the arid steppes of Turkmenistan by the Teke tribe, near an Oasis - and the local word for oasis is Akhal. Originally, they were bred for war, as were most horse breeds. Their immediate ancestors date far earlier, being well known race horses as early as 1000B.C. They were used as war horses by King Darius of Persian and by Alexander the Great and influenced the horses of Rome.
The ancient ancestors of the Akhal Teke, the Turkmenian, the indigenous Oriental Horse, had great influence on the light breeds across Europe and North Africa and hence the world. And this horse was commonly called Turk throughout Europe. The Darley Arabian is said to have had many Turkmenian crosses in his pedigree! It has also been said that the Byerley Turk, one of the foundation sires of the thoroughbred, was indeed a Turk . The Thoroughbred of today, although larger, does bear strong resemblance in general morphology.
For thousands of years, under extremely harsh conditions, this horse has perpetuated a heritage of legendary speed, toughness and endurance, emerging in present form around the eighth century.
The Akhal Teke has a very elegant appearance and their endurance and resistance to heat are way beyond the norm. In the modern world they are long-distance, endurance performers; a race horse; and the Russian sport horse of dressage and jumping. They are known to have a bit of a fiery temperaments, but they have speed and endurance to burn, partnered by an almost science fiction elegance of build with a very unconventional conformation.
The long, thin neck is set almost vertically to the body and most unusually, the line from the mouth backward is higher than the withers. The forelegs of the Akhal Teke are fairly close together but are straight with a long forearm. The head is very fine, with large eyes, wide nostrils and a straight, long, tapering profile, with width between the large but lovely shaped ears. The body is lean, narrow and sinewy. The hind quarters are also narrow, but the thighs are long and muscular. Average height is fifteen hands or a bit more.
This seems at first glance to be a horse of angles! But watch him move? The action of these horses is absolutely unique. They virtually slide over the ground with great flowing movement, yet no swinging of the body. To top this off, the Akhal Teke has a magical coat. Their hair is very fine and skin thin as one would expect of a horse of the desert, but they have a metallic, golden tone to their coats, like a bronze horse sculpture come to life. In sunlight this horse’s metallic gleam does indeed seem to be of the kingdom of magic rather than the kingdom of equine!
The age of maturity is 5 to 6 years, but worth the wait. Their action is highlighted by strength, smoothness and a carriage of elegance, which makes them stand out in modern classic events and of course in dressage.
The Akhal Teke also enjoys extended breeding longevity and it is not uncommon that stallions are widely used after the age of twenty. The breed almost became extinct when war horses were no longer needed, yet it was expensive to maintain a horse. Later in history, they lost favor because they do not have the height and size of the European warmbloods or Thoroughbreds, yet in spite of smaller size they are highly competitive and able as well as successful. Many purebreds were sent to slaughter or roamed in feral herds, but the Akhal Teke is acknowledged now as a treasure and numbers have increased since 1980. Another threat was the tendency to cross breed with the Thoroughbred to increase the size and at one time not so long ago there were less than 20 pure mares and less than five stallions remaining in their homeland. Had it not been for a few dedicated people, this wonderful and ancient and valuable horse would have been lost.
IN TODAY’S WORLD
Now In his home country, this horse is considered to have genetic material of exceptional value. The purebred breed is rare although West Germany now breeds them and there are imports and now breeders in America as well.
The Akhal Teke has not changed in conformation for centuries and was also carefully bred pure. The Turkmen people kept accurate pedigrees through oral tradition and selection of breedings were strict, and so it is again.
The Akhal Tekes are in demand as a jumper. With such elasticity and such a powerful spring, there is no question they can almost fly as they jump. They have superb natural movement, a soft elastic walk, and that gliding over the ground at a trot, with legs being moved from the lower joints. The breed is supreme among the sporting horses of its homeland and has proven to be highly competitive internationally.