The Akhal Teke Story

       The Akhal Teke breed is a very special breed, a breed unlike any other: “They are
horses fit for the most powerful rulers, are strikingly beautiful in appearance, they move
lightly under the rider and lightly accept the bit; the head with its Roman nose is carried
high and their golden manes flow majestically in the wind.”
The breed’s characteristics and conformation are very different from those of other horse
breeds. Akhal Tekes are 15-16hh. One looks for a dry head, straight or slightly convex,
with well-set large ears. They have almond shaped, hooded eyes, which give them the
look of an eagle. They have long, elegant, and well-muscled necks set at a high angle.
The breed should have a long well-muscled back, sloped to a low-set tail. Their leg
bones are large compared to their bodies. Their shoulders, forearms, and hind legs are
also very well-muscled, and their chests are deep and narrow. The overall picture is one
of an unconventional but unequivocal equine athlete, the greyhound of the horse world.
The story of the breed is full of prestige, glory, lore and some uncertainty. However
there are two things that are clear in the story of this spectacularly different breed. Their
differences are a result of their physical evolution and natural selection through exposure
to harsh physical environments. The second reason is the human passion that led to
careful breeding to preserve the stunning features of the breed.
They came to Asia from North America over the Barron straight. Once in central Asia,
these light-bodied gazelle-like animals had to adapt to their new surroundings. Central
Asia had very high temperatures and desert-like conditions. It was treeless and open
with very little edible vegetation. These conditions started to mould an animal with
features that improved its survival. The landscape created a hot blooded horse, quick
to react and swift with great stamina, able to outrun predators on the wide open plains.
They were lightly built, but strong and wiry. They developed extremely deep chests
to accommodate increased oxygen intake during physical excursion. Their backs
lengthened to allow extra room for hind legs to increase stride length while running.
The animals eventually developed a partnership with humans. Each group of people
in the area started to mould their equine counterparts to meet their needs and desires.
It was the Turkmen Tribesmen of the Akhal oasis in the foothills of the Kopet-Dog
Mountains who are thought to have developed the breed we know today as Akhal Teke.
The Turkmen Tribesmen were descendants of the ancient Scythians. The Scythians
were a nomadic people who travelled between winter and summer ranges. They valued
their horses very highly, a trait that they passed to their Turkmen decedents. The
Turkmen carefully bred, raised and trained their horses to be ridden during raids on
other tribes. The owner depended on his horse for his well-being and life. No expense
was spared in its care and maintenance. The horses were fed very well on grains, and
even mutton fat. They were fed and pampered to the point of their owners going hungry.
The horses were kept in small numbers, only one or two per family, and were often
brought into the family tent. As a result, the animals developed a strong affinity for their
human companions. Their breeding and lineages were passed down through word of
mouth from generation to generation.
There are many stories and lore surrounding these horses; great acts of bravery,
strength, loyalty, and stamina, a story for every positive quality the horses possess.
It was the animal’s attributes portrayed in stories that helped raise them to a state of
near divinity, and brought attention to them wherever they went. When Russia and
Turkmenistan went to war in the 1800s, the tribesmen rode to war on their magnificent
horses. The tribesmen lost to the Russian Tsar in 1881. During the war, a Russian
general named Kuropatkin took an interest in the horses ridden by the tribesmen he met
in battle. After the war, he founded a stud farm in Russia and gave the horses the name
we know them by today, Akhal Teke. The Russians also established the first written
record of the breed’s lineage in the General Stud book started in 1941.
The landscape and harsh climate that the ancestors of the breed survived shaped
many of the animal’s characteristics, but that is not the whole story. These animals
have humans to thank for the care and love that elevated them to a state of royalty. The
evolution of the animal and the interaction with humans developed an equine of near
athletic perfection.

References
1) Akhal Tekes: Gift from the Desert By Geroge Brown www.ecmagazine.net/Fall2006Web/AkhalTekes.htm
2) History of the Akhal-Teke International Association of Akhal-Teke www.maakcenter.org/ENG/BREED/history.html
3) History of the Akhal-Teke By Kathy Curtis Model Horse Reference http://www.mhref.com/breeds/akhal-teke/history.html