About Lone Larch

 

From Hendricks, B. L. and Dent, A. A.(2007).  International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.  University of Oklahoma Press.

The Akhal Teke is an ancient breed that emerged in its present form by the turn of the eighth century, at a time when Turkmenian horses were regarded as the best to be found in Central Asia.  It developed in the oases south-east of the Kara Kum desert and foothills of the Kopet Dag mountains, on the border of Iran and the former Soviet Union.  Turkmen horses were exported to both near and far countries, causing a stir of admiration.

While the original, ancient Turkmenian horse is considered extinct, horses bred in the area of Turkmenistan are still referred to by that name.  This breed was well known as early as 1000 B.C. as a race horse, and 30, 000 Bactrian horsemen made up the cavalry of King Darius of Persia.  The Turkmen breed was also ridden by the army of Alexander the Great.  Phillip, Alexander’s father, obtained great numbers of horses (20, 000) from the area of Fergana in what is now Turkmenistan for his troops.  Bucephalus, the favored horse of Alexander, while generally said to have been a Thessalonian horse, was more likely of Turkmenian blood.  Most light-breed horses in Greece had been brought from Fergana or had descended from stock brought from there earlier.  The horses of Fergana were taller and swifter than most other breeds of that time.

Alexander took a spoil of 50, 000 eastern horses from the Persians.  These horses, when crossed with the local European animals, produced larger horses that were used by the Roman cavalry.  Through the Romans, Turkmenian blood was spread throughout the known world, adding refinement to the heavier, shorter draft types found throughout Europe.

Modern representatives of the ancient breed are the Akhal Teke and Iomud in the former Soviet Union.  In Iran, descendants of the Turkmenian are represented in the Turkoman, a name that includes both the Akhal Teke and Yamud.

The Turkmenian, an original, indigenous Oriental horse, had great influence on the light breeds of Europe and North Africa and, indirectly, the world, although this is not generally acknowledged.  This horse was commonly called “Turk” in Europe, and subsequent writers assumed the animals were of Arabian extraction.  An example is found regarding the outstanding sire Turkmen Atti, without a doubt a Turkmen horse, but written in the Trakehner stud book as an Arab.  The Darley Arabian is said to have had many Turkmenian crosses in his pedigree.

The Eurasian steppe was dominated by several different tribes and people over the centuries, and a great interchange of horses took place.  During the Hun empire, which mirrored the Chinese, organized warfare across the Gobi Desert alternated with periods of peace.  Formalized exchanges of tribute-gifts allowed the rulers of each side to strengthen themselves by acquiring rare and valuable goods.  The Chinese obtained horses for the army and other imperial uses, while the Hun rulers acquired grain, silks, and other luxuries.

The Huns displaced other people by a series of migrations into what is now Iran and across the Hindu Kush into India.  Various Iranian tribes – Sakas (a Persian name for the Scythian) and Kushans chief among them, were the protagonists of these displacements.  As they vacated their grazing lands, they came under control of Turkish tribes, and the frontier of Indo-European languages began to shrink as the Turks advanced.  By the end of the second century B.C., the patterns of migration altered.  At that time the Persian border was effectually defended by the new guardians, the Parthians, whose horses were of Turkmenian descent.

The fame of the Parthian horses soon reached the Chinese imperial court.  Emperor Wu Ti began his reign in 141 B.C. during the Han dynasty.  He was known as a ruthless leader who had little regard for the welfare of his troops.  Driven by a passion to possess some of the “blood sweaters”, as the Fergana horses were called by the Chinese, in 104 B.C. he sent an envoy carrying much gold, including some valuable golden horse statues, to the kingdom known to the Chinese as Dawan, or Wan, for exchange.  The capital, Fergana, was called Haohan.  The king of Wan was influenced by his premier and refused to accept the gifts; instead the entire embassy was killed and the treasure confiscated.  Refusing to accept defeat, Wu Ti sent another expedition under the charge of General Li Guang in the year 101 B.C.  The expedition was supported by 60, 000 soldiers, 30, 000 horses, and 10, 000 cattle.  On this occasion a coup d’etat was accomplished, the Wan king, Wugua, was killed, and the surviving aristocrats made peace with Han.  Ten elite horses and 3000 horses of average quality were accepted, although only 1000 of the animal survived to reach the Ymenguan gate-garrison at the Great Wall.  An agreement was made that each year the Dawan kingdom would present two elite horses to the Han emperor.

There has been a great deal of speculation as to the true identity of the ancient horse the Chinese called the “blood-sweating” horse.  Some have theorized that the horses suffered from insect bites that bled; others have thought the blood sweater to be Appaloosa-colored horses with red markings.  In a personal communication from Professor Youchun Chen of Beijing, director of the Chinese Academy of Animal Science, it has been confirmed that the ancient blood-sweating horse was none other than the breed known today as Akhal Teke, the famous Turkmenian horse.  Fine examples of this breed have always been called elite horses.

Emperor Wu Ti wanted the blood-sweating horses because he believed this special breed  held significance and possession of them was considered a mark of Heaven’s grace.  The old empire of Dawan covered the area from the western part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to Turkmenia, including Fergana.  In ancient times, the Dawan horse was slightly heavier in build than the modern-day Akhal Teke breed.  Many were a golden color with metallic sheen, still seen today in many Akhal Teke horses.

Descendants of the Fergana breed are still known to “sweat blood” today when bred in their ancient homeland.  One source reported that the “blood sweating” is due to the extremely thin skin of the Akhal Teke horses, and results when a blood vessel is broken in the skin during exertion.  Louise Firouz in Tehran, Iran, a well-known breeder of both Caspian and Akhal Teke horses, reported that the “blood sweating” is due to a parasite and not an insect.  Bleeding through the skin need not be accompanied by exertion.  According to Mrs. Firouz, there is only one place in the world, the general area of Fergana and northern Iran, where this parasite exists in the river water.  The guilty rivers are, respectively, the Gorgan and the Fergana.  Animals drinking from the river are infected.  At a certain point in the cycle of the parasite in late spring, the organism breaks through the horse’s skin, causing a small amount of unsightly bleeding.  The Firouz horses are given rain water or water from other sources to prevent the infestation.  The bleeding phenomenon also occurs in other animals drinking the water.  It takes approximately four years for an animal to be cleansed of this parasite once removed from the area.

As the native breed of the area since ancient times is today known as the Akhal Teke, and considering information provided by Professor Youchun Chen in Beijing, it is safe to say that the ancient and revered blood sweater was none other than the direct ancestor of the Akhal Teke breed.  While the ancient Caspian is also native to this area, the small size of the Caspian eliminates all possibility of its having been called the elite blood sweater, as the elite horses were quite tall.

The Turkmenian steppe was one of the earliest areas of horse domestication (preceded only by the Ukraine) and as horses in the area became taller and swifter than smaller types found on the steppes, the breed was much sought after and spread over vast distances.  It should be considered that the ancient Turkmenian and Caspian horses may have been the first true hotbloods.  If one considers the world map and the area of early domestication of the light horse, and the subsequent spread by nomadic tribes as they invaded toward the south of Syria and Jordan into what is now Saudi Arabia then across the north of Africa, it is not difficult to believe that the Turkmenian breed, perhaps with some crosses to Tarpan types and the ancient Caspian, could easily have fathered the Arab and Barb and contributed greatly through them to the Andalusian and other Iberian breeds.  According to Sandor Bokonyi (1968), the foundation of eastern stock was formed by the Scythian horses that spread from Northern Iran and present southern Russia by Scythian expansion and trade into central Europe, North Africa, and eastward to the Altai Mountains and eventually, with the Yakuts, to the Arctic ocean.  When viewing viewing a heard of purebred Akhal Teke horses, one is struck by the strong similarity to the Arab breed- yet the Turkmenian is centuries older than the Arab.

This certainly indicates that Turkmenian blood would have been present very early to form a base for development  of the North African Barb, believed a descendant in part of the indigenous Iberian horse (Sorraia).

Many authorities believe the Byerley Turk, a foundation sire of the Thoroughbred breed, was indeed a “Turk” and that the Godolphin Barb was a Barb and not an Arab horse as has often been stated.  The Thoroughbred, although much larger, bears strong resemblance to the Turkmenian in general morphology.  Many Turkmenian horses (referred to as Turks) were imported into Great Britain about the time of development of the English Thoroughbred.  Additionally, many horses acquired in Syria were termed “Arab” in England because they had been obtained from Arab people, when in fact they descended from the Turkmenian breed, widely used in that area.  While not firmly established at this time, it is anticipated that genetic blood-group testing now being conducted will eventually reveal to which breed the Thoroughbred is more closely related.  Early testing of this kind has revealed little relationship between the Thoroughbred and Arab breeds.

For many centuries the Akhal Teke breed has not changed in conformation.  Throughout its entire history the Akhal Teke has been carefully bred pure.  The Turkmen people accurately kept pedigrees through oral tradition, and selection was always strict and purposeful.  Like the Exmoor pony, which resembles the purest type of Celtic (now extinct) or Northern pony, the Akhal Teke is probably the purest descendant of the ancient Scythian horse.  Perfectly preserved horses of this type were found frozen in Siberia (Pazyryk) in ancient burial mounds that are dated from 520 to 212 B.C. (there is some disagreement on the dates).  This horse has been bred from time immemorial by nomadic tribes indigenous to the deserts of Turkmenistan.  The name Akhal means “pure” and Teke is the name of the tribe that as bred these horses since earliest recorded time.

These were wary and unsettled people like their ancestors, the Scythians.  Horses with the ability to run long distances without fatigue were necessary, as the people lived by raiding other nomadic tribes.  A tall, heavy horse could not survive where feed consisted of scant mouthfuls of dry grass or where water was scarce.  The Turkmenian horse has always been known as “meatless” type, very lean and without excess muscle.  To condition their horses, the nomads wrapped them in numerous felt blankets to sweat out all surplus fat.  They have trained their horses for centuries using peculiar method that have proven to be effective.  Youngsters at about twenty-one months of age are started in training for races.  They are worked at a walk and gallop in the morning and evening, and sweating under blankets is usual during the day.  This is done to remove all fat from the body.  They are worked and fed so that ribs show.  The day before a race the horses are fed wheat, and the night prior to a race they are not allowed to sleep but are walked and sometimes given a bit of alfalfa. They are fed a mixture of cultivated fodder consisting of limited but highly nutritive feed such as corn, alfalfa, bread, and animal protein when available, as grass is scarce in the desert areas.  Horses for breeding were always selected according to results of races and the quality of their offspring.  Mares have often been taken great distanced to be mated with the best stallions.  As a result of wide use of the best stallions and their sons, various types were developed within the pure breed.  The Turkmen breeders refused to use inbreeding except in very special cases.  Horses with great speed were always selected.

From the Akhal and Tejen oases in Turkmenia, the breed was introduced to many places.  During the eighth to tenth centuries the guards of the khalif of Baghdad were Turkmen horsemen mounted on Turkmenian horses.  Persia, Bukhara, and Turkmenian stallions were used extensively in the stables of Russian tsars in the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries.  In the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries the Turkmenian penetrated into Western Europe and England.

In the former Soviet Union, the Akhal Teke is now found in Turkmenia, southern Kazakhstan and North Caucasus.  Many of the breeds found in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan are directly descended from this ancient breed.

The Akhal Teke is a slim animal with a fine coat and thin skin.  At first glance the horse appears to be made up of angles and is too narrow to be pleasing to the eye of one unaccustomed to this type.  Mane and tail hair is often sparse.  The head is straight and fine, long in the muzzle and wedge-shaped, often attached to the neck at an angle rather than a curve; the next is long and slim, fitting into the shoulders at another angle, and with high withers this horse often appears “ewenecked”; the back is long and often “soft”, or a bit dipped, the croups is usually quite flat but the tail is usually carried low; the chest is narrow; the shoulders are long and very well sloped; the legs are straight, long, and slim with wonderful bone, well-define tendons, and hard joints; the feet are well formed, often large, and very hard.

The Akhal Teke has peculiar, soft gaits, most of them seeming to glide over the groud.  This breed has been used for thousands of years in deserts on sandy soil, and this is reflected in its gaits.  Horses of other breeds have slightly longer pasterns in the front and shorter, straighter pasterns in the rear.  The Akhal Teke has long, slanted hind pasterns, perhaps an adaptation to walking on sand.

In color, the Akhal Teke is often a striking golden dun with a metallic sheen.  Most breeds closely related to the ancient Turkmenian are found to have the same bright, metallic sheen or glint to their coats.  Grey, bay, and black are also seen.  White markings are common on the face and legs.

This breed is known to have phenomenal powers of endurance and is an ideal mount in desert conditions.  Akhal Tekes took part in a famous trek from Ashgabad to Moscow in 1935, a distance of over 1800 miles including 300 miles of desert.  The latter distance was covered in three days by the extraordinary horses traveling without water and carrying riders.

The age of maturity for Akhal Tekes is five to six years, which is relatively late.  They show excellent speed and are used for racing in the former Soviet Union.  Their action is distinguished by strength, smoothness, and elegant carriage, which is most appreciated in modern classic events and especially in dressage.  The jump is very soft and elastic.  Insufficient height (when compared to the larger European warmbloods) prevent this breed from fully matching the requirements of modern competitions; nevertheless, Absent, Muar, and Penteli of the Akhal Teke breed are well-known names in the world of equestrian sprorts as winners in international competitions and Olympic games.  The unique sporting assets of this breed are employed by cross-breeding with the Trakehner, Hanoverian and Latvian horses, giving increased size while retaining the desirable qualities of the breed.

The Akhal Teke combines average fertility with extended longevity.  It is not uncommon that stallion are widely used after the age of twenty.  The record longevity of thirty years was attained by the mare Elan, who produced seventeen foals in Russia.

Due to intensive agricultural development and poor competitiveness, the Akhal Teke purebred population has suffered a sharp decline in its homeland.  Thus, the gene pool of the breed is strictly limited.  Probably the most difficult period in its history was in the last century.   After Turkmenia and Russia were joined, the nomadic raids ended and the economic basis for breeding of the pure Akhal horse was finished.  The war horse, used for centuries, was no longer needed.  The raising of such horses was expensive.  Outstanding Akhal Teke horses went in large numbers to Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, and India, and were replaced by cheaper working horses.  The breed was supported then by only a few enthusiasts.

During 1988, the monthly journal Konevodstvo, Horse Breeding and Equestrian Sport, published in Moscow, devoted nearly all issues to the future and past of the Akhal Teke breed.  Many people had expressed concern because the Akhal Teke was on the brink of extinction.  There was a time when, due to the fact that the Akhal Teke does not match the size of large European warmbloods and Thoroughbreds, the breed lost favor.  This is curious when it is known that despite its smaller size, the Akhal horse is very competitive and able.  Many purebred Akhal Teke horses were sent to slaughter.  In the homeland, feral herds of Akhal Teke horses were created when horses were abandoned.  By November 1989, another article in Konevodstvo appeared, titled “no reason to worry about the fate of the Akhal Teke,” referring to measures that had been taken to save the breed.  A special commission traveled to stud farms to see the conditions of raising and feeding the horses.  The number of pure Akhal Teke horses increased noticeably from 1980 to 1989.

Another danger to the Akhal Teke has been the tendency to cross the breed with Thoroughbred to increase the size.  These crossings were stopped previously, as the offsprings did not reach the quality of the purebred and because it destroyed the breed.  Unknown to many, in 1973 there were only eighteen pure mares and three purebred stallion remaining in Russia, due to intense crossbreeding.  Since that time and due to some concerned horse breeders, the remnant Akhal horse has been bred strictly in purity.  Had it not been for a few concerned people, this ancient and valuable horse would have been lost.

In March of 1988, plans were made to repeat the famous ride from Ashgabat to Moscow in order to popularize the breed.  Horses were chosen from various breeding farms, twenty-seven Akhal Teke and two Iomud.  All of the horses were over six years of age.  Riders weigh between 110 and 133 pounds and were aged between seventeen and sixty-four.  The ride began on June 1, 1988, and was completed in sixty days.  The riders passed through the republics of Turkmenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia with sharply different climatic conditions.  The difficult part of the ride was through the Kara Kum desert, a distance of about 370 miles in scorching heat, and then nearly the same distance across the almost waterless Kazakh steppes.  Nearly every day they faced strong wind and sometimes hail.  The most important care given to the horses was washing and massaging their legs.  Daily feeding consisted of alfalfa hay, barley, wheat brand and fish oil.  The horses moved at a walk and trot, changing back and forth between these gaits.  In sixty days the horses traveled more than 1800 miles.  All but one finished the ride.  Perhaps, with the increasing popularity of this ancient breed and the realization that it is impossible to reestablish a breed that becomes extinct, those in control will take care to preserve a healthy gene pool of this distinctive and historic breed.  The former Soviet Union plans to raise the breeding nucleus to 700 mares.  The breed has also begun to spread internationally.


From the International Museum of the Horse, www.imh.org

 

History and Origin of the Breed
The exotically beautiful, extravagantly graceful and versatile Akhal-Teke horse was, until recently not well-known outside of the former Soviet Union. This most unusual breed of riding horse, highly regarded for its speed, stamina, comfortable gaits, intelligence and trainability, is currently enjoying a well-deserved surge of popularity outside of its traditional homeland of Turkmenistan and neighboring Russia. Arguably the oldest surviving cultured equine breed, the Akhal-Teke acquired its extraordinary physical powers and sensitive personality from the highly specialized conditions which characterized its partnership with Central Asian nomads. Akhal-Teke blood has influenced the development of several modern horse breeds, yet its own unique features have remained largely undiluted for centuries. A comprehensive account of the origins of the Akhal-Teke breed has yet to be written in English. Much of what is currently available in English is not reliable. Contrary to what has been written about the breed, the Akhal-Teke is not native to Russia; the Akhal-Teke origins predate the founding of the Russian state by three thousand years. Nor, as has been asserted, is the Akhal-Teke a warmblood. Like the Arabian and the English Thoroughbred -- two breeds to which the older Akhal-Teke made significant contributions -- the breed belongs to the hotblood category. The Akhal-Teke is the only remaining pure strain of ancient Turkmene horse, a breed whose common ancestors bear a succession of different names over time: Massaget, Parthian, Nisean, Persian, Turkmene and finally, Akhal-Teke. Excavations in southern Turkmenistan have uncovered skeletal remains of tall, fine-boned horses dating back to 2400 BC. The breed name, however, dates back only to the end of the nineteenth century. It consists of two words: "Akhal," the long oasis nestled in the foothills of the Kopet Dag Mountains (once a part of the kingdom of ancient Persia, now present-day Turkmenistan) and "Teke," after the Turkmen tribe, the dominant nomadic people who inhabited the oasis and for centuries raised the Turkmene horse. Geography significantly contributed to the unusual characteristics of the breed. The volatile waves of human and equine movement throughout much of Central Asian history (wars, raids, trading), often bypassed the isolated Akhal oasis. The Caspian Sea to the west, mountains on the south and desert to the north created a protective barrier to the Teke tribe and contributed to the relative genetic stability to their prized horses. The region's harsh desert conditions -- the sandy Kara Kum desert occupies 90% of Turkmenistan -- favored survival of a horse that could tolerate extreme heat, dry cold and drought. Additionally, fresh grass, essential to the high bulk diet required by horses, was available only a few months of the year; the domesticated Turkmene horse learned to survive on meager rations, mostly a low-bulk diet of high protein grains mixed with mutton fat. The cult of the horse, a common feature among many Asian cultures, was an essential part of the bellicose Turkmen culture. A good horse could make the difference between life and death for its rider. More than that, the Akhal-Teke was a source of great personal pride to its owner and an esteemed part of the human family to which it belonged: blanketed in cold weather, often fed by hand and decorated with neck and chest ornaments. To this day Akhal-Tekes often bond closely with their human partners; they are usually sensitive to the way they are treated. Responsive to gentle training, they can be stubborn and resentful if treated rudely.

Russian familiarity with the Akhal-Teke began at least 500 years ago when the Turkmene horse was brought to Russia. These horses came to be called "argamaks," a Turkic word that denoted a tall, refined and valuable horse of Asian type. The modern history of the breed began in the 1880s, with the Russian annexation of Turkmenistan (part of what was then called Transcaspia) and the founding, under Russian auspices, of the first official Akhal-Teke stud, Zakaspiisky, near Ashkhabad (the capital of Turkmenistan). The best breeding stock were collected at this stud, including the famous stallion Boinou, progenitor of the dominant Akhal-Teke lines that are in use today.

The Russian military's interest in the Akhal-Teke horse partially compensated for the disruption of the horse-dependent traditional Turkmen way of life, but only briefly. A prolonged experiment undertaken by Russians to improve the breed and increase its size through crossbreeding to the English Thoroughbred ended in failure, as was convincingly demonstrated by the famous 1935 Ashkhabad-Moscow endurance rid (see below). Sharing the fate of many horse breeds in the former Soviet Union, the stresses of war, civil war, famine, poor food distribution and indifference severely depleted the numbers and genetic diversity of the Akhal-Teke. The transformation from a horse-dependent to a machine-driven economy left no role for the Akhal-Teke; during much of the Soviet period, with its focus on collectivization of resources, personal ownership of a horse was prohibited. Soviet Akhal-Teke stud farms were not exempt from the gross mismanagement which characterized so much of the government-managed agricultural sector. During the Khrushchev era, for example, valuable breeding stock was indiscriminately sent to slaughter.

The future of the Akhal-Teke horse is linked to the breed's conspicuous successes in endurance riding, dressage, and eventing. The transition to a free market economy in the past decade has given rise to many private initiatives in breeding Akhal-Tekes, both in Turkmenistan, Russia, Western Europe and America. That is mixed blessing, since the very specific conditions that have molded the Akhal-Teke breed cannot easily be duplicated outside of its traditional homeland. Furthermore, it is not yet clear what effects private ownership and unregulated sale of breeding stock may have on the Akhal-Teke gene pool.

The Akhal-Teke has a powerful and articulate defender in Tatyana Nikolaevna Ryabova, the world's leading expert in the breed (see below). Her dedication and vigilance to the well-being of the Akhal-Teke and to breed standards in a model of uncompromising integrity.

Breed Characteristics
The Akhal-Teke's appearance is unique; no other breed of horse shares its distinctive features, which are embodied in words like dry, thin, straight, high-set and lean. The head is long and chiseled, often with a broad brow. The eyes are large and expressive and sometimes almond-shaped. The ears are narrow, high-set and readily swivel on their axis, alert to sound and movement. The long neck is set high and straight relative to the shoulders, the withers are quite prominent. The chest is narrow, the body is long and lean, the muscling well defined, but smoothly hugging the bone. The legs are slender, with strongly sculpted tendons and long and flexible pasterns. The skin is thin, the hair is silky and the mane and tail are spars. Several colors are possible, but the most common include, bay, black, dun, chestnut, gray and palomino. A distinctive feature is a pronounced metallic sheen, a glossy golden polish overlaying the basic coat color. Within the breed, three types can be distinguished. Type 1, the most typical type and closely fitting the descriptions above, is well represented by the following lines: Gelishikili, Peren and Kaplan. Type 2, somewhat smaller and well regarded for its speed, is represented by the Karlavach and El lines. Type 3, a more massive body type and noted for its stamina, is best represented by the Arab and Dor-Bairam lines. At the present time, the breed is represented by 17 separate lines, 12 of which trace back to Boinou (1885-1908).The 1981 studbook (Vol. VI) records the following average measurements in centimeters for an Akhal-Teke breeding stallion is 157.6 (height at withers), 160.1 (body length/barrel, measured on the diagonal), 176.4 (chest circumference), 18.8 (cannon bone circumference) and for a mare are 157-159-175-18.7. Twelve years later, in 1993, statistics for stallions, based on an evaluation of 190 horses from 13 countries (including 88 from Turkmenistan, 51 from Russia and 21 from Kazakhstan), showed an increase in all measurements except body length: 159.2-160.0-177.5-19.18. Figures broken down by country indicate that horses in Western Europe are larger than the average, while those from America, often bred for endurance riding, tend to be smaller.

Outstanding Achievements of the Breed
Akhal-Teke blood has influenced several breeds. The Byerly Turk, one of the three founding stallions of the English Thoroughbred, is thought to be an Akhal-Teke. In support of the Akhal-Teke's influence on the Arabian breed, specialists cite especially the Syrian Arab. In the beginning of the nineteenth century the famous stallion Turkmen-Atti was used to infuse new blood into the Trakehner warmblood. Akhal-Teke blood also figured prominently in the formation of the Don and Budyonny breed. Akhal-Tekes are perhaps best known for their extraordinary aptitude for endurance riding. In 1935, their suitability for the cavalry was tested in a famous endurance ride from Ashkhabad, to Moscow, a distance of 4330 kilometers (2,600 miles). Twenty-eight riders, riding Akhal-Tekes, the related Yomud breed and Anglo-Teke crosses, covered a broad range of terrain, including a severe, three-day, 360 kilometer (215 miles) test under the scorching sun of the Kara Kum desert. From the desert, which though stressful, was familiar terrain, they then rode through mosquito infested swamps, over rugged, stony footing, through heavy rain and huge forests. Eighty-four days later they arrived in Moscow. The purebred Akhal-Tekes, notably Arab and Alsakar, arrived in significantly better condition than the Anglo-Teke crosses, impressive evidence for the superiority of the purebred Akhal-Teke for hardiness and endurance. Arab subsequently proved his exceptional talent in eventing and jumping, as well as prepotency as a breeding stallion. His son Absent, at the tender (for dressage horses) age of eight, won the gold medal in individual dressage under Sergei Filatov at the 1960 Rome Olympics with an astounding score of 82.4%. Absent went on to a bronze individual medal (again with Filatov) in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and in 1968, under Ivan Kalita, was a member of the gold-medal Soviet team in Mexico.

Akhal-Tekes have often been given as state gifts. In 1956, for example, Nikita Khrushchev presented Queen Elizabeth the bright golden-dun stallion Melekush. So the story goes, grooms tried to clean off what they thought was an unnatural polish, but Melekush glowed even more awash. More recently, the president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurad Niyazov, has made gifts of an Akhal-Teke to heads of Russia, England and France.

Senetir, the first Akhal-Teke stallion to stand stud in America, was purchased at auction in Russia in 1978 and imported to Virginia by Phil and Margot Chase, Akhal-Teke enthusiasts who have long promoted the breed in this country. Senetir's passing in 1999 was noted by an obituary in the prestigious horse sport journal, The Chronicle of the Horse.

Breed Organizations
Traditionally, Akhal-Teke horses were tethered in small herds or individually, near the homes of their owners. The controlled conditions in which the breed was kept -- as opposed to the large free-ranging herds common to many other horse cultures -- promoted selective breeding; records of breeding history were maintaining orally long before written stud registries. Written records have been kept since 1885, the year that Boinou was born; as in the case of this famous stallion, it was not uncommon at the time for oral breeding records to go at least four generations. The first stud book for Central Asian breeds, which included 287 stallions and 468 mares of the Akhal-Teke breed, was published in 1941. In 1975, with the publication of the fifth stud book, the breed was recognized as pure bred and the book was closed. Since 1973, breed records have been maintained by the distinguished scholar, Tatyana N. Ryabova, of the All-Russian Institute of Horsebreeding (VNIIK).