There is a photograph of a horse that has gone viral that is captioned ” the most beautiful horse in the world." Whether or not it is the most beautiful horse in the world depends on whether you admire Akhal Teke horses or not. There are many that do. Others find the breed too weedy, with conformation that does not conform to the standards of what makes a good riding horse. Others consider them elegant and graceful.
Whatever your opinion, the Akhal Teke is growing in popularity, Until very recently, they were unknown outside of their native homeland. There are now an estimated 3500 Akhal Teke horses worldwide with several hundred in North America.
The Akhal Teke is an ancient type of horse, possibly descended from some of the same common ancestors as the more well-known hot-blooded breed, the Arabian. They developed in the Kara Kum desert that covers most of the country of Turkmenistan. where they were required to tolerate extremes of arid heat and cold. In this harsh climate, the horse would have had to survive on sparse food and water supplies. Akhal Tekes lived closely with their nomadic humans, each being essential to the other’s survival. The first official breeding farms of the Akhal Tekes were started in Russia, which Turkmenistan became part of in the late 1880s. Thoroughbreds were introduced into the bloodlines with the intention of improving the breed, but the effort was unsuccessful.
Interest in the breed and the interest in many other horse breeds was curbed during the turmoil that marked the early days of Soviet Russia, and numbers dwindled. However, with the free market environment of the last few decades, more Akhal Tekes are being bought and bred in an increasing number of countries.
Akhal Tekes are fine boned and their bodies are often compared to a greyhound or cheetah with a thin barrel and deep chest. The profile of their face is flat or slightly convex, although some appear to be moose-nosed. They can have almost hooded, or almond-shaped eyes. There ears are long and slim. They have a long back, a flat croup, and a long, high set on a neck that can appear inverted compared with most other breeds. The Akhal-Teke has sloping shoulders and they are fine limbed and flat muscled. Overall, they give an appearance of raciness and wiry endurance. Being thick-set or very weedy is considered a fault.
The Akhal-Teke is usually between 14.2 and 16.3 hands high. It can weigh between 900 and 1000 lbs (420 - 500kg).
Akhal Tekes were originally used by nomadic tribesmen of Turkmenistan for transportation and their speed and endurance were prized during raids. Now they are used for dressage, show jumping , long distance racing, and pleasure riding. They are also prized for their smooth, flowing gaits.
Coat, Colors, and Markings
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Akhal Teke is the brilliant metallic sheen of some individuals. They are thin-skinned, and their coats are very fine.
Many carry a gene for the cream dilution—a gene that can result in palomino, cremello or perlino coat colors. Some individuals are pale blue-eyed. All colors and color patterns are accepted in the breed registry. Their manes and tails tend to be sparse and fine haired, and they may have no forelock.
The Akhal Teke is known for the metallic sheen of its coat. It is also said to be an intensely loyal, ‘one-man’ horse. While they tend to be very sensitive, they are reputed to be very sensible and highly intelligent.
Champions and Celebrities
- The Akhal Teke stallion, Absent, won the Gold medal in Individual Dressage at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, and by the end of his career won five medals in three Olympic games with three different riders.
- Senetir was the first Akhal-Teke stallion to stand stud in America. He died in 1999.
- The Akhal Teke is a national symbol of Turkmenistan and appears on their coat-of-arms and currency.