Akhal-Teke breed – History and modern standards

History of Akhal-Teke breeding

 

Akhal-Teke is one of the rarest and oldest of horse breeds. Perfectly adapted to the modern world, although its origin is still not entirely known. The Akhal-Tekes originates from the Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran), where severe, desert conditions and isolation from the outside world had a great impact on their early development.

This unique horse breed has been bred and perfected in isolation for almost 3000 years. Akhal-Tekes were known and sought after even in the ancient China, long before Christianity. Wars and raids significantly reduce their population, but luckily they managed to bounce back between 1336 to 1405.

Akhal-Tekes were used to refine and rebuild European horse breeds after the II World War. Especially the Russian-born stallion, Turcmainatti, which can be found in many pedigrees and historical records, may boasts about the outstanding services in this area. Turcmainatti arrived to the Friedrich Wilhelm stud farm in Neustadt an der Dosse in 1791. Along with Trakehner mares, he managed to father 16 stallions for 2 studs: the Stud Trakehnen and the East Prussian Landgestüte. There, he had been led as a thoroughbred Arab. There are no records about his descendants though. It is very likely that he was an Akhal-Teke. Byerley Turk, one of the three founders of the English thoroughbred, has also been of Turkmen origin.

 

 

Exterior

The height of the Akhal-Teke is between 1,5 and 1,7 meters. It wears its head high, have a straight profile and a long, narrow, quite high-set neck. It also has a medium-length, sometimes steep shoulder and a long, straight back. The legs are long, clean and dense with clearly defined sinews. It has small hard, hairless hooves and a silky-looking mane with a rather sparsely appearing tail. The withers are pronounced, the croup slightly sloping, the hindquarters a little angled. The ears are longer and wider than those of other breeds, and slightly sickle-shaped. The eyes are often almond shaped. This impression is additionally intensified by a black border around horse’s eyes.

Akhal-Tekes can be found in a variety of colors including black, bay, red and liver chestnut, grey and white. Luminous, metallic sheen to Akhal-Teke’s coat is probably one of the most noticeable and desirable traits of the breed. Additionally, Isabells, Buckskins, Cremellos and Perlinos have a mesmerizing golden shine. The golden shimmering color earned them the name of “Heavenly Horses” in China. Some Chinese emperors even went to war with Bactria just to gain possession of them. Akhal-Teke’s movements are expansive and – in complete contrast to the straight back – very elastic. The ability to gallop is just as pronounced as the movement in the crotch.

 

Interior

Exceptionally sure-footed, agile and strong-nerved. Many prove to be true all-rounders in most of the equestrian sports, such as dressage, show-jumping, cross-country and eventing. They are not only leggy, but also willing to perform well until the very old age. No wonder that many Olympic champions choose those magnificent creatures as their sport companions.
Outside its original breeding areas, Akhal-Teke is known for its extreme stamina while running long distances under difficult conditions. Akhal-Tekes are among the toughest, most resilient horses in the world. What developed a one-of-a-kind endurance of the Akhal-Teke breed are thousands of years in a severe, desert environment. They are perfectly adapted to withstand fast running and severe weather conditions. With their help, first breeders of the Akhal-Teke, Turkmenistan tribesmen, were able to overcome large distances in a very short time. In Europe, too, have they adapted well to the climate. Overall, Akhal-Tekes can adjust exceptionally well to their environment and weather conditions and present themselves powerful in every way.

 

 


 

The story of the Akhal-Teke modern breeding

 

Nowadays, only a few countries in the world professionally breed Akhal-Teke horses. Even in the states of Akhal-Teke’s origin, such as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the sale of the horses is not allowed, since they are perceived as counties’ natural resource. In Kazakhstan and Russia, although the purchase is technically possible, due to the language barrier and the geographical distance, not only difficult but also very costly.

In Europe, there are only a few studs, which deal with the breeding of the Akhal-Tekes professionally. Examples are Clara de Vos van Steenwijk (Netherlands) and Reimer Sporthorses Stud (Germany).

Worldwide, there are only a few thousand mares predestined for professional breeding. In Eurasia 95% of the breed is based on racing.

In 2018, E.A.A.T. (European Association of Akhal-Teke established in 2012), alongside with Akhal-Teke organizations in Europe, introduced a new Akhal-Teke breeding, preserving and promotion program.

These program include, among others, mares performance tests, stallion licensing and stallion breeding recommendations along with the general evaluation of the horses. Establishment of the program has been an important step towards establishing modern Akhal-Teke breeding norms.

 

Modern-bred Akhal-Tekes in Europe are ideal for many popular sports disciplines including dressage, cross-country, show-jumping and eventing, as well as exclusive recreational riding. They are very versatile and can offer their riders a truly unique, stable riding experience. Akhal-Tekes, compared to other breeds, have a very strong level of intelligence (to the point of being opinionated). They are able to make quick decisions in many sports situations, for example in the field or while encountering an obstacle. This rare feature gives the riders a feeling of safeness and protection. Akhal-Teke are very friendly, devoted and easily influenced by their owners which make them a perfect companion.

 

 

 

Professional studs and riders often claim that their exceptional loyalty and willingness to work hard, makes them learn faster and perform better than the other horse breeds. Thanks to their proven resistance and stamina achieved through years of selective breeding, they stay healthy until a very old age. Although they originally come from the hot lands of central Asia, Akhal-Tekes adapted very well to the European climate (which also considerably reduces the expenses for veterinarian care).

Finally yet importantly, X-rays of the Akhal-Teke horses prove that that rarely receive a poor anatomical rating.

 

Horses registered in the E.A.A.T. Association as breeding and sport horses, are individually rated and awarded with prize money. The Akhal-Teke European Championship in 2019 was endowed with a total of 12,000 EUR cash prize. The winners of the event and their proud owners received bonuses of up to 6,000 EUR. The Championship takes place every two years. It brings together Akhal-Teke enthusiasts from over the world and inspires hundreds of horse lovers internationally.

 

 

Akhal-Tekes and their owners can also be supported by the E.A.A.T. during horse-riding sport events. From 2020 all Akhal-Teke horses registered in the Association, will receive a doubling of the prize money in tournaments held in European Union countries.

There is no annual fee for the Association registration.

 

What does an Akhal Teke cost?

When it comes to the purchase and sale, the prices for Akhal-Teke horses are country-dependent and regionally different. In the Eurasian countries, such as Turkmenistan and Russia, Akhal-Tekes are traded and sold in the range of $ 30,000 to $ 3,000,000. Very high purchase prices are also paid by wealthy horse enthusiasts from China, the entire Asian region and Europe. The winner of the last Akhal-Teke Championship was acquired for 120,000 EUR and another 6 of his descendants for a total of 500,000 EUR.

Anyone who once owns an Akhal-Teke remains faithful to the breed: Once Akhal-Teke, always Akhal-Teke!

In Europe, Akhal-Tekes with good pedigrees and independent ratings, as well as award-winning mares and licensed stallions, are extremely rare. Good representatives of the breed are also extremely hard to find on the private market. Professional breeders sell only a few horses annually, as currently only 20-30 Akhal-Teke foals per year are born in Europe. Due to the small number of offspring and the constantly increasing demand, prices for Akhal-Teke increase year after year.

 

Example of the purchase prices for rideable, trained Akhal-Tekes with good pedigree and health in 2019:

Foals:                                        from 7,000 EUR

1 to 2 year old horses:           from 12,000 to 25,000 EUR

3 year old horses:                   from 18,000 to 35,000 EUR

4 to 5 year old horses:           from 25,000 to 120,000 EUR

 

The above prices may be lower depending on the quality (level of training, features) and descent of the horse. It is recommended only to buy Akhal-Teke horses from professional breeders.

The development of the Akhal-Teke breed has a very positive overall trend and shows a steady growth. We will continue to observe and report on the further development of the Akhal-Teke.

 

 

 


1* Dr. Bruno Schmidt, Vererbungsstudien im Königlichen Hauptgestüt Trakehnen, Hannover, 1913

2* Dr. Dr. h. c. J. E. Flade: Das Achal-Teke-Pferd (http://www.achal-tekkiner.de/contenido/cms/upload/pdfs/Flade_Das_Achal-Teke-Pferd.pdf)