AKHAL-TEKE, who are you?

Few people know you. It must be said that your origins, if they are ancient, are not the most banal ... Born in Central Asia, akhal-teké differs considerably from its cousins, Tarpan or the horse of Przewalski whose small size and profile picked up Are just the opposite of its long silhouette.

If we refer to geography, the part of the world that undoubtedly gave birth to this horse is the Ferghana valley; Low area surrounded by high mountains, the Pamir Range to the south, the Tian Shan Mountains to the east, but particularly fertile. The grassy plains at the foot of the massifs, the rugged continental climate and the presence of many predators shaped a tall, slender and fast horse to race.

Let us make a little archaeo-zoology ...

There are traces of horses of "big size", for the time, about 1.50 m at the withers, in the tombs of the Scythians, the famous Kourganes of which one of the most famous is that of Pazyrik. It is therefore in the 5th century BC that one sees the end of the nose of the one who has to wait a few more centuries before being called Akhal-Teke.

Another testimony to the presence of extraordinary horses is the enthusiasm of the Chinese emperors for "celestial horses" originating from Central Asia and more precisely what will later be designated as the Ferghana Valley (a few centuries ago Before our era !).

And then we arrive at the time of the great chroniclers, Herodotus at the head, and the information is more precise, at least more numerous: we learn that the Massagetes, successors of the Scythians, had the best horses of the Then the Parthians will make themselves speak of themselves and their famous cavalry under the name of horses of Nicaea. Their ancient capital is located not far from Ashgabad in present-day Turkmenistan and returned to dust since.

The ancient empires whose ebb and flow at the gallop of their horses have ruffled the steppe over the centuries, give way to more structured but equally warrior states. In the course of conflicts, the "winged horse" of some or "the Argamak" of others, becomes an object of covetousness, rapine, even imperial gift according to the fortunes of the warlord, that it is called Darius, Cyrus, Of Macedonia or Saladin.

Over the centuries, our horse of Nicea will contribute to the appearance of many breeds of horses, the most famous being the thoroughbred English, the Trakenher and the thoroughbred Arab.

How could such a different breed of horses be born?

This horse, which has become the mount of the Khan of Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara, will thus develop more to the west and south and will be the object of all the care of the country considered today as one of the cradle of race 'Akhal-Teke, Tukmenistan.

Why has Turkmenistan "appropriated" this breed?

Here again a little tour in history can help us to see more clearly. The Turkmen descend from Turkish tribes from beyond the Aral Sea which migrated to the South West from the tenth century.

In the sixteenth century, the Turkmen were caught between the conflicts between Persia and the Uzbek khanates of Bukhara and Khiva. They fall under the thumb of one or the other and engage in devastating raids in the direction of Khorassan (northern Persia) or Khorezm (southern Uzbekistan).

And the Akhal-Teke in all this?

From this turbulent history, it emerges that:

The Tekes are a nomadic people with a very "mobile" way of life,
Their country consists of 80% of desert whose zones of settlement are mainly located to the southern fringes.
These men will require remarkable mounts to support this mode and these conditions of life. The mount he found, in this case, our famous horse of Central Asia already appreciated by other specialists in large-scale raids, the great conquerors evoked above.
But the Turkmen people have brought to their climax all the qualities of this horse. They are the men of the powerful Tekke tribe. One of the five main tribes that make up Turkmenistan, which will prove to be the most brilliant and the most efficient in the selection and selection of these horses. They stabilize the model and the character giving at the same time to this horse the name of their oasis, Akhal joined in the name of their group. So far, history is very beneficial for our Akhal-Teke, although the life of a rezzou horse is not a rest and no guarantee of longevity ...

Where things go wrong, curiously enough, when peace settles in the Turkmen country: the Russians, unconditional adepts of the machinism, will scratch with a great stroke of pen all those horses eating grass to poor performance When compared with their fellow steamers. And then, these Turkmen restless will be nailed to the ground and their cotton fields ...

In fact, in the 1950s, the race almost disappeared completely, especially as nature itself contributed to it with the 1948 Ashgabad earthquake.

The rescue of a race

The word is not too strong: from nearly 20,000 subjects at the end of the 19th century, the stock had fallen to less than 300 in the middle of the 20th century ...

More distressing, the new Turkmen owners had imported English Pure Blood to improve the performance of their horses, diluting the purity of the breed and thus sacking the long work of selecting their ancestors. Fortunately, some outstanding personalities have made their cause of the Akhal-Teke. Among them, two names should never be forgotten: Mrs Maria TCHERKESOVA and Mr Vladimir P. CHAMBORANT.

Maria TCHERKESOVA, whose 80th birthday we celebrated in October 2000 in Ashkabad; Has just joined the beloved prairies of his beloved Akhal-Teke in the spring of 2003. In his youth, he helped save many horses in the nose and beard of the Russian-Turkmen authorities by cheerfully crossing the border with the " Iran by using very unorthodox but frankly hilarious methods!

Vladimir P. CHAMBORANT, who disappeared in May 1996, is undoubtedly "the most important researcher of the Akhal-Téké horse of the twentieth century". It was he who helped restore purity to the race by eliminating from breeding horses that had received "English blood".

It is in 1950 come the dark hours of the Akhal-Téké: closing of the stud farm of Ashgabad, already decimated by the earthquake and liquidation of the farms. Thousands of magnificent horses were then knifed.

(Excerpt from an article by Alexander KLIMUK, equine zootechnician at the stavropol stud, translated from Russian by Natacha MOROZ-BUES, the full article of which can be found in the bulletin n ° 1 of the journal AKHAL-TEKE La France)