The Akhal-Teke from Turkmen Ahalteke, is a horse breed from Turkmenistan, where they are a national emblem. They have a reputation for speed and endurance, intelligence, and a distinctive metallic sheen. The shiny coat of palominos and buckskins led to their nickname "Golden Horses". These horses are adapted to severe climatic conditions and are thought to be one of the oldest existing horse breeds. There are currently about 6,600 Akhal-Tekes in the world, mostly in Turkmenistan and Russia, although they are also found throughout Europe and North America.
There are several theories regarding the original ancestry of the Akhal-Teke, some dating back thousands of years. The tribes of Turkmenistan selectively bred the horses, recording their pedigrees orally and using them for raiding. The breed was used in the losing fight against the Russian Empire, and was subsumed into the Empire along with its country. The Akhal-Teke has influenced many other breeds, including several Russian breeds. There has been extensive crossbreeding with the Thoroughbred to create a fast, long-distance racehorse and as a result there doesn't exist any Akhal-Teke anymore without a Thoroughbred ancestor. The studbook was closed in 1932 . The Russians printed the first stud book for the breed in 1941, including over 700 horses.
The Akhal-Teke typically stands between 14.2 and 16 hands (58 and 64 inches, 147 and 163 cm). These horses are well known for those individuals who have a golden buckskin or palomino color, a result of the cream gene, a dilution gene that also produces the perlino and cremello colors. A number of other colors are recognized, including bay, black, chestnut, and grey. Aficionados of the breed claim that the color pattern served as camouflage in the desert. Many Akhal-Tekes have a natural metallic sheen to their coat, particularly noticeable in those with cream gene colors.Akhal-Tekes are not thought to carry the dun gene or roan gene.
The Akhal-Teke has a refined head with predominantly a straight or slightly convex profile, and long ears. It can also have almond-shaped or "hooded" eyes. The mane and tail are usually sparse. The long back is lightly muscled, and is coupled to a flat croup and long, upright neck. The Akhal-Teke possess sloping shoulders and thin skin. The breed is tough and resilient, having adapted to the harshness of Turkmenistan lands, where horses must live without much food or water. This has also made the horses good for sport. The breed is known for its endurance, as shown in 1935 when a group ofTurkmen riders rode the 2500 miles from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days, including a three-day crossing of 235 miles of desert without water. The Akhal-Teke is also known for its form and grace as a show jumper.
The quality of the Akhal Teke horses are determined by the studbook manager. For over forty years now this has been the same individual, which has led to continuous criticism and dissatisfaction from breeders all over the world. Depending on type, conformation, pedigree, quality of offspring and achievement in sport, the horses are designated as either Elite or Class I or Class II. There are usually 2 annual grading events in Moscow, Russia called the "International Sport Meeting and World Championship “Heavenly Argamak”" and "Golden Akhal-Teke Cup Shael" where breeders present their best horses to a group of judges. At the World Championship a group of judges evaluate the horses in age and gender categories as well as in various sport disciplines and a halter class.