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12.05.2011  An Opinion of One Breeder

The official site of the Selection and Breeding centre of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horsebreeding (MAAK) has been displaying for a long time now an Open Letter addressed to the members of MAAK about the General Akhal-Teke Stud Book, signed by T. Riabova and N. Abramova.

Some points in this letter appeared to me to be very suspect, so much as that, until I received a confirmation, made me doubt that the letter was written by T.Riabova for whom I have a lot of respect.

The letter begins by saying that the authors believe that "there are many theories about the origin of Akhal-Teke breed" and, based on these theories, "many nations can call this breed it's national treasure: Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, and areas from Altay, Russia and Turkmenistan (incidentally, Turkmen became known only in 8th or 9th century, much later than Akhal-Teke horses)."

If the Letter was talking about the horses bred in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan or Russia who had achieved impressive records at breed shows, racing or other equestrian sports, or proved themselves as valueable breeding animals, one could agree with such a statement. No argument - Absent is the pride of the Kazakh horsebreeding and the Russian equestrian school while Pentelli is the pride of the Russian horsebreeding and Ukrainian equestrian tradition. 

But the Letter is talking about the origins of the Akhal-Teke breed and asserts that the Turkmen inherited the breed after they appeared from somewhere only in the 8th or 9th centuries. Despite the mention of some remarkable academics who wrote about the history of the Akhal-Teke (such as V.O.Vitt, V.O.Lipping, S.N.Kovalevskii, P.N.Kuleshov, P.A.Iurasov, S.V.Afanas'ev, S.N. Bogoliubskii and others), one might begin to doubt whether the authors of the Open Letter T.Riabova and N.Abramova actually read the above-mentioned authors. Because if they had read these authors they would have surely known that the Turkmen people are the direct descendants of the ancient peoples of Central Asia, the Mussaget, the Alan and the Parthians who were famous throughout the ancient world for their excellent horses. And that he Oguz Turks who came to Central Asia in the 8-9th centuries are only one strain in the ethnic origins of the modern-day Turkmen people. The anthropological features of the Turkmen people and their cultural traditions, including their tradition of horsebreeding, resemble closely the traditions of the ancient peoples of Trans-Caucasus. Therefore, to say that the Turkmen people have inherited the Akhal-Teke horse from some other nation is a fallacy.

If the authors of the Open Letter are referring to the fact that the ancestors of the Akhal-Teke horse can be found beyond the territory of Turkmenistan, they must bear in mind that outside the Turkmen territory these horses were used primarily as superior riding animals and as "improvers" in local breeding. Even in those places where, according to historical accounts, these horses were bred as pure-breds (e.g. Davan', Khutal', some breeding farms belonging to Iranian Shah), they did not survive into the modern era, having disappeared into the populations of the more "common" native steppe breeds. Only in Turkmenistan has the breed been preserved to this day in its original lavish form.

The authors of the Open Letter also claim that the name Akhal-Teke was given to the breed by the Russians. It is unclear what prompts them to make such an assertion. Akhal-Teke is the name that the Teke people residing in the Akhal region gave to themselves. "Akhaltekinets" is simply the Russian form of this Turkmen word which originally referred to the people and then was transferred to the horses as well.

It is unfortunate that these dubious statements cast doubt over the rest of the content of the Open Letter and may well lead to conflict within MAAK membership. 

And one more point: to spell the word "horsebreeder" and "horsebreeding" as "konezavodchik" and "konezavodstvo" instead of "konnozavodchik" and "konnozavodstvo" is considered "bad taste" among serious professionals.

A. Klimuk, Senior Breeding Specialist at the Stavropol Horsebreeding farm