If someone had asked me three years ago what an Akhal teke was, I would have just looked at them blankly with confusion and perhaps a bit of intrigue. I won’t lie and say that I instantly fell in love with this unique breed from the hard, desert environment of Turkmenistan. I was rather indifferent to them until I finally got the opportunity (or shall I say, the honor, but I didn’t grasp that until much later.) of mounting up on a small yet sweet and powerful little golden buckskin Akhal teke filly that had come in for training and sales. She is still hands down the sweetest and easiest greenie I’ve ever ridden. I was so surprised by her trying attitude and her smooth as glass gaits, especially considering she wasn’t exactly the prettiest horse conformationally when compared to other breeds (for her breed however she had decent conformation).
To be completely truthful, I really didn’t fall in love with the lanky and immature filly until she started jumping. When I had started riding her, she had still been very unbalanced with a rider at the canter, and turning in that gait was impossible without her breaking out in little crow-hops trying to keep herself upright. I had thought she was a sweet little filly, but I never really appreciated what she could become until the summer of 2012 when she began her training over jumps. Compared to all the other horses I’ve ridden, that filly is still at the top of my list of horses that I had the most fun jumping with. By the end of the summer, she was a picture perfect hunter with knees up to her eyeballs, and ribbons from various schooling shows and our State Fair filling her budding trophy cabinet. I spent that entire summer enjoying what I thought was a relationship that would last forever, spending early mornings to late evenings riding, jumping, and otherwise spending an inordinate amount of time with that golden filly.
However, as with all good things, they always have to come to an end. After school tore us apart for two months, she was sold out of state to a person looking to eventually breed Akhal tekes of their own. I can still remember our last ride; walking her back afterwards to her pasture on a cold, late fall night. I had tried to squeeze back the tears I knew were coming, but we all know how that goes. I gave her one last hug underneath the star-filled, moonlit sky and watched her crunch over the snow covered ground to sniff noses with the lead mare before finally regaining the strength to walk away.
Since then, I have realized how special that little filly is, and how badly I wanted to have that feeling again with another horse. I went through the entire winter, and most of the spring of this year before finally being blessed by another steady riding horse in the form of a 17.1 hh OTTB gelding. Unlike that little filly, he isn’t for sale, and hopefully I can continue to ride him for a couple more years to come. Despite this, I still can’t help but keep thinking about that filly, and how much she captivated me that summer. Because of her, I’ve become a strong advocate for the breed, and have my eye out for a Teke of my own.
For those of you curious about this rare breed, or for those of you who still doubt their abilities as a riding horse because of their looks, please take a good long look at the information I’ve written and shared below. While the Teke breed still needs some work, there are plenty of good representations of the breed out there already to show the potential that this ancient breed has in the modern show world we now live in.
*Note: I do not claim ownership of any of the images posted below. Copyrights and etc. belong to their original owners.*
The Akhal teke
The Akhal teke (pronounced Ackle Techie) is a rare, hard desert bred horse from Turkmenistan where they are celebrated as a national symbol. Their stamina, strength, and dependabillity have made them a prime riding horse in that region for hundreds of years. A breed famous for their exotic looks, they are particularly noted for their special hair, which reflects light unlike any other. Some believe that this metallic quality to their hair was used as camouflage in their native desert environment. Hooded eyes among some individuals give an oriental feel to their lanky and dry frames. Akhal tekes are known for their endurance, and some consider them to be the oldest horse breed in the world, even surpassing the Arabian. Today there are as little as 4,000 Tekes worldwide; with 1,000 or so in the United States. Most reside either in their native land of Turkmenistan, or in Russia where they were used for creating such Russian breeds as the Don horse.
Akhal teke’s typically stand between 14h-17h, but generally most are around 15h-16h. From the front Tekes are quite narrow with some inviduals showing prominent ribs despite their good weight and health. Their heads are fine with a straight or convex profile and hooded eyes. The mane and tail is sparse with their backs tending to be on the long side. Their necks are long and set upright from their chests with sloping shoulders and thin skin. Their legs are strong and tough, especially their hooves which usually never need to be shod. Their metallic-like coats can come in many colors including bay, chestnut, black, gray, palomino, cremello, perlino, and buckskin. It is very common to see Tekes sporting a lot of white markings or chrome on their legs and face. Tekes of any color are also likely to have blue eyes, either one or two.
Akhal tekes have great dispositions and a calm nature despite their hot blooded status. Most tend to bond to one person and will do almost anything for that one caretaker. This tendency is thought to reflect their original purpose as a horse used for long, tiring journeys across the desert with only one rider as a companion. They are willing, athletic, level-headed, and smart. Some, however can be excitable and sensitive depending on the individual. Their movement is smooth, fluid, and effortless, almost like a gaited horse. Tekes can be used for anything from endurance to jumping to dressage or racing. Tekes tend to take a little longer to mature and start under saddle than other breeds. They also tend to be harder to keep weight on than other horses.