Rare and Unusual Horse Breeds Series – Part One

Rare and Unusual Horse Breeds Series – Part One

From the time man first began taming and domesticating wild animals, we have sought to bring out certain characteristics and push back others in our attempts to develop the perfect specimen to meet our own needs. While dogs are largely accepted as the first domesticated animals followed by cattle, horses have a special place in our hearts here at Arriba Vista Ranch! Domestication is believed to have taken place some 4,000-6,000 years ago. Since that time, there have been numerous breeds developed of which we all have one or more favorites. In this on-going series, we would like to spotlight, not necessarily our favorites, but the lesser known results of the genetic guidance of the horse.

One of the more ancient breeds, the Akhal-Teke horse originates from Turkmenistan where they are highly regarded and have become a national emblem. They are characterized by their speed, endurance, intelligence and most interestingly by the highly metallic sheen of their coats—earning them the nickname of “Golden Horses” for the strongly emphasized effect found in palomino and buckskin specimens. And, while they come in all colors from black to cremello (but not dun or roan), the lighter colors emphasize the beautiful sheen for which they are most known.

Standing between 14.2 and 16 hands tall, the Akhal-Teke has a refined head with a straight or slightly convex profile and long ears. It may have almond shaped or hooded eyes. Mane and tail are sparse and the long back is lightly muscled with a flat croup and long, upright neck and sloping shoulders. The overall impression of the breed is one of a long, lean, athletic looking horse. The athletic appearance does not end with appearance alone.

The Akhal-Teke is a natural for endurance riding but its spirit and unflappable disposition makes it successful in many disciplines including three day eventing, dressage, show jumping, etc. When asked why one would buy an Akhal-Teke, one writer launches into a story of her four year old daughter on the back of her six year old mare who very patiently deciphers the mixed signals given by the child to gently take her over a water jump after completing her practice run at the local cross country course.

Today the Akhal-Teke is a rare breed with roughly 6600 horses world-wide. There are currently approximately 500 purebred Akhal-Tekes in North America. Afficianados of the breed champion them for their smooth gaits, gentle natures, big hearts and the desire to please and take care of their families. This is a breed to be on the lookout for!!