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Ahal Tekes horses in USA

Sacred Horses: The Memoirs of a Turkmen Cowboy by Jonathan Maslow

For more than ten years, the Cases have been breeding Akhal-Tekes in the United States, trying to introduce them into different kinds of equestrian competitions, including show jumping, cross country, three-day eventing, dressage, even steeplechase. Akhal-Tekes are just as good for one event as another, and look great when performing in shows at their smooth, high, trot—a unique rhythm, which Margot attributes to an exceptionally loose shoulder joint. Anyone who feels that rhythm becomes intrigued and impressed, but the name of the game in the horse-business, she told me, is getting a winner before the riding public to familiarize Americans with the Akhal-Teke breed, and to show them that a horse they may initially consider too exotic can compete successfully against big warm bloods and high-priced Arabians. Introducing a new and foreign breed in the conservative world of equestrian sports is a daunting task requiring time, patience, smarts, capital, marketing, luck, and a healthy sense of irony. So far, said Margot, their successes had been limited to producing some regional winners, but not the major national splash they would like. "To create a winner like that," she said, "everything has to click just right: the rider, the horse, the training regimen. It's a union of many factors. The program has to be designed around the horses. Akhal-Tekes can't be forced. They have to trust their rider. Once they do, they perform like no other, but if you try to push them, they'll balk. If you break trust with them, they won't work with you. We have had trainers who didn't really understand this. One-thought she should be able to bring the horse along fast, before she had really established that trust relationship. When the horse wouldn't perform up to her high standards, she tried to discipline it as you might a Thoroughbred. It didn't work. You have to work with the Akhal-Tekes, not on them. That's what people mean when they say that Akhal-Tekes are temperamental. It's not that they are high strung, only that they are so loyal they seem to have an emotional key different from other breeds. Once that loyalty is established, however, the Akhal Teke will do any thing for its rider."