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Turkmen horses and British ladies

Sacred Horses: Memoirs of a Turkmen Cowboy [Jonathan Maslow]

... Geldi had brought with him a Russian equestrian magazine, and now he showed me the back cover illustration. It was a poor-quality reproduction of a sensual eighteenth-century portrait by Franz Kruger of an Englishwoman in black skirt and habit riding sidesaddle. Geldi said, "I can positively say that horse is Akhal-Teke. Positively."

"How?" I asked.

"Number one," he said, "is the color, golden yellow. It is the unique color of the Akhal-Teke horse. No other breed possesses that bright golden coat. Number two, look at the pasterns. The pasterns on this horse are very thin between the heavy foreleg and hoof. Fine, delicate pasterns are another Akhal-Teke characteristic. It has been so with Turkmen horses since the earliest times. In die Pazyryk Hills in southern Siberia, archaeologists have discovered skeletons of domesticated horses twenty-five hundred years old. They were preserved in burial mounds in ice, like the Siberian mammoths. I have studied these skeletons at the Institute for the Study of the Horse in Moscow. These skeletons have the same anatomy as the Akhal-Teke. Third, you see the head? Look at the way the horse holds its head up high."

Geldi stretched his own neck up and ran his hand along it to demonstrate the upright posture. "This is the desert horse, the ancient Turkmen horse. In the desert the horse needs to hold its head up high to see far and smell danger a long way off. Turkmen have always admired the long neck more than any other characteristic. In the desert our grandfathers would dig a hole in the sand, and put the colt's food down in it to make the colt stretch its neck to eat. You can always recognize the Akhal-Teke by its long neck and high head. The Arabian horse holds its head down."

I asked how it could come to pass that Turkmen horses from Central Asia would be ridden by eighteenth-century British ladies.

"We know the answer to this question." Geldi held up one finger as lie spoke. "The British! The British army was here, in Afghanistan, in Persia, in Turkey, in India. The British took our horses back to England. There is no doubt of it. I have researched this. Between two hundred and three hundred Akhal Teke mares and fifty stallions disappeared from Turkmenistan when the British military was fighting in Asia Minor and Central Asia. They took Turkmen horses to make the English Thoroughbred."