Jen Osborne

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THE AKHAL-TEKE HORSE is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world. Their structure is fine, their features are unique, their coat silky and metallic. They're known for their endurance and ability to withstand harsh heat and periods of food scarcity. Both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan chose an Akhal-Teke as their personal war horse; in China, they gained the moniker "heavenly horses."

No wonder, then, that the Akhal-Teke is regarded as a precious treasure in Turkmenistan, their country of origin, where the government maintains strong protectionist rules around the breed. Licenses to export the Akhal-Teke from the country are tightly managed by the state.

Since Turkmenistan gained its independence from the USSR in 1991, this closed country has celebrated "Horse Day" as a national holiday. Races and other festivities take place for an international audience during the week preceding the last Sunday in April. After receiving an invitation from the government, I attended the celebrations in 2017, alongside a group of international horse breeders.

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