As we emerge from the depths of the British winter, we have a year of mixed fortunes to relive:
On the positive side, the young stallion Salimrashid is safely out of hospital after a mysterious life-threatening infection, Mualim Shael has narrowly escaped what could have been a serious kick from a mare and Double Or Quits survived a bout of grass sickness, thanks to his owner’s dedicated care.
Just three purebred foals were born this year – Iriska (Salimrashid-Guldjady), Muromets (Mualim Shael – Perimli) and Makhachkala (Mualim Shael – Mushmula). Sadly, the latter sustained a shoulder fracture at 8 weeks and had to be put down. A new purebred mare Anisha of classic German breeding (Melgun-Amara) - arrived in the UK, soon to be joined by Parchagozel from France whose son Pompei is competing under EGB rules at Advanced level.
Several pure- and partbred Tekes continued to fly the flag of endurance – Pompei, Gidchi Shael, Red Sadar, Silver Mask and Mualim Shael while Aschir braved Pre-Novice Eventing courses. All those who competed throughout the season met with the inevitable mixture of success and disappointment, to remind us that equestrian sports are full of trials and tribulations, and require utmost dedication from us as owners and riders.
BEF Futurity brought joy and satisfaction to Christina Anderson (formerly Wenman) whose foal Muromets came out with a top score in the Endurance Section in his age group, and to Darya Hannigan whose 3-year-old filly Ayazgul (Dominik-Oinam) did well in the Eventing Section, her first serious outing which she took fully in her stride. The ¾-bred colt Yoldash (Dominik - Firyuza) repeated his excellent foal results now as a yearling and Azar (Dominik – Oinam) ventured out to local showing venues and impressed the judges with his good attitude. Almaz (Karpat – Zarnitsa) found a new owner in Suffolk who is discovering the joys of the expressive Teke personality, Pharach Sunbird (Junuwitsch – Natashique) is learning to be traffic-proof in Yorkshire, in preparation for greater things to come, while Gorski (Maksat – Rhona) is jumping his socks off in Birmingham. And to top it all, two lucky Tekes are in training with a much-respected British eventer William Blaine.
For me personally, the highlight of the year was seeing, last Spring, two of Maksat “babies” at Saintwestwell in Wales: Olympic Ascent (2001) and Olympic Aspire (2003) are both out of Askania, a ¾ AT - ¼ TB Kyrghiz-bred mare which technically makes them 7/8th Akhal-Teke. Having seen quite a few horses in the last five years, both in the UK and in Europe, I can say without hesitation that these two are a cut above the rest and put all the heated “purity” debate into a sobering perspective.
The European show this year was in Nancy, Northern France, where the Gala dinner was spiced up with a free-jumping demonstration at which Altair (Alakhriat – Keiki) gave a bunch of gigantic warmbloods a run for their money. The high standards of the Gala dinner were not matched by the quality of the riding arena: stone-hard sun-baked clay led to three of the four German horses being withdrawn from the dressage, depriving the audience from seeing the best-trained Tekes under saddle. As seems to be common nowadays, ridden classes were thin on the ground while the many in-hand classes had some undeniably deserving individuals mixed up with horses whose participation in breeding classes was questionable at best. The whole event made me nostalgic for the old times at Polling where all classes were ridden and to a good standard too. Nevertheless, there were some good riding horses at the French show, one who caught my eye was an 11-year-old Peren-line gelding Alamanchi (Arab-Kaishi), a somewhat plain-looking fellow with a superb conformation and a matter-of-fact attitude to everything he was asked to do, including providing opposition, at the eleventh hour, to the only German dressage combination – Sabine Toepfer-Gebert on Fatykh – who decided to brave the unfavourable conditions of the arena.
On a less positive note, we are seeing fewer and fewer Akhal-Teke owners in this country, with more horses each, some rescued from sad circumstances. This confirms what many of us have always known – the breed is not for everyone but once “hooked”, we find it hard to give them up. It is our responsibility to continue to educate the general public about the appropriate level of care which an Akhal-Teke needs if it is to thrive rather than to barely survive: not a “weekend horse”, not a low-maintenance hardy native, not a piece of sports equipment to guarantee a quick progression through the levels and grades, but a highly intelligent, sensitive horse who demands a high level of knowledge and commitment from its carer. Those who can show this commitment will have a horse that is loyal, responsive, reliable and willing.
Cherish and enjoy your Akhal-Teke!