Date: October 2000
Q: It is interesting that the AT may be descended from an even more ancient
breed from Siberia. This may track with what a good friend of mine who
breeds thoroughbreds and is an expert on bloodlines has told me about
Russian breeds. Her family is from northern Russia, and her grandfather
told her stories of the kinds of horses they had to drive on the troika in
the winter. They needed lightweight, leggy horses to gallop over the snow
crust and tundra without falling through. Heavier horses were unsuitable
because they would fall through the crust. This explains why tall, thin
horses were bred or evolved in the north, where you would expect heavyset
animals to be, as that heavier bodytype is more selective to survive in
cold climates. If the slender breed was selected for by man, and covered
with rugs to keep warm, this is a logical explanation.
I wanted to comment on head types and dished faces. Dr. Deb Bennett also
places the AT in the oxheaded group because of the skull type. The forehead
is very broad and flat, with eye orbs set out prominently at the sides,
giving a dished looked across the forehead. The profile is flat or even
slightly roman below the eyes. In the Arabian horse, there is a bulge
between the eyes, the eye orbs not set the same as the oxhead breeds and the
dish is below the eyes. I also wanted to comment that when she refers to
breeds of Spanish origin, one must not look at the modern Andalusian as the
original spanish type, as that has been since diluted with other blood.
I have read some articles published by Dr. Deb Bennett, I think she has a
lot of personal theories regarding conformation in horses but I do not know
how many sceletons, what breeds and where and under what cirumstances she
has been collecting her research material. Not knowing what she is actually
basing her conclusions on it is difficult for me to consider her work
being of any value.
But I have not read all her works and maybe mistaken.
The horse type that is written about as "the great Nisean steeds", "the
golden horses of Nisea" by Herodotos, many Antique writers comment on the
golden colors of the central asian horses, or the horses from the east. The
Rigveda also mentions the golden horses that pull the wagon to the sun.
The type of horse that is depicted in Mesopotaia, Persia and Egypt also
correpsond to the types of horses that have been found in the kurgans of
the Scythian warlords, they are tall, noble,dry horses with long legs, dry
and well formed head with a straight noseline, the head is set high on the
shoulders the neck is long. The height of horses found in the kurgans are
150 cm and more.
The tall, swift, cultured horses where used for warfare and owned by an
elite, they where, on the contrary to the mongol type of horse fed with
corn and other extra protein, they also had no traces of wounds from whips
The had to be fast and bold. The riders rode with loose reins and let the
horse find its own form and balance. Not the way the European cavalry rode
centuries later. That is also the way the tekes are ridden today in
They also do not like the rider unsensitive hands and too short reins, but
like the rider with soft hands and a lot of legs. The high and free set
neck gives the shoulder freedom to move optimally. This is the uphill
conformation we look for in the modern European sport horse, the downhill
horse cannot work in the right form for classical dressage.
>So, how does the AT fit into this? The AT obviously had influence on the
>earliest proto--thoroughbreds, but somewhere along the way some other
>headed stock, with lower set point of shoulder began to have an influence
>after the early 1800s. The length of leg was left from the AT influence,
>but something else had an influence to lower the headset and the point of
This is due to the influence of the smaller, stockier Arab horse and also
due to selection for speed over short distances.
I would say that the Akhal-Teke is the only breed today that still is the
type of the so famous large Nisean steeds from the Antiquity. It's a
miracle that this ancient type of horse have survived into our days, and
adapted so well!