Akhal-Tekes in Sweden and the USA
Esteemed President, dear colleagues and friends.
For those who don’t know me. I was active breeder of Akhal-Tekes in Sweden for more than ten years and cofounded the Swedish Akhal-Teke Association where I was the president until we relocated our stud farm to Florida, USA in 2005.
I will present a brief overview of the Akhal-Teke breed in Sweden and the USA.
The Akhal-Teke breed was introduced to Sweden in the beginning of the 1990’s and since the mid 90’s the population has been around 20 – 30 horses. An EU approved association was founded in 1997 and there have been some breed shows arranged as well as organised gradings with representatives from the Russian General Studbook.
According to the Swedish Board of Agriculture there are approximately 360 000 horses in Sweden.
As there are few Akhal-Tekes in Sweden with long distances between breeders and owners combined with a small breed association it has been difficult to arrange annual breed shows. Members of the association have instead made group visitations to breeders and owners which has been appreciated.
Most owners are amatuer riders and/or breeders that use their horses for recreational riding and some low level competitions in disciplines such as endurance, show jumping and dressage.
The Akhal-Teke Genomic Project at the Swedish University of Agriculture has finished its first phase of sequencing the whole DNA of the breed.
The second stage of analyzing the huge amount of data generated by the sequencing is now initiated and the following findings have been reported:
There are 15 chromosome regions that stand out within the breed. They contain DNA variations that are extremely rare in other breeds that the ATs have been compared to.
Within the regions there are hundreds to thousands of genes that are now being researched for their functions one by one.
One interesting find is that some of the regions contain several genes for different Olfactory receptors, these give us the ability to detect different smells. The question now is why they are so high in this breed, maybe they are ancient and has been bred out of modern breeds or maybe they give unique abilitied to the Akhal-Tekes.
Another rare gene that has been found is one the affects the quality of the skin. It might be qualities such as a thinner skin, less sweating or easier bleeding such as have been reported an effect of the parasite.
We can now conclude that there is scientific proof that our breed is unique.
The Akhal-Tekes were introduced to the United States in the 1980’s and according to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s 2012 census there are approximately 350 horses in the country. The first breed association was founded in the 80’s and is still active and over the years there have been some breed association founded but the most active and probably with the most members is the Akhal-Teke Association of North America in Washington State.
American Horse Council states that there are 9.2 million horses in the country with the biggest population in Texas- 1 million, California - 700 000, Florida – 500 000.
The equestrian industry impact on the GDP is estimated to 102 billion US dollars.
The breed in the US experience the same challenges as in Sweden with few horses with long distances between owners and breeders. There have been some national shows though and there have also been grading tours by representatives for the Russian General Studbook.
Most owners are breeders and/or amateur riders that us their horses for recreational riding and low to medium level competition such as endurance, show jumping, hunters and dressage.
Interestingly enough there are almost as many stallions as mares in the country which would indicate a low selection pressure.
The breed and its national associations certainly benefit from the founding of the IAHA and the annual conference that has a forceful impact on the world wide promotion of the breed as well as buildong stronger bonds between the stake holders of the breed.