The specific Style of Trot of Akhal-Teke Horses: Some Arguments and Conclusions

In modern times, when dressage competitions paid special attention to the quality of trot movements, many Akhal-Teke horses reached high results in this sport. This shows that Akhal-Teke horses have a talent for developing an outstanding trot.


Helm [Melesur x Hanbibi] El line; breeder: Dr. Tito Pontecorvo, Owner/rider: Bill Askins

The following insights are based on long-term observations of behavior and movement styles of hundreds of horses of different breeds, including the Akhal-Teke on the pasture and in training.
Having watched foals of different breeds before their first birthday, I have noticed that they prefer to walk and canter and rarely ever trot. Even at two year olds, they still prefer to walk or canter but show a trot more often than yearlings.

Light horses of different breeds destined to compete on the racetrack are being saddle broken at one and a half to two years old. After two or three months of training under saddle, they all have a normal, rhythmical trot with each showing an individual style in their trot movements.

I have not noticed any major differences in the style of trotting or training in two-year old Akhal-Tekes compared to other horse breeds. After three years and onward, I have noticed that many Akhal-Tekes begin to develop a different style while trotting in comparison to other breeds; this is something that stabilizes when they are four years old.

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Amela, [Melesur x Abrai] El line; breeder: Dr. Tito Pontecorvo, Owner: Ulrike Ruppelt;

What is this special style of trotting? It is a fluid, light and elegant movement that is floating low over the ground while being comfortable, soft and not choppy for the rider. The horse will keep this style for the rest of his life. N. Abramova observed the same “horses exhibited the worst trot styles at 2 years old [… ] the best trot style was shown by horses 4 to 6-years old [….]” (see N. Abramova’s article in Ahalteke Inform, 2011, page182).

Graphic I: The graphic included in this article was built by using rating results for the style of trot and canter of 151 Akhal-Teke or 163 Akhal-Tekes. Displayed are the differences between the rating results rather than the rating results themselves – a scientific method to better show significant trends.

The rating results were published by N. Abramova in Ahalteke Inform, 2011, page 182 and in the proceedings of the IV International Scientific Conference in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2012 on pages 267 to 268. This information – based on 151 horses – was used to build the graphic with the name “2011”. Mind you, “2011” just stands in lieu of another name and has nothing to do with
the year 2011.

For the graphic named “2012“ I used information sent to me by N. Abramova
derived from observation and measurements of trot and canter styles for 163 Akhal-Teke horses.
I would like to note that the amount of tested horses in different age groups are not equal and some of the age groups include only a small number of horses, which can not be recognized as a valid scientific sample. However, I can say that the results that I obtained after eliminating extremely diverging numbers and anomalies mainly reflect the reality as I have experienced it in over 30 years of working with the Akhal-Teke breed.

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Please read Graphic 1 as follows: the values above 0 – the “plus” zone – means that in the respective age groups the style of canter was rated better than the style of trot, whereas the values below 0 – the “minus” zone – the style of trot was judged as being better than the style of canter. We can see on the graphic that in the age period for horses four to nine years old, the ratings of trot styles are the highest (see graphic) and even for some age groups the rating for trot is better than the rating for canter. One can see that the differences in the ratings for trot and canter styles are minimal, which mean that in this age period, both gaits show equally good development. The difference in style assessment of trot and canter for those ages ranged from -0.08 to 0.07.

The red and blue lines respectively represent sample groups 2011 and 2012 and we can clearly see that horses under the age of three and older than nine received a higher rating for their style of canter than for their style of trot. The difference in ratings for these age periods is 0.07 and much higher.

With respect to Akhal-Tekes younger than three years, one can agree with my findings based on many years of observation of young Akhal-Tekes along with Abramova’s conclusions in the comparison of the ratings for the styles of trot and canter for these ages (N. Abramova Ahalteke Inform, 2011 page 182) It can be interpreted that at this age, Akhal-Tekes have not yet developed their style of trot. In my experience, this development takes longer and only shows when they are over four years old.

However, I cannot agree with the finding that horses 10 years and older can suddenly have a style of canter that is much better than their style of trot. This is how we need to interpret the sharp increase of the curve in both graphics – from 0.07 to 0.2.
Apparently, those results are associated with the fact that only a small number of horses (6) were rated and this leads to a distorted result. Another reason may be that the horses were inadequately trained in trot or bad training spoiled their natural movements.

Grom and Eloise King.

 

Grom and Eloise King.

 

In my own experience and the experience of my trainers, P. Sergeev and D. Topuria, we can say
that in dressage and 3-Days-Eventing (and to be successful in these sports horses need to have an
outstandingly good style of trot) the peak of their sportive careers were at ten years and older, which says that the style of trot in this age group is very good when trained appropriately

I do not agree with the rating results for the four year olds as shown in the graphic 2012, which is significantly different from the same age group in 2011. In graphic 2011, we used the difference in the ratings of the styles of canter and trot for 25 horses. Graphic 2012 was based on 27 horses and among them were the same 25 horses from the sample group 2011. It is impossible that results from only two new horses can seriously impact the ratings of 25 horses. All this shows that there must be a mistake in the numbers. This is why one can eliminate these anomalies in the overall analysis. In the graphics, these false numbers are marked by an X. (see graphic)

With the exception of the two above-reasoned disagreements, the conclusions and official research correlate with my long-term observations of age-related differences in the styles of movement of horses in various gaits. In the article “Assessment of the quality of movement,” published in 2011 Ahalteke Inform on page 183 N. Abramova writes, “The rating of the style of canter was higher than for the style of trot in all age groups. That once again confirms the view of the famous last hippologist (quote V.P. Kolosovsky, 1910), “The natural gaits of the Turkmen horse are walk and canter.”
I cannot agree with N. Abramova’s statement. On page 182 in “Table of results of assessments of the quality of movement” N. Abramova’s own article contradicts her own table of assessment. According to the graphs (see Graphic I), that are based on data from this table, you can see that for horses aged four to six years old, the ratings for their style of trot are higher or similar in comparison with the canter; but the main thing is that for most age groups, the difference in the evaluation for styles of movement between canter and trot does not exceed a few hundredths of a point. For example, the numbers for four year olds are 0.02, five year olds are 0.04, six year olds are 0.02, seven year olds are 0.06 and eight year olds are 0.06, etc. Such a small difference between the ratings for styles in trot or canter in all age groups of Akhal-Tekes show similarities and not differences. In no way does it correlate with the idea from N. Abramova that the alleged style of trot is worse than the style of canter. In my view, the article is a deliberately falsified analysis of the rating results for trot and canter styles of 163 Akhal-Teke horses that were collected over 10 years.

N. Abramova’s statement, “that once again her analysis would confirm the view of famous hippologists” is also false in that she uses the plural of the word “hippologist” but only quotes one hippologist: VP. Kolosovsky, 1910 in that “the Turkmen’s horses natural gaits are walk and canter”. Besides the fact that Abramova cannot prove the quote with the data she presents – even if we assume she could – I can not understand her logic. There is no correlation between the rating of a gait style and the decision of whether a gait is natural or not. Where is it written or assumed that lower ratings of any gait style allows anyone to decide that a gait is not natural?
Let us take a look into what objective reasons led to V.P. Kolosovsky’s idea to assume that trot is not a natural gait for Akhal-Teke horses. As V.P. Kolosovsky wrote himself in 1910, “When Turkmens ride they do not ride trot.” This means that in Turkmenistan, unlike the riding practices in Europe, one could not observe that a horse was trotting under saddle. Perhaps, based on this factor, V.P. Kolosovsky was under the impression that there was a lack of natural trotting horses in
this breed. At the same time, he contradicts himself by writing, “however, when you start to train the trot of an Akhal-Teke horse it can easily be corrected and strongly developed.” If he was able to recognize that trot could easily be improved, then his idea of trot not being a natural gait does not make any sense.
In summary, we did not find any valid argument that Akhal-Teke’s style of trot is worse than their style of canter or worse than in other breeds. The successful performance of many Akhal-Teke horses in dressage and 3-Days-Eventing strongly emphasize that this breed has unique abilities that include moving in an expressive and productive trot.
If you were to ask the professional Akhal-Teke horse breeders if they thought that the trot is a good natural gait in Akhal-Teke horses, I am convinced that the answer is an unequivocal yes!”

Alchak [Amelit x Aisona], Gelishikli line, breeder: Dr. Tito Pontecorvo

This would be a perfectly reasonable response from people who know the particular movements of Akhal-Tekes because they own and breed thousands of them. I think that the presented facts, observations, conclusions, and arguments by myself state that the trot not being a natural gait for Akhal-Teke horses is incorrect and baseless.


TB Pontecorvo, PhD, June 2012

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Comments

Comments: Our comments concerning the answers and explanations to the article ”The specific style of Trot Movements of Akhal-Teke horses: Some Arguments and Conclusions” written by Dr. Tito Pontecorvo.

1st question: Why did Tito Pontecorvo decide to write this article?
I read the article of Nadejda Abramova, “Assesment of the Quality of Movements” that was published in Ahalteke Inform in 2011. Immediately, I was shocked when I read her statement that the style of trot in Akhal-Teke horses is worse than the style of canter and even more, that the trot is not a natural gait for Akhal-Tekes. For more than 30 years I have been working with Akhal-Teke horses and perfectly know all the styles of all the gaits. I categorically do not agree with findings that trot is not a natural gait. I also do not agree that the style of trot in Akhal-Tekes is worse than the style of canter. Then I tried to understand why this article was written by N. Abramova and if I can find some contr arguments, then I would write my own articles to rectify those statements.

2nd question: What facts did I find in her article that her statement is wrong?
a) I analyzed the scientific initial data that she herself provided in her article and noticed that her conclusions do not agree with my own analysis of the initial data. My own analysis says that the rating for the styles of trot and canter for different age groups are very close and in several age groups, the ratings were even higher for the trot. What does it mean? It means that she either made mistakes in her analysis (which should not be possible for a serious scientist) or that she has deliberately falsified the results. When I was working with her article, I created graphics of differences between the rating of the styles of trot and canter in different age groups. This way of analyzing scientific data is a valuable instrument to find out the main tendencies in the age related styles of gaits; furthermore, you can very briefly and understandably see the significant  differences from the main tendencies. It indicates when you need to make a follow-up analysis to explain the anomalies or it indicates that there were mistakes in the database.
b) We discussed the issue with Tatiana Ryabova, PhD. and she said in principle that it is not right to compare the style of two different gaits. I agree with her; the one to one comparing of the ratings of two different gaits as Abramova did, is scientifically incorrect. On the other hand, studying age related changes in the differences of the ratings of gait styles is scientifically okay.
Abramova’s way of comparison is not understandable from a scientific point of view and leads me to doubt her competencies as a scientist.

3rd question: Why does Abramova quote V.P. Kolosovsky in her article?
We can only guess that she used a known hippologist to make her own conclusions more credible. The idea by Kolosovsky that the trot is not a natural gait for Akhal-Teke horse is baseless. The only argument that he uses is that he almost never saw Akhal-Tekes trotting under the saddle. We think that this observation base is not comprehensive enough to draw the conclusion that trot is not a natural gait for Akhal-Teke horses. Even when people are known in a scientific community, it never means that they are always correct.

4th question: Are there other mistakes or falsifications in Abramova’s articles?
After finding these wrong statements in one of her articles we researched more articles by Abramova to test if they are robust in terms of scientific truth. In her article “Everything about Races,” N. Abramova includes a graphic that lacks common logic and is therefore hardly  understandable regarding the changes of speed over the distance of 2400 meters for 800 horses, in races in the Pyatigorsky hippodrome from 1998 to 2002. She does not mention the number of races. We analyzed her article and again came to the same conclusion that her analysis of initial data did not correlate with the graphic that she presented, which once again means that we see falsification.

N. Abramova in her article “Everything about Races” read the graphic in the wrong way: “Akhal-Tekes in the beginning of the race are faster on the first 800 meters. Afterwards, they slow down until the finish line.” The reality is this: They are very fast on the first 800 meters, then they decelerate until they reach 1400 meters and after 1400 meters, they suddenly pick up the speed and reach the peak of their speed at 1900 meters. Even though they slow down after 1900 meters, you need to notice that at 2200 meters their speed is still higher or becomes equal to the minimum speed in the first half of the race at 1400 meters We think it is significant to notice that the acceleration goes on for 800 meters, which is a third of the race.

Compare this with Arab horse racing in which they start much slower than the Akhal-Teke horses, and from then on only slow down until the finish line.

5th Question: What is the negative impact that the article by Nadejda Abramova makes in the Akhal-Teke world?
Through the false representation of data in her conclusions, she makes people think that it is scientifically proven that Akhal-Teke horses do not trot naturally and do not have a good style when trotting. As a result, some professional trainers and riders might start to speak poorly about these horses as prospects for dressage and 3-Days-Eventing. In other words, she makes Akhal-Teke horses unattractive for potential buyers or buyer influencing groups. Then she generally spoils the reputation of the horse for all potential horse buyers because ultimately, nobody wants a horse with a bad trot.

Summary: If she in her scientific work allows herself to give false information to readers of several journals, then we have to ask the question of whether one can trust her judgment in her ratings for Akhal-Teke horses in breeding shows and in financial and miscellaneous areas.
What can we do about the negative impact of this article for people who are just getting interested in Akhal-Teke horses and rely on specialist opinions in whether or not they should buy an Akhal-Teke horse or not?

a) First we need to publish Dr. Tito Pontecorvo’s scientific article and our comments to this article.
b) We need to translate the article and the comments in as many languages as possible so that it can be
widely distributed and read.
c) Send to VNIIK the information of what is wrong in her articles and in the behavior of one of their
employees.


TB. Pontecorvo PhD., Ulrike Ruppelt

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