Tito Pontecorvo

An obvious question comes to mind: What is the reason for the immense popularity of warmblood horses which came to America around the same time as the Akhalteke breed, but the teke breed remains virtually unknown? After much discussion I, Tito Pontecorvo, now understand the biggest reason for the breed being unknown in the U.S. is because of the fact that no one in the U.S. puts the Akhalteke horses in more or less serious competition, for the exception of Phil and Margaret Case who put their Akhaltekes in high levels of combined training.

The American horse world now, as I see it, is divided into two big groups: People who like the western horses such as the quarter horse and people who like big, sportive horses such as the thoroughbreds and warmbloods. The Akhalteke, of course, is closer to the latter (the thoroughbreds and warmbloods). When you show the Akhalteke to the individuals from the second group many of them will say “The neck is too high.”, “The horse will have problems jumping.” “The back is too long.”, “This horse will have problems in changing its hindquarters.” and many other negative comments. This is understandable because the Akhalteke will be a new and unusual type of horse for them and horse owners in this case are conservative and love their own horses which are quite different from the Akhalteke breed.

The only way to make Akhalteke horses a popular breed for sport in America is to start training them and putting them in competitions so people could see that this breed can win. This will convince everyone. There are no problems with the breed; for the Russian and the European breeders it is an axiom that the Akhalteke breed is of high class horses that can be used in all the classic types of sport. But not every Akhalteke, like in any other breed, can be a winner. You must obviously have a strong, sportive horse that is talented in the type of sport in which you compete. Now we come very close to a discussion about the quality of Akhalteke horses in America. When breeding horses you must always try to do two things: First, you try to make a horse typical for the breed. Second, you must try to create a horse that has strong, productive movements (the latter is very important for sport horses). The American market of sport horses is used to big horses (16 hands and taller), and since the Akhalteke is a new breed for America, if we produce mostly small horses, we will create a false representation of the Akhalteke breed. People will begin to assume that the Akhalteke breed is a breed of small horses when in reality the Akhalteke is a breed of tall horses. In other words we need to save the uniform appearance of the breed while at the same time breed big horses with super movements that can win in open competitions.

Because most American breeders were not showing their horses no strong breeding programs were created, without which you cannot produce many horses typical of the breed which will be able to win in classic types of sport.

Phil Case writes some things that I strongly agree with in “Dressage & C.T.” in 1989. “Take a look at our top horses (jumping, eventing, dressage) for every one up there thousands have been left behind. Many of today’s popular breeds have come from Europe, from countries that send teams to compete in international shows or events. How often does a Soviet team go to Badmington? Or the Dortmund International? Or the World Cup? With less than 500 Akhaltekes outside of U.S.S.R., you can understand why we can’t establish the Akhalteke as a performance horse: there are just simple not enough of them to confirm statistics. And you can see why we concentrate on our breeding program.”

I agree with Phil Case, but now the situation has somewhat improved since the article was written. There are much more horses of the sportive lines that were imported straight from Russia, whose close relatives are winning in high level competitions of classic types of sport in Russia and in Europe. From this we can conclude that to make the Akhalteke breed more popular in America we need to train our horses and display them in high level competition; in other words, we need to start spending money on professional trainers, shows, articles in magazines, etc. This will help Americans to see the Akhalteke as a horse able to compete and win in high level competition in classic types of sport. It is a shame that up until recently not one Akhalteke in America horse has shown more or less serious results in classic types of sport (Obviously with the exception of Phil Case, his horses have shown excellent results in three day events.)

Tito Pontecorvo
Horse breeder/trainer