MBHITW

If you search the words ‘Most Beautiful Horse in the World’, these are the images of the horse typically associated with that title.
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As most reading this blog will know, our most beautiful horse candidate is an Akhal-Teke. For any unfamiliar with this breed here are a couple links to get you started:

http://www.akhal-teke.org/
http://www.akhalteke.cc/

Beauty, of course, is always in the eyes of the beholder with each of us defining beauty in the world by our own subjective criteria. There are many who will be dazzled simply by the metallic glow of this beast. However, to be most serviceable to those we care take, such as the equine, I think it’s more important to define equine beauty by structure that promotes health, soundness and longevity for purpose. In other words, form for function. In many regards this horse exemplifies its breed for ‘original’ intended purpose and environment:

  • thin-skinned to facilitate body cooling
  • long, lean muscles that generate less heat and are suited for endurance
  • overall racy build for distance coverage
  • clean, dry joints, good feet

Without going beyond the two links I provided, you will find this breed touted as excellent for endurance, dressage, jumping, eventing, vaulting, extreme trail etc… The reality is always the same; it depends on the individual horse, the skill and talent of trainer and rider, the level within the discipline and so on.
I question the purity of some of the horses pictured on the Akhal-Teke.org website. Some of them look like crossbreds to me. Certainly the Akhal-Teke, and our Most Beautiful horse, is ideally suited to endurance and any disciplines that require above average stamina and endurance. They’d also tend to be suited to disciplines requiring racing/speed.

Suitability for Dressage
Mhm…not so much and certainly not more than any other random racing conformed individual one can get off the racetrack, and it shows in the dressage pictures displayed on the website I linked. This is simply not a breed, if your ‘serious’ about dressage (medium and up with a natural ability for self-carriage), that will hit your top 10 (or 100) list.

Suitability for Jumping
Certainly able to leap lower level structures like most any other sound equine, and with a little speed added to the equation, even higher. If you take a closer look at the pictures of the individuals jumping and fox hunting on the website, you’ll notice that there are some distinct conformation differences between them and our Most Beautiful Horse, the most obvious being length of pelvis, more general body bulk and compactness. Some of these I suspect are crossbreds.

Suitability for Vaulting
Really? I find this beyond grasping at straws. The ideal vaulting horse almost always is of draft blood, perhaps some mix in there of warmblood. The gaits of the vaulting horse are essential; rhythmic, slow, absorbing, balanced, a chill, obedient temperament, and also that the horse have some body width and mass. Our Most Beautiful Horse fairly represents his breed and is definitely not suited for vaulting in his body.

Suitability for Endurance/Extreme Trail
Duh!

Faults
The Akhal-Teke could stand to be improved in a few areas, while still maintaining its intended purposes AND becoming more suited to other riding disciplines.

Wither – many of the breed possess camel withers. This makes for a rough, disrupted (withers can’t act as well as the fulcrum point) neck connection, and possible saddle fit issues.

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Neck – many of the breed possess bull and/or ewe necks (also similiar to a camel). This makes lifting of the base of neck (flattening of the lower cervical curve – which is long and deep in bull (often set on low) and ewe necks -) more difficult, and as that is part of engagement…

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Even when this horse articulates its hind joints, lowers its haunch, and lifts its base of neck as a demonstration of engagement, still it is unable to entirely flatten the lower cervical curve; a disruption remains.

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Pelvis – many of the breed lack pelvic length. This individual is barely adequate at 29%. Fortunately he has a well-placed LS joint, but this one certainly doesn’t possess any power or explosive ability – like what might be required for getting horse and rider out of a spot on the cross country phase.

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I think this is a picture of the same horse in movement. If not, it’s a very good likeness and perhaps a sibling. In any case, we can see the natural tendency to high-headedness and dropping down of the withers that comes from the same neck structure, as well trailing hocks from being over-angulated behind. This is not suitability for riding disciplines.

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In conclusion, he’s not ‘my’ Most Beautiful Horse because structurally he lacks in some key areas, even if I only consider him for original purposes.

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30 thoughts on “MBHITW

  1. I think I had an old horse book as a child that had been my moms when she was young, it had these guys in it. I always thought they were so beautiful. The book said they possessed every conformational flaw there was, that made me sad.

  2. Classic oversell. I happen to think the most beautiful horse in the world is something cobby with lots of floof and preferably spotted. If i knew more about functional conformation, I could find some awesome hairy spotted cobs doing the things that cobs are best suited to do, but I don’t pretend that the best example of that type could do ~~everything.~~

  3. A comment I overheard (from an ADULT, regarding a pic of another horse):
    “I don’t know why they think it is a good-looking horse: it has no white on it anywhere.”

    Colour. Big whoop.

  4. A friend has an AT gelding that’s been used for 50 mile rides and to promote a sale, took the gelding to a schooling show, jumper class (2’6″) He’s bulkier than the Perlino with better bone and body but still quite similar. Neither the rider nor the horse has any formal jumping training. That horse refused nothing regardless of the spot he was given and left air on every jump. There is certainly athleticism in the blood and think jumping was more his calling than endurance. Too hot for my taste but he impressed with his willingness and effort.

    • To be fair, 2’6 isn’t very big at all. I’d expect many sound horses that had that sort of a “let’s go!” sort of attitude could do the same. My friend had an Arab who was like you describe; gave 110% every time, never stopped, would jump 2’6 from anywhere with room to spare. However, he couldn’t do the same over any bigger. The over-jumping that looked impressive at 2’6 was because he either couldn’t conformationally, or never learned how, to jump with proper efficient form, and therefore had to jump bigger to make up for it.

      I’ve seen the same sort of thing from some saddlebreds… a naturally athletic breed with a lot of try and spirit, but a lot of what makes people go “ooh look that horse can really jump” is often over jumping to make up for poor form. I look for a horse that naturally jumps efficiently and carefully… which might mean that horse looks pretty boring jumping 2’6 compared to the one doing the athletic leaps from bad distances. But the correct, efficient jumper is much more likely to be able to do 3′ and above. (Of course if 2’6″ is the height of anyone’s ambitions then it doesn’t really matter, they can do it with whatever horse makes them happy).

      • That may very well be the case but as neither had any training, just popped in a trailer and went to a show, it was pretty cool to watch in a ‘wish I had the guts…’ kind of way. Would loved to have seen what he could do under more educated hands. His form was by no means terrible, tidy in front and good scope.

  5. Coat gets an A+ but that’s about it. During a summer job I had a chestnut QH mare in my string and the first time I saw her I said she was a copper penny–turns out her name was Penny for that reason. That horse had so little decent care or grooming yet had the most brilliant coat I have ever seen, much the equal to this AT.

  6. Do I think this horse is a cool colour? Yes. Do I think the groom deserves an A+? Yes. Do I think this is a beautiful horse? No. In fact, I think he’s ugly.
    I checked out the links and I don’t find this particular breed attractive at all. It wasn’t quick for me to lose respect for the AT association either after discovering the picture of the 5(?) year old little girl sitting on a horse bareback. Yes, she is wearing a helmet but it looks very poorly fitted. Sorry, I don’t care if that little girl has been riding since she’s been 2, no 5 year old has the ability to handle a full grown horse. All I saw were all the things that could go wrong in a split second as Mercedes has so often pointed out on other pictures. Why the association would think this is good publicity is beyond me.

    I checked out the second link and navigated to their sale horses… All I have to say is yikes! To me, they all look like “frankenhorses”. For those that haven’t heard that expression before, it’s a term another blog used to describe a horse that appears to have been put together using parts from other horses, like Frankenstein. In fact, I thought a lot of the horses looked rather DEformed.

    The link provided by Kristi for Solaris Sport Horses showed the stallion Kambarbay, he seems to be alright and at least he appears to be accomplished. I find it interetsting that he exhibits all AT bllodlines because he doesn’t really “look” like the average AT. He looks more like a warmblood cross to me so does this mean he’s an anomaly? Although, even he is not my taste but his sire Kuvvatli looks nice.

    • I agree with you DangSportPony. Not a big fan of the breed in general but I did like the looks of Kambarbay. He does look more like a WB than any AT I’ve ever seen so maybe that’s the appeal. 😛

      • I am sorry but I disagree with your comment ‘no five year old girl has the ability to handle a full grown horse’. If you say that because the horse is bigger and stronger than the girl, well, my horses are bigger and stronger than me and I am able to ride them. Every horse and child is a different case and I have seen some very broke horses being ridden very capably by small children. There is no absolute in anything.

        • Nope, I wasn’t referring to the size or ability of rider or horse, I was referring to the lack of critical thinking and decision making skills of the people that put her on that horse.
          I agree, we can all be dumped by any size horse at any time but as adults, we have better developed decision making skills thanks to life experience. A 5 year old child (or at least any 5 year old I’ve ever come across) doesn’t “see” the potential danger, they are having fun, going for a pony ride… “Look at me mummy, I’m riding!”.
          What got me riled up was the poorly fitted helmet. Even if the kid is capable and the horse well trained, accidents happen. That helmet will do her no good when she gets dumped.
          In addition, do you think that kid cared or would even know if the helmet fit properly? Likely not. A kid intrinsically trusts a parent to not put them into a dangerous situation and/or fit them with the appropriate equipment for their sport. I would find it extrememly difficult to believe that this kid went hunting through the tack room on her own by her own accord to search for a helmet that fit her before she made the decision to get on this horse. Clearly, this kid didn’t have the knowledge or awareness that the helmet didn’t fit properly. If she did and if she had “adult” decision making skills, she would (should) have decided that since the helmet doesn’t fit properly, I won’t get on the horse for mummy to take my picture. Nope. Sorry ladies and gents, this was a parents doing, not a 5 year olds. It just made it worse that it was published by a professional horse association that used this picture to promote a horse breed with no thought to its appropriateness.

    • Size of horse doesn’t necessarily indicate rider ability. I have a 1200 lb mare that I would allow a child to ride / handle all day long before the 13.3 hand pony I have in for training. It would be physically easier to stop the mare and she might even stop to be sure the little one was ok if there was a fall. The pony, he’d dump her and then run her over to get to the freshest grass. I love to see kids on ponies, believe they should all start there, but they are not the easiest choice going.

  7. This horse is thin, blonde, and his long legs make him look younger than his age. He looks like a toy model or something a 15 year old girl would doodle at the back of her notebook in a very boring math class, so I can see where he’d fit in as a pin-up horse for the current era. Our culture overall currently fixates on still photos as the marker of beauty, so that even when evaluting human females, we tend to ooh and awe over a particularly flattering selfie, and ignore real-life physical qualities that show up in motion, such as posture, “grace,” etc, not to mention functionality or athtletic ability. With animals, we tend to value ones that look like toys or like human babies, or at least like animal babies (hence the craze for tiny dogs that never grow up emotionally or physically). I haven’t tried to google “cutest dog in the world” but I am sure it isn’t a working retreiver or a cattle dog; it’s probably some animated four-pound ambulatory fur pillow with breathing problems. I don’t think this Most Beautiful Horse was necessarily nominated by serious horsemen (unless they were Akhal Teke breeders).

    About Akhal Tekes: never seen one in real life, but have read the info on how they are endurance horses, racers, and one of the foundational breeds of the English thoroughbred, meaning those wierd wasp-waisted 18th century race-horse portraits are actually fairly realistic. Since it’s an old indigenous regional breed and type, my guess is if you went to its home turf you’d see a wide range of the type, and at the lower end probably some pretty fugly individuals still doing a hard day’s work in the back country. At the top end, like all the breeds, it’s presumably being “refined” in ways that are both good and bad. All that said, if you were breeding tbds or arabs, and something conformed like this came out, you wouldn’t be best pleased. My first reaction when I googled akhal tekes a few years ago was more like “striking” and “kinda freaky” and then, ok, they seem to have amazing breed traits that I can’t evaluate on the available data.

    For beautiful, I don’t think you can beat an arena full of Andalusians, but really there what I’m responding to is their capacity for collection and movement, how they have the innate ability for both dressage and reining. Whereas Freisians, for instance, don’t do a lot for me, unless they are in harness; then they seem to make sense. So it isn’t just the high necks and the long tails that I’m seeing with the Andies 🙂

    • Oh, snarkyrider and it’s comments…

      The horse on the photo is Akhal-Teke (in Russian Ахалтекинская), not Russian TB. But SR is right about the colour called silver buckskin. It really is photoshop. He is called Ahtar (Ахтар in Russian) and lives in Kaliningrad.

      Kristi

  8. Someone sent a photo of that to my wife last year and asked what she thought of it.

    I quote “It’s absolutely hideous! Dreadful conformation. But it’s shiny!”

    That about sums it up for me too.

  9. I have a weakness for the Tekes, as these are the types I rode growing up and I am partial to the lean leggy greyhound types. Thanks largely to the reputation of Absent, and a lot of the (as you say) questionably pure Russian individuals that entered the breed in the 20th century, there are some that could do well in dressage … maybe not international level well, but still. I’m not purist enough to say that some of those anomalous individuals didn’t help improve the hideous necks. I still find that it is mainly the “type” breeders and the horrific politics of the inspections that promote the really crappy conformations you tend to see on some ATs. The good ones, though, are pure magic to ride — they’re slinky, elastic, responsive and fabulous athletes with a brain. I would be curious to know what you think of the horses Shael Stud breeds (http://www.shael-teke.ru/en/), as I think that is one of the farms making a huge effort to appeal to the dressage crowd, though with mixed results. I tend to like some, if not all, of their horses, and the gaits are pretty nice … check out some of the YouTube videos of Shael stock.

    I admit they’re not for everyone, but the good news is that if and when I buy I’d be looking for primarily an endurance/trail horse with dressage cross-training and low level jumping and eventing only, so it seems my personal weakness is well suited to my discipline choice 😉 Maybe that’s the best we can hope for.

  10. I couldn’t get any of the videos to work. I’ll have to try on a different computer. I did see a couple of individuals that seemed better put together, but overall most possessed neck and hind end weakness. A large portion of the action shots showed horses that were hollow and heavy on the forehand.

  11. I wonder too if people are the breed’s own worst enemy — you see the way they’re managed in parts of Russia, the posing, the yank-yanking of the reins that would basically encourage the neck to become even worse, and … well … some of it is conformation, but it’s also hard to separate that from poor handling.

    On YouTube, Leonid Babaev’s channel has a lot of the young stock videos and some competition videos from Shael. It’s interesting that in earlier movement videos you see many of them moving and stretching down quite well once they relax.

    There’s a comment above about Kambarbay looking more sporthorse-y than Teke — not only is he a pure-bred, there are many more like him. The shame of it is that a lot of the exaggerated type has to be linked to the politics of the inspections. Whether MAAK or VNIIK, you see some questionable conformation standards being written into the breed inspections, which means that horses that lack it don’t score well (and there are plenty of them) and then don’t get judged as “type-y” enough. Tragic.

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