Art of Akhal-Teke horse breeding and traditions of horses' decoration


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Inscribed in 2023 (18.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Enver Abalkakov, Turkmenistan, 2022

The Akhal-Teke is a breed of horses created in the territory of modern Turkmenistan. Characterized by their large size, intelligence, agility, strength and shiny coat, Akhal-Teke are hardy and can manage without food and water for long stretches of time. There are many customs and traditions around Akhal-Teke horses, including naming rituals, horse beauty contests, and racing and riding games. They are also closely linked to wedding ceremonies, during which the groom takes the bride away on a decorated Akhal-Teke horse. The jewellery and lace used to decorate the horses are primarily created and passed on by women. Knowledge and skills related to the breeding and care of Akhal-Teke horses are transmitted through formal and informal learning, during which young horse breeders learn how to establish contact, groom and feed the horses. They then master the knowledge and skills of riding and training the horses. Higher educational institutions and equestrian training centres also contribute to the formal transfer of Akhal-Teke knowledge and skills. The horses are an important part of the historical and cultural identity of Turkmenistan, and the related traditions contribute to social cohesion and to increased awareness of the importance of living heritage in general.