By tradition, on the last Sunday of April, Turkmenistan held large-scale celebration of Turkmen Horse Day. This day can be rightly called a national holiday, and there are many reasons for this. The Akhal-Teke horse is the national treasure, the pride of Turkmens. Graceful and fast horses that were justly called "heavenly" by chroniclers of antiquity have now become a symbol of modern achievements of Turkmenistan.
What is even more important is that this living national treasure embodies the union of nature and man, who has nurtured a unique breed for hundreds of years, putting his vision of the beauty and values of life in this breed. A horse and a rider shared a special bond in historical tradition. An intelligent and sensitive, loyal and faithful friend, the Akhal-Teke horse stood by his master in the day of joy and in the hour of need.
The rich palette of feelings that Turkmens have for the miracle horse found reflection in the numerous festive events that were held in the cities and villages of the country for several days.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horse Breeding that was established in 2010 at the initiative of the President of Turkmenistan. Over the years of its work, the Association has laid a solid foundation for development of the Turkmen horse-breeding industry and preservation of purity of the Akhal-Teke breed in the world. Nowadays, this international organization unites 155 legal entities and individuals from 34 countries. They include horse breeders specializing in breeding the purebred Akhal-Teke horses, training high-class horses for equestrian competitions, as well as hippology scientists and other connoisseurs of the famous "heavenly" horses.
The Association meets annually under the chairmanship of the President of Turkmenistan in Ashgabat to discuss and develop joint approaches to issues relating to the preservation of the Akhal-Teke breed as a unique phenomenon of world culture, studying its features on a scientific basis, exchanging experiences and achievements and upgrading business relations. The International Higher School of Horse Breeding and the Scientific-Production Center that are currently being built in the emerging administrative center of Akhal province will provide support to this work as well as horse breeding.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the anniversary X meeting of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horse Breeding was held online on April 24 simultaneously with a government meeting. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov presented a detailed report on the activities carried out by the Association and its achievements over 10 years. Foreign members of the Association, including newly admitted members, also spoke at the online meeting.
On the occasion of Day of Turkmen Horse, the head of state signed decrees on decorating the most distinguished horse breeders of the country with state awards and conferring the title of Honored Horse Breeder of Turkmenistan on the active members of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horse Breeding, including foreign members. In addition to other honorary titles for horse breeding, a new title was approved at the joint meeting - Master Seis-Mentor of Turkmenistan.
A number of this year's events popularizing the "heavenly horses" took place at the Lebap Equestrian Center. By the day of celebration, the Equestrian Center facilities underwent a major reconstruction and improvement, including the main building with a conference hall, spectator stands, race tracks, stables and the surrounding area. Trees were planted and flowerbeds were laid out. Members of the government, heads of parliament, ministries and departments and mass media representatives, who visited the city of Turkmenabat on April 23, were able to appreciate the scope of the work done. The festival brought together horse breeders from Ashgabat and all provinces as well as numerous guests. A new season of horse races was kicked off there. Before the start of horse races, fans and jockeys were greeted by sportsmen, popular musicians and singers, folklore and other art groups of the country who performed in a large-scale concert dedicated to the 10th anniversary of establishment of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horse Breeding and the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan's neutrality.
Cultural events are an integral part of celebration of Day of Turkmen Horse. Celebrations at the Equestrian Center were preceded by the events held in the building of the regional library of Lebap province. There was organized an exhibition of works by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, including books dedicated to the "heavenly" horses, such as "Horse - Symbol of Fidelity and Happiness", "Akhal-Teke - Our Pride and Glory", "Swift Step of the Horse." The library's conference room hosted the presentation of the book by the head of state "Horse - Symbol of Fidelity and Happiness" published in German, Turkish and Arabic languages. Diplomats attending the event noted that the Turkmen leader's book aroused great interest among readers of the countries they represent. Katerina-Irena Jacob, member of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horse Breeding, Director of horse breeding company Jekob Ferdezut GBR of the Federal Republic of Germany addressed the audience during the video presentation.
An exhibition of artifacts discovered during archaeological excavations in the spring of 2020 in Akhal and Lebap provinces was timed to coincide with this event.
The exhibition featured a glazed ceramic figurine of a horse and a rider, the bottom of a ceramic vessel with the remaining fragment of painting depicting a horse head, a fragment of the wall of a large vessel with prints bearing a stylized image of a galloping horse, as well as a terracotta figurine of a horse.
A series of spectacular festivities for the glory of Turkmen horses included a ceremony of awarding the winners of the annual contests - the International Beauty Contest of Akhal-Teke Horses and a thematic contest among representatives of creative professions. The ceremony was held with participation of the head of state at the Akhal-Teke Equestrian Complex of the President of Turkmenistan on April 25.
Ten best representatives of the Akhal-Teke breed selected in the qualification rounds from different regions of the country, continuing this or that famous breeding line dating back to the famous ancestors appeared before the audience. Black horse called Gyrsakar from the Akhal-Teke horse complex was named the most beautiful Akhal-Teke horse of 2020. This horse is a descendant of Gerden and Ovadan. The honored horse breeder of Turkmenistan, Mammetmyrat Gazakov, who is the owner (seis) of the horse, was awarded the main prize on behalf of the head of state - keys to Audi Q8 car.
Continuing the topic of artistic dedications to the Akhal-Teke horse, one should mention the thematic exposition set up on the eve of celebrations at the Museum of Fine Arts of Ashgabat that combined the works reflecting the artistic vision of the role of the Akhal-Teke horse in the life of the Turkmen people. The exhibition hall of the State Academy of Arts hosted an exhibition of works by the participants of the traditional art contest dedicated to Day of Turkmen Horse.
Young artists, students of children's art schools of Ashgabat presented their vision of the Akhal-Teke horses in the context of the cultural heritage of the nation at an exhibition in one of the halls of the Exhibition Center for Fine Arts. They included 60 thematic works made in the genre of painting, ceramics, sculpture, as well as samples of jewelry and carpet art.
The glorious horse riding group of the national equestrian games "Galkynysh" presented their new program "Winged Horses" during in the days of celebration. The group boasts successful performances at international circus festivals in Moscow and St. Petersburg, in Tatarstan, Italy, China, Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Bahrain, in which Turkmen horse riders won a grand prix and gold cups. Thanks to them, the national equestrian games have been restored and the original ways of training, various techniques and tricks have been revived.
The premiere of the new program took place at the State Circus of Turkmenistan. It included new numbers and best tricks from the rich program of performances. In a colorful show, fancy riders demonstrated great skills and fearlessness riding the fast-paced Akhal-Teke horses, which fascinated the audience with their grace, agility and beauty.
Theater companies of Turkmenistan presented new plays as their artistic gifts for Turkmen horse celebrations. The play "Horse - Symbol of Fidelity and Happiness" on the same-name book by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov premiered on the stage of the Main Drama Theater. The production was original in terms of stage impersonation. It organically combined various layers of the narrative, from epic comparisons to modern life scenes full of good humor. And the whole performance aimed to emphasize the continuity of the spiritual traditions of the Turkmen people, the historical and cultural phenomenon of the Akhal-Teke horse and inextricable connection of man and horse.
The Alp Arslan National Drama Theater also presented the original theater-musical production in celebration of the AkhalTeke horse. It was a new interpretation of the fragment of the play "Gerogly and Agayunus" with participation of Turkmen horses. It was held as part of the beauty contest among the Akhal-Teke horses in the closed arena of the Training Center of the International Akhal-Teke Equestrian Center.
On the actual day of celebration, the International Akhal-Teke Equestrian Center hosted the main festive events. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov attended the festivities.
Modern traditions of holding Turkmen festivals certainly include an ethnographic element. One could clearly see it in a thematic exhibition that was set up in the territory of the center. The exhibition featured elegant yurts and expositions of decorative and applied art by artists from Ashgabat and all five regions of the country. Folk melodies and songs were performed at the exhibition. There were also demonstrated rituals and original traditions associated with national horse breeding, organically combining national heritage, culture and historical experience of the people and their hard work.
The participants of the festival saw the original horse harnesses and various horse jewelries, which are still made of precious metals and stones, as well as pottery, tapestries, patterned horse blankets, musical instruments, leather goods and tools. Visitors had the opportunity to see the process of weaving and making of horse jewelry and dutar. Of great interest was the exposition of works by sculptors, masters of carpet art, painters and other masters of creative professions.
The festivities culminated in horse races - a spectacular equestrian sport favored by Turkmens. They have been practicing it since ancient times as a method of testing and developing speed qualities of horses. Pedigree farms and horse breeding centers presented their best sports horses. Naturally, not only the horses but also the jockeys competed and contended for the title of winner. Seven races took place within two hours over distances ranging from 1600 to 2400 meters with 12 horses per race, who demonstrated their best sports qualities.
Horse races were followed by the ceremony of presenting valuable prizes established in accordance with the presidential resolution to the winners of the festive contests, including a 60-kilometer long marathon and show jumping competitions held on the eve of the main festivities.
Day of Akhal-Teke horse was also celebrated with large-scale cultural and sports events attended by representatives of public associations, enterprises and institutions, as well as students.
In Ashgabat, a bicycle race started at the monument erected in honor of the famous Akhal-Teke horse, Yanardag. A relay race also started at the monument. At the same time, students of the higher education establishments of Ashgabat participated in a walking event along the Health Path - a unique walking trail that runs along the slopes of Kopetdag.
As Turkmen proverbs say, "He who has a horse has wings", "Where a horse stops, there will be celebration", and their wisdom is confirmed by wonderful spring celebrations displaying various facets of the Akhal-Teke breed phenomenon and a special role played by horses in the life and spiritual world of the Turkmen people, in the national history and culture.