breeding

The Akhal Teke: Desert Horse To Olympic Champion and Back Again

by Kristin Berkery

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Horse and rider in native Turkoman costume, date and photographer unknown

Horse and rider in native Turkoman costume, date and photographer unknown

Absent, foaled in 1952 and winner of three Olympic medals. Photographer unknown

Excerpt: This summer marks 52 years since one of the most unusual horses first competed at the Summer Olympics in Rome. Absent, a striking black Akhal Teke stallion with four white socks and a star, introduced the world to a little-known ancient breed when he won a gold medal in dressage for the Soviet Union. He returned to the Olympics two more times for an individual bronze medal in 1964 and a team gold medal in 1968, both in dressage.
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The Stallion Who Helped the Communists Become Capitalists

What does an Arabian stallion have to do with Communists, capitalism, and an Egyptian public works project?

by Kristin Berkery

Who was this lucky stallion who benefited from the Cold War? The man in the white hat appears to be Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Photo from Judith Forbis' The Classic Arabian Horse, c. 1963.


In 1954, Egypt’s President Nasser was pushing for the development of a new dam on the Nile River that would control flooding and droughts, thereby improving the lives of millions of Egyptians. The Old Aswan Dam, finished in 1902, was built and raised twice by the British in an effort to control flooding of the Nile, but it became apparent that raising it a third time still would not be adequate.
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Unexpected Greatness: How Phar Lap Galloped into Australia’s Heart

A dirt-cheap colt becomes a national hero, an immortal icon, and an enduring mystery.

Phar Lap in 1930 with jockey Jim Pike

Phar Lap in 1930 with jockey Jim Pike

by Kristin Berkery

Phar Lap with his devoted groom, Tommy Woodcock

An Unremarkable Beginning
On October 4, 1926, during the southern hemisphere’s spring, a chestnut Thoroughbred colt was born in Timaru, New Zealand. As a yearling he was purchased at auction for only 160 guineas, or $35 in U.S. currency — about $465 today, adjusted for inflation. Certainly no one expected the colt to grow up and become an Australian national hero within five years.
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The Mystical Marwari, the Other Desert Horse

A Westerner tries to help save a rare East Indian breed facing extinction due to political and cultural conflicts in its homeland.

Photo by Manusharma


by Kristin Berkery

The unique ears of Marwaris.
Photo by Donna DeMari

Photos and videos of the rare and exotic Marwari horse are like a time machine, transporting the viewer to an era of ancient Eastern traditions and costumes. Bred since the 13th century by Rajput warriors, the Marwari was first used to conquer northwest India, a desert area now known as Rajasthan.

To survive the arid climate and fierce combat, Marwari horses were bred to be tough, fiery, and courageous, but they can also be described as temperamental and a challenge to handle. They have many similarities to the original desertbred Arabians with their spirited temperaments, physical endurance, arched necks, dry facial features, fine legs, and proud bearing. Not surprisingly, they share common ancestors with Arabians, which were also bred for fierce battle and survival in a desert setting.
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Basic Rules of Coat Color Genetics

Horse colors and patterns can be confusing — here are some guidelines to get you started.

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Photo of overo Mustangs by Sandysphotos2009

by Kristin Berkery

orses come in all kinds of colors and patterns, and even the most experienced horse enthusiasts will occasionally come across something so unusual that it stumps them. (Thank goodness for DNA testing.) But there are some basic rules of coat color genetics that you can always count on. If you have additional ones to share, please comment at the bottom of the article.

*Aramus, Wayne Newton's homozygous grey Arabian stallion. Note the porcelain white color that's common to mature homozygous greys. Photo by Johnny Johnston

Grey: A dominant gene, grey will always express itself over other color genes if a horse inherits the grey gene. It’s not possible for a horse to carry a recessive (and therefore unexpressed) grey gene, so all grey horses have at least one grey parent.

Some horses are homozygous grey, meaning they carry two grey genes and can only pass grey on to their offspring. Since grey is dominant over other colors, a homozygous grey will always produce or sire grey offspring. Homozygous greys can be found in Lipizzans and Arabians, among other breeds.

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