What country is about to take a national holiday in honour of horses?
Yes, Turkmenistan is gearing up for the annual celebration of its national horse day, introduced by its keen equestrian president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.
The day traditionally takes place on the last Sunday of April.
Turkmenistan is home to more than half of the world’s 3000 Akhal-Teke horses. The president’s thinking in introducing the day was to promote the breed nationally and internationally.
Berdimuhamedov is a fanatical horseman and has even written a book on local horse-racing.
His horsemanship is a central part of the image he portrays to the nation’s citizens.
The upcoming holiday, it seems, does come with strings. According to local media, government officials and school students will be expected to attend special race meetings staged on the day.
The capital’s hippodrome is usually at the heart of festivities.
The local breed, often called royal horses, date back centuries.
Ancient historians and poets wrote about the matchless beauty of the Central Asian horses, known as Nissei’s horses, starting from the 7th and 6th centuries BC.
The name most likely derives from the ancient Parthian capital, Nissa. Afterwards, they were better known as Ahalteke, or Akhal-Teke horses. Ahal stood for the name of the oasis and Teke was the name of a Turkmen tribe which had long bred these horses.
The state emblem of Turkmenistan carries the profile of Yanardag, the 1999 world breed champion.