1st Report from WATO President


The breed of Akhal-Teke is facing a crisis:

Christoph Vogel
President WATO
3614 Unterlangenegg
Switzerland To the Members of WATO
+41 33 453 19 79 Executive Committee

Switzerland, 30/09/2012

1st Report from WATO President / working paper
to the Members of WATO Executive Committee

Dear Members of WATO Executive Committee

July 14
th, 2012, at the WATO Conference in Frankfort, I was elected President of WATO without any pre-warning. I accepted the election thoroughly convinced, that at the time being WATO is the only Organisation able to approach and hopefully improve the difficult situation of the Akhal-Teke breed. As a non-breeder I have no personal interest to defend. As representative of a small neutral country, Switzerland, I may get the chance to reduce differences, to focus on common goals.

At the conference in Frankfort I asked the participants to give me some time to get organised and to collect some first hand information from main exponents in the Akhal-Teke scene. In the mean time I visited Russia (Piatigorsk, Stavropol, Moscow) and Uzbekistan (Tashkent). I exchanged ideas with Alexander Klimuk, Leonid Babaev, Kamal Mirhodjaev, Avaz Ismoilov and some other breeders. Unfortunately it was not possible to exchange ideas with Tatjana Ryabova and Nadezhda Abramova – I hope that a meeting will be possible in the near future.

Please find below my findings, my “thesis” and personal conclusions. They do not
lay claim to completeness. They are thought as basis for further discussions, as basis for a WATO action plan to be developed and agreed on.

  • The market demand for Akhal-Teke is lower than the number of Akhal-Teke offered

  • Prices for Akhal-Teke are low, often not even covering breeding costs

  • Quality of Akhal-Teke offered often not meet market demand, at least not in the higher priced segments (horses used in sport)

  • Selection of Akhal-Teke was, in many places still is, focused on racing - the market for racing horses is limited in many markets

  • There still is a potential in the Akhal-Teke breed for sport horses, other than racing

  • To develop this potential we need new/additional selection criteria and breeding rules, also different and more investments in horse education and training

  • The market for sport hoses is very competitive. During the last 20 years other breed made enormous progress in selecting sport horses. To catch up we need a systematic approach in a long-term program.

Historical background
Please note that my thesis are no reproach to anybody! The difficulties the breed of Akhal-Teke is facing today are due to its complex history during the last 150 years.

Thanks to the people of Turkmenistan Akhal-Teke exist – thanks to the people of the ex Soviet Union Akhal-Teke still exist. It was not an easy task to save the breed from becoming extinct and we have to be very grateful, fully recognising the big efforts made to save the heavenly horses. Until the 1990ies the small number of Akhal-Teke was alarming. The scientific based program put into force to save the breed was exemplary for its time: there was no other choice than to augment the number of horses, trying to escape from damages by inbreeding. The testing on the racetrack prevented the breed from physical degeneration. It is evident that during this period a specialisation in breeding was not possible: increasing a pure and sane population had to be the focus.

During the last 20 years, political and economical changes made systematic breeding even more difficult: former state owned breeding farms of the ex Soviet Union have been split off. The centrally managed breeding pool fell apart, privatisation, economical difficulties and export of Akhal-Teke to western countries ended in a further fractionation of the breeding stock, making a systematic centrally planed breeding impossible.

During this difficult time of change Tatiana Ryabova, assisted by Nadezhda Abramova, tried with minimal resources to do their best to keep records of the breed and to promote Akhal-Teke worldwide. This was not an easy task and I am thankful that we have a central register for Akhal-Teke. I very much hope VNIIK will continue this work and that we will find a friendly, transparent and open- minded cooperation and division of work between VNIIK and WATO for the sake of a successful future of the Akhal-Teke breed.

Provided that the WATO Executive Committee agrees on my thesis that “Akhal-Teke breed as a whole is in a crisis”, accepting that the crisis is due to a difficult historical development, focused on multiplication, ending in a worldwide spread fractionation of the breeding pool, we have to ask:
  • does the actual population of Akhal-Teke is big enough to change breeding policy from
    multiplication to specialised quality breeding?
    (Quality breeding always existed but not the chance to diversify).
  • what specialisation do we envisage?
  • how do we manage specialised quality breeding?

In order to introduce and promote sectoral breeding, WATO has to:

1. decide in what FEI discipline Akhal-Teke should get competitive in sport,
2. develop new scientific based sectoral breeding rules, where character, gates, performance /
workability, tests under saddle and results in sport are introduced as selection criteria,
3. educate and train WATO judges
4. select Akhal-Teke taking part in sectoral breeding programs
5. initiate promotion programs making it interesting to participate in sectoral WATO breeding
6. develop equestrian centres, specialised and in charge of educating and training riders and

In her world census for 2012, Jessica Eile-Keith estimated a world population of about 6’600 Akhal-Teke: Turkmenistan ± 3’000, Russia ± 1’600, Central Asia ± 300, USA ± 450, Western Europe ±1’300. With a total of 6’600 Akhal-Teke, one or two specialisation would be justifiable.

For the decision in what fields we want to specialise breeding, different points of view are to be taken into account: basic aptitude and potential of existing Akhal-Teke, potential of the market-segment, probability to achieve success in the selected discipline, number of breeders ready to participate in a breeding program, money and time available and other criteria. If we assume that our Akhal-Teke are all-round horses, all FEI disciplines could be selected, Polo including. Special breeding programs have to be developed: selection, qualification and promotion.

Breed Management

Starting Situation
Today Akhal-Teke are bred all over the world, a globalised world where no authority is able to enforce or interfere in single breeding decisions. Breeding is subordinated under rules of the breed as well as under national and regional laws (
see 96/78/EC: Commission Decision of 10 January 1996 laying down the criteria for entry and registration of equidae in stud-books for breeding purposes:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31996D0078:EN:HTML). The legal situation of the breed of Akhal-Teke is even more complex (see homepage MAAK/VNIIK where Saparmurat Niyasov, Geldy K. Kiarizov and Tatiana N. Ryabova are named responsible for the breed) http://www.maakcenter.org/ENG/maak.html). This surrounding field and context is the starting point of WATO. Its task is to overcome particularism, to unify in an open and transparent process as many breeders and breeding organisations in as many counties as possible to support new breeding programs allowing sectoral breeding for sport horses.

As mentioned above, we are happy that VNIIK is running the world Akhal-Teke register, granting that only pure Akhal-Teke are registered. WATO is interested to cooperate with VNIIK in order to find a transparent and efficient division of work that make sense for the sake of Akhal-Teke breed. The register is an important but not the only element necessary to guarantee a successful future of the Akhal-Teke breed.

So far WATO has no legitimacy and no power. Authority of WATO will have to be achieved by the results of its work, its transparency, democratic structure and its fairness in cooperation.

Worldwide diffusion of the breed of Akhal-Teke is a fact: there is no central authority to enforce breeding programs or breeding decisions, each breeder is free in his breeding decisions. Up to now, Akhal-Teke have been graded following the grading rules for Purebred Akhal-Teke Horses developed by MAAK/VNIIK (see http://www.maakcenter.org/ENG/BREED/grading.html). In this schema character, gates, performance / workability, tests under saddle and results in sport are no selection criteria.

The Task
7. develop a sponsoring system for specialised riders and Akhal-Teke,
8. create and promote a WATO label: “WATO selected Akhal-Teke sport horses ©”
9. install and run a register for Akhal-Teke in WATO selection programs

Operational Aspects
The task envisaged is very ambitious. Its realisation needs enthusiasm, credibility, endurance, expert knowledge, time and money – not to forget a great ability to motivate as many partners as possible. The project is based on voluntariness – transparency and fairness will be essential for its success. Misuse for personal profit would destroy the project.

To make the project a success we need to bundle our resources world-wide throughout the equestrian hierarchy: from breeders up to FEI, including judges, riders, trainers, equestrian centres, event organisers, press and last but not least: sponsors.

The project is complex, not easy to handle. Involved are people in many countries on different continents, speaking different languages. We need expert knowledge from different faculties: breeders, veterinarians, trainers, raiders, judges, local representatives, experts in communication and marketing, translators et al. The working process will have to alternate between expert teams developing and presenting propositions, hearings evaluating propositions and meetings of decision taking bodies.

The project is not only complex; it is also a long-term task. If we do want to include results in sport in our breeding decisions, the breeding cycle of one-generation can easily gets extended as far as up to 6 – 8 years. This implies not only time but also money.

General Remarks
Please note that my 1st Report to the WATO Executive Committee is a working paper, only can give a limited and temporary picture of the situation, a basis for further discussions, a help for decision taking by the WATO Executive Committee for further steps to follow.

Please take into account that since my election for president I only had the chance to visit some important breeders in Russia and Uzbekistan. I am fully aware that my thesis, that “The breed of Akhal-Teke is facing a crisis”, can be read as provocation – in any case it is a simplification. It may be not valid for certain breeders and only more or less valid for certain countries. I am fully aware that a number of Akhal-Teke breeders already are using very sophisticated breeding programs, breeding Akhal-Teke to compete successfully in different FEI disciplines. It is not my intention to offend these breeders. I am happy that they exist and I am very much looking forward to get their support for the WATO breeding project.

I am very sorry not having had the possibility to get into contact with Akhal-Teke breeders in the Turkmenistan and the USA. With a population of ± 3’000 and ± 450 Akhal-Teke, the accumulated expertise and know how in breeding cannot be neglected. The project to present WATO at conferences in Turkmenistan and the USA exists. Details have not jet been worked out. As soon as the WATO Executive Committee has given its ok, detailed planning for the conferences will start.

I am also sorry not having found the time to talk to the Presidents of the different national Akhal-Teke Organisation in western and central Europe. I hope to find the time to contact them within the next months. My report will be a useful basis for discussions.

I would like to thank Alexander Klimuk, Leonid Babaev and Kamal Mirhodjaev for their friendly and generous welcome in Russia and Uzbekistan. During long discussions, presentations and grading of beautiful Akhal-Teke, as well as visits of stables and infrastructures, I got a general impression about the breeding conditions of the two countries.

In Stavropol I was very much impressed by the variety of types and lines Alexander Klimuk has at hands for his breeding decisions: a gene pool that would allow to introduce additional breeding criteria.

Leonid Babaev I first met in the beautiful riding hall in the centre of Moscow where I had the chance to observe Vitaly Andrukhovich training Makka and Oyun Shael on St.George level – a live proof that breeding and educating/training Akhal-Teke sport horses for highest level is possible – not just a dream! Visiting Leonid Babaev’s breeding farm it became obvious, that for Leonid Babaev gates must have been a breeding criteria for generations. Looking at Viktor Vorosov’s training centre I got the impression, that modern training facility in the Moscow area are not missing.

Kamal Mirhodjaev I first met at a show jumping event at his equestrian centre in Tashkent, where I was welcomed by a huge WATO-poster. Visiting 6 breeding farms in and in the surroundings of Tashkent I learned a lot about breeding conditions in Uzbekistan – investments in horses and horse facilities are booming. Avaz Ismoilov’s equine centre has dimensions Switzerland can only dream of. With reverence to the rock drawings of the Fergana valley, Uzbekistan has a special affinity to Akhal-Teke – never the less the import of sport horses from western Europe seems to be increasing. The resources would be there to bee invested in the breed of Akhal-Teke sport horses.

Asking for support
Questions to the Members of the WATO Executive Committee

Questions Answer Decision

1 Do you agree on my thesis? Please send your comment

2 Do you agree on my conclusions? Please send your comment
2.1 Population
2.2 Specialisation

3 Do you agree on my remarks Please send your comment
regarding Breed Management

4.1 FEI disciplines What FEI discipline do
you prefer to develop?

4.2 Additional selection criteria What criteria do you
propose for grading

Questions Answer Decision

Sequence for grading + tests What sort of grading
Grading rules and tests do you
propose in what sequences?
- 1 year
- 2 year
- 3 year ground work
- 4 year under saddle
- 5 year sport results

4.3 WATO judges Do you think WATO
approved judges are

4.4 Selection of WATO Does this is an issue?
approved © Akhal-Teke Selection at what age?
Selection criteria?
Who does select?

4.5 Promotion program Your ideas

4.6 Education + training Does this is an issue?
Riders + horses

4.7 Sponsoring system Your ideas

4.8 WATO label © Your ideas

4.9 WATO register for Does this is an issue
WATO © graded horses

Operational aspects

5.1 Task force How do we get organised?
We will have to build working Your ideas
groups to realise the different

5.2 Decision finding

Who will name and select Your ideas
members for working groups?
- Breeding commission
- Judge education
- et al.
Who will decide about the Your ideas
results and propositions of
the working groups
Questions Answer Decision

5.3 Presentation of WATO in - Do you agree?
- Turkmenistan - Who is ready to jpin
- USA a WATO-delegation?

5.4 Next steps I expect your answers until
th of October 2012 !!

until end of October I will
analyse your answer, presenting
the results in a 2
nd Report / working paper

a working meeting of the members your ideas and propositions
of WATO Executive Committee will
be necessary to discuss the 2
nd Report
in order to take basic decisions:
I propose that such a meeting
should be held before end of 2012

I wish you good receipt of my 1
st Report.
Please send your answers until 15th of October with copies to all members of WATO EC.
Looking forward to hear from you soon!
With kind regards


Switzerland, 30/09/2012

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