Prized horse breaks record on Turkmen leader’s birthday

A circus rider sits on Ak Khan horse at a circus arena in Ashgabat on June 29, 2018

Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) (AFP) – The favourite horse of Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov gave his owner the perfect birthday present Friday by breaking the world record for an equine dash on hind legs. 

An AFP correspondent witnessed Ak Khan set the new record which is officially called “The fastest 10 m on hind legs by a horse” at the tightly-controlled Turkmenistan’s state circus. 

Ak Khan (White Khan) reared up on its back legs and covered a distance of 10 metres without landing on its front legs. 

Guinness adjudicator Seyda Subasi Gemici told spectators that Ak Khan had beaten the previous record of 9.2 seconds set by a horse in Dubai.

A state media representative told AFP the horse had achieved the feat in five seconds, while another horse from the government’s stables had completed the same task in seven seconds. 

Guinness was not immediately able to confirm the new time.

When the record was announced, the crowd broke into cries of “Glory to the Protector”, the local moniker given to Berdymukhamedov. 

Berdymukhamedov, who turned 61 Friday is a horse-mad strongman who has even written a book about the Akhal-Teke breed to which presidential steed Ak Khan belongs.

He famously fell off a horse in 2013 having won a race and was officially honoured as a “People’s Horse-Breeder” on a day dedicated to horses in 2015. 

Following the lead of his late predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, Berdymukhamev has boosted the eye-catching Akhal-Teke horse’s position as a state symbol of the gas-rich republic of five million people.

Rights groups regularly bill Turkmenistan — best-known to the outside world for its eccentric leader cults — as one of the most closed and repressive countries in the world.