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Turkmenistan leader’s latest obsession: horses

Judging from past experiences, Turkmenistan’s autocratic president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, doesn’t seem to be a lover of the animal kingdom. There was the time he reportedly fired one of his security officers for negligence leading to an "assassination attempt" — by a cat. And once he fired 30 workers from the main state TV channel for ...

VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images
VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images

Judging from past experiences, Turkmenistan’s autocratic president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, doesn’t seem to be a lover of the animal kingdom. There was the time he reportedly fired one of his security officers for negligence leading to an "assassination attempt" — by a cat. And once he fired 30 workers from the main state TV channel for allowing a cockroach to interrupt the evening news.

Apparently one animal does get the Turkmen seal of approval: horses. So much so that he issued a presidential decree on Monday ordering that national beauty contests for the country’s thoroughbred horses should be held every April, coinciding with a celebration of the "annual horse days."

According to Reuters:

The best horses of the breed, distinguished by shimmering coats, long delicate necks and legs and popularly revered as "the wings of the Turkmen," will be chosen "to promote the glory of the heavenly racehorse worldwide," the decree said.

Special awards will be given to craftsmen for the best carpet featuring the horse, the best "holiday attire" for the breed, the best portrait and even sculpture.

Turkmenistan’s 5 million people celebrate the Akhal Teke horse as a national emblem — horses are often bestowed as gifts to foreign leaders and eating horse meat is especially taboo. The late leader Saparmurat Niyazov opened a $20 million leisure center for horses in 2004, complete with swimming pool, air-conditioning, and a medical center. Berdimuhamedov, an avid equestrian, wrote a 2008 book about Turkmen horse breeds.

Let’s just hope a horse isn’t involved in any other national mishaps — there are only so many government workers to fire.

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