Turkmen President Says ‘Neigh’ to Horse Name Changes

The president of Turkmenistan has made some strange adjustments to the country's horse laws.

GettyImages-486843651
GettyImages-486843651

The president of Turkmenistan is such a fervent equestrian that there is a gleaming golden statue of himself riding atop a horse, a dove in one hand and reins in the other, perched on a marble column in the capital city of Ashgabat.

Purebred Akhal-Teke horses are the country’s national symbol and eating horse meat is outlawed. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, a former dentist who took over the presidency in 2006, has named himself “the People’s Horse Breeder” and wrote a book titled Akhal-Teke: Our Pride and Glory.

But his horse obsession reached new heights recently, when he issued a presidential decree banning Turkmens from changing their Akhal-Teke’s name after its birth. Not only are names not allowed to be switched, even if the horse gets new owners or an owner changes their mind, but the steed’s information must also be recorded in federal record books.

The president of Turkmenistan is such a fervent equestrian that there is a gleaming golden statue of himself riding atop a horse, a dove in one hand and reins in the other, perched on a marble column in the capital city of Ashgabat.

Purebred Akhal-Teke horses are the country’s national symbol and eating horse meat is outlawed. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, a former dentist who took over the presidency in 2006, has named himself “the People’s Horse Breeder” and wrote a book titled Akhal-Teke: Our Pride and Glory.

But his horse obsession reached new heights recently, when he issued a presidential decree banning Turkmens from changing their Akhal-Teke’s name after its birth. Not only are names not allowed to be switched, even if the horse gets new owners or an owner changes their mind, but the steed’s information must also be recorded in federal record books.

Berdimuhamedov’s reasoning? The law will protect the thoroughbreds by ensuring they remain purebred. The decree is also supposed to promote a love for equestrianism in Turkmenistan, where horses are already wildly popular.

The law also reportedly includes new regulations on horses’ burials. From now on, Akhal-Tekes can only be buried in specific locations and in the presence of government officials.

Berdimuhamedov, who considers himself a first-class jockey, often races against other Turkmens and somehow manages to regularly place first. But he’s not always perfect: In 2013, he fell off his horse in front of a massive crowd. Still, he took care of that quite quickly by making it illegal to watch the following video footage, which captures the cringe-worthy fall. Sometimes it pays to be a dictator.  

Photo credit: Merdan Cariyev/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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