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Akhal-Tekes in high mountain conditions

After the Tashkent-Aravan endurance ride over the Kamchik Pass (2268 m) in 1991, the riders continued further training, culminating in August 1992 with a ride from Tashkent to the mountain area of the Chatkal Reservation with ascents to various peaks, including Mount Chimgan (3309 m).

The aim was to test the physiological abilities of the Akhalteke horses in high mountain conditions. All horses were under veterinary supervision and clinical parameters (heart rate, respiration, temperature) were measured after each exercise.
The following Akhal Teke stallions participated in the experiment:
1. Appak, black, *1989 (Posman-Acholla), Peren line.
2. Sokol, buckskin, *1987 (Sumbar-Fardanzi), El line
3. Melesur, dark buckskin, *1987 (Sovchoz 2-Sacharnaja), El-Sovchoz 2 line
4. Taran, bay, *1987 (Telekuš 2-Kelkush), Melekush line
5. Arab, bay, *1987 (Pudok-Ajbelek), Peren line



Greater Chimgan

The transfer from Tashkent to the base camp took place in two days. On the first day the horses covered 45 km in two stages (25 km + 20 km), on the second day 46 km (36 km + 10 km). During the first day, Arab limped and was returned home, thus becoming an involuntary "control" stallion. Arab subsequently continued his training at the Tashkent Racecourse, so it was interesting to compare his clinical parameters with horses that had completed the entire test in high mountain conditions.
The base camp was located at an altitude of 1700 m above sea level.
The horses made daily ascents to the surrounding peaks, including a climb to Beldersai Mountain (2300 m above sea level), and on 15 August there was a climb to the highest mountain in the area, Chimgan (3309 m above sea level), which was attended by A. Murshiev on Taran and E. Girš on Sokol. Melesur and Appak stayed in the base camp - Appak was still young and they did not want to take any risks with Melesur.
Two days before the ride and two days after returning to Tashkent, clinical parameters were measured and blood analysis was performed. As it turned out, the horses that had completed the test in high altitude conditions improved in all the parameters monitored, unlike the "control" Arabian, who, although having completed a comparable load in kilometres, remained at baseline parameters (see tables below).

(Article published in Achal-Teke Inform 2012, compiled and abridged from original material published by E. Novotna in VNIIK 1992)


or what Ashir Murshiev kept silent about for so long

an article published in Akhal Teke Inform 2012, written by Julia Kuznetsova based on Ashir Murshiev's telling of April 2011 in Ashgabat

Twenty years have passed since the dramatic descent, and only now has Asher decided to talk about the memories that give him no peace - they often surface in dreams, when he wakes up drenched in cold sweat and relives the event, recriminating and wondering what could have happened .... However, thanks to this indiscretion, we were able to see the incredible abilities of the Akhal Teke horses ....


"After the ride to Aravan, when we with our Akhal Teke horses playfully crossed the Kamchik Pass, we longed to test them even more and in more detail in high mountain conditions. The following year we organized a trip to the Sary-Tash mountain area in the Chatkal reservation, located 90 km from Tashkent. Here we trained the horses for a week in thin air conditions, made daily ascents to various high peaks and collected data on the physiological parameters of the horses. In this area of alpine meadows, herders ride local horses of the Karabair type: smaller, strong, round as barrels. The herders showed interest in our horses and also concern because they found them thin. But when we offered them a match of strength at any distance, they reasonably refused. Among other things, we also compared the speed of calming down after a comparable load of our horses and the local horses - ours calmed down faster.
How did we train and what routes did we take? There were no roads. Rocks everywhere you looked. If we saw an imperceptible path between them, we followed it. There were countless cliffs and rocks. The only order was: "Mjalik, forward!" Melesur was the leader of the group, completely fearless, wherever you directed him, there he went, like a tank. And all the others followed him, with a little hesitation here and there, but the horses made no trouble and behaved as if they had been in the mountains all their lives.

Now I'll try to get back to how that unfortunate descent came about. After we had climbed more or less all the surrounding peaks, the decision was made to climb the highest peak, Chimgan (3309 m). Two of us went - me on Taran and Edik Girš on Sokol. The ascent took about five hours, counting from the foot where our base camp stood on the land of hunter Yunus, whose surname I no longer remember. We stood on the top, trampled the snow, saw the bear tracks, enjoyed the view: everything was beautiful - and look, there was our camp! I look and think that we will spend another five hours descending and if it would be easier to go down the direct way - you can see a little valley with a stream heading directly to the camp. After all, if we follow the stream, we will reach the camp. I sit like Napoleon, thinking, but everything seems so logical and clear. True, getting to the stream means crossing a 150-200 metre wide debris field. Well, that doesn't mean anything. We dismount our horses and slowly descend, supporting their shoulders, ending up with scraped knees ourselves. That was the first warning - it just took some thought. But no, for us there was only "forward".
We continue along the bank of the stream, taking our time, and suddenly there is a fallen log in front of us, like a barrier - and again, we don't think, we don't heed the next warning. We have moved the tree and are continuing along the now stream bed. The water reaches the horses' bellies and the first waterfall appears in front of us - not big, about 70-80 cm high. We jump it and continue on. The gorge narrows, almost makes us think that someone carved it with a chisel in the rock, gradually narrowing to about 3 meters. As we cross the next falls - the second and third also not very high, but the fourth and fifth already higher and deeper - it hits me like a punch in the head, what if we can't go any further, how do we go back? Jumping down is one thing, but jumping up is another. I'd already thought for a moment about turning around and going back, but I was afraid to look back, lest Edik see indecision in my eyes - even such small things can lead to panic, and in such a situation that would spell the end. The sky is almost invisible now, shining only through a narrow gap in the rock above my head. It is cold, raw, the water is deeper and deeper. When we arrived at the next waterfall, I looked stealthily back, then down, and it was clear that we could only go forward, there was no going back. This waterfall was the first in a series of terrible…


I chose a tactic that I then used for other waterfalls. I jump down below the waterfall, feel the bottom, remove rocks, including huge boulders. I pull Taran by the reins to the edge and, God forgive me (it was a good thing I was carrying a whip, a sturdy one), I hit him with the whip right over the "snowiest" places. Taran folds like an accordion, I push him and he's already flying down almost in a somersault. Everything is easier with Sokol, he is small and has no choice but to follow his partner. It looks like they are exchanging impressions - Taran is thumping his bass from below and Sokol is answering him with a weak voice from above. And so we continued on - right below the waterfall the water was deep, above one's head, but gradually it got shallower and shallower - up to one's chest, to one's waist, to one's knees - and then another waterfall ... and so on and on.
One of the next obstacles (about the seventh or eighth) scared me again - imagine a huge boulder, polished smooth by water, over which the water rolls to a depth of three meters. I brought Taran over: he stood, looked to see what was in store for him, laid his ears back and snapped his teeth in my face - his expression said it all. I brought him even closer and said to Edik: "Swing him across the ass!" Taran stands on his hind, scrapes his front hooves against a boulder, I nudge him and he's flying down. I've removed huge boulders from under the waterfall before. With Sokol it is easier again - he is like a child, he clings to me, ears drooping, he still manages to whistle and already down below he is snorting water.

There was one more scary place. I literally performed a stunt, but even if you pointed a machine gun at me, I wouldn't repeat it. In retrospect I don't understand that I was capable of it, but at that moment there was no time to think - any hesitation, any stopping would have been the end. Imagine a narrowing corridor 1.5-2m wide, the water rushing between the rocks, the channel turning slightly, followed by a waterfall, under which the water is deeper again, with a rock sticking out of it, sharp as a fang. I have cleared the bottom of the river below the waterfall again - this is now standard - I am standing on a stone tooth and pulling Taran towards me from below. Edik swings at him from behind, Taran leaps at me, I throw him off me and wriggle out from under his feet. The surprisingly massive Taran completes the acrobatic stunt without a problem, while Sokolik stumbles with his hind leg on a sharp rock.

We went through about 12 or 14 similar waterfalls, each with its own surprise, I remember each one, although I am not able to count them exactly. The horses resigned themselves to their fate and understood the need to obey 100%. What is interesting is that I had no side thoughts in my head, purely full concentration on the task at hand at any given time. At that moment, I wasn't thinking at all about the fact that if we got stuck somewhere, no one would help us because no one would even find us - that didn't cross my mind until much later. I doubt that I could have unhitched and picked up the horses in any other circumstances. After all, Taran weighed at least 350 kg. And it wasn't just pushing him away, I was actually lifting him on my shoulders. I didn't feel pain at that moment, cold - even though the water was icy. My shirt managed to dry on me in the short 10-15 minute breaks between dives under the falls.
The last waterfall, perhaps the thirteenth, surpassed all the others. When I saw it, I thought again that this was the end. It was 5-6 meters high and there were huge boulders sticking out of the water at the bottom. To jump down meant certain death. But God exists, and though he had every right to punish me deservedly, he took pity on the innocent horses and the boy and extended a helping hand. I looked around and noticed that the gully was widening slightly and there was something like a path in the rock at the top left, very steep, rising at an angle of 30-40 degrees, about 3-4 metres long, gradually widening and seemingly biting into the rock face. What is further on is not visible. In that rock wall, about 20 m high, a black rectangle can be seen - the entrance to the adit. This eventually served as evidence for the suspicious shepherds - few of the local people knew about it. In the past, gold was mined here and people were lowered to the adit by rope from the top of the rock. So I said to Edik: "This is our only chance to save ourselves - we'll try to climb up the rocky slope and then we'll see."
For the first time in my life I saw a horse crawling like a dog. I never thought a horse could do something like that.
Taran looked at me for a long time, flapping his ears and pricking his teeth as if to say, "Aren't you an asshole? What have you invented again?" Well, imagine: Edik from behind swipes Taran across the tender spots, Taran stands to the left and literally digs his front hooves into the rock. I'm supporting him and swinging him across his stomach at the same time.


Taran makes several incredible jumps to a platform that was not visible from below. It then leads down a steep slope. But back - Taran is standing on the platform and I repeat the same thing, but in a more subtle way, with Sokol. Sokol doesn't resist, the chic crawls up on his own. And from here on everything is easy - or rather easier, but in the light of what we have been through .... We literally ride down the steep slope on our asses, scraping off everything we can. We cross a stream, climb up a hill and wherever the trail went, there the trail went. We follow it, the gully widens. We're saved!
The interesting thing was that when we climbed the hill, we saw that we had to go a few more turns on that mountain path to finally get out of the narrows. And so, as it turned out, what appeared to be a clear time saver from the top of Chimgan was just an illusion. We gained nothing in terms of either time or mileage savings, but we did learn a very harsh lesson. Again, I repeat - there was no way I wanted anything like this. But it happened, whether through my stupidity or other causes, and we had no choice but to deal with it as best we could to get out of the trap. A big thanks to the horses - they did not resist, they did not panic, they dealt with the obstacles with all their horse power, like a mountain goat or a leopard. They did not kill us, although they undoubtedly had the right to do so, if only in an instinctive reaction of self-preservation.
And finally, we are coming out of the narrows in front of which the collective sheepfold stands. A man peeks out of a tent and hears our movement. If you could see the look in his eyes, it's not as if he saw a pair of horsemen, but a pair of dinosaurs. He disappeared and the next thing you know, two people have appeared, discussing something animatedly, staring at us and gesticulating with their hands. Only when we had already passed them after greeting them did we hear "Where are you coming from?" To our answer they said, "That's impossible, it's impossible to come from there." But what got me the most was Edik, who never spoke a single word during the entire journey: "I thought we would never get out of there." At that moment I realized everything, I got chills and then sweat poured from head to toe.
And what happened next? We approached the camp and I said to Edik, "Edik, if you say anything to anyone, I'll cut out your tongue." He was silent for a long time, and then he said, "I still don't understand what happened." We arrived, saddled up and got the horses, and sat down to the fire, just in time for dinner. I asked Lena: "Do we have any alcohol?" She says, "We have vodka." I say, "Pour it. A big drink." I drank it in one gulp. Edik is watching me, so I ask him: "You want one?" He nods. I pour him a big drink too. He falls into it without blinking, and he's a boy who doesn't drink at all. I ask Lena for another shot, we both throw it in and keep drinking, but there's no more vodka.

The hunter comes and sits with us by the fire, and then he comes to me and asks quietly, "Ashir-eke, the shepherds came to me and asked how did you get to the gorge?" I look puzzled. "They have dogs, very sharp, no one can pass by them. And you didn't come from their side into the gorge - so how did you get there?" I couldn't answer, so I told him how it all went. He didn't believe me. I described a lot of details, including the entrance to the adit, he shook his head, but still didn't believe me - you simply can't go through there.
And how did the horses feel? As we approached the camp, we could hardly hold them. And I expected them to be tired to death. No way. They showed no signs of stress, they ate well, the wound on Sokol's leg healed in a few days. What else can I add: that this extreme ride completely surpassed all the other rides I had done with Akhalteke (Kushka, Moscow, Aravan). We learned so much about them, only now I understood what the horse's energy means. What a real warhorse looks like. That fiendish descent from Chimgan was just the final chord that confirmed the incredible abilities of the Akhal Teke horses. But even what the horses did throughout the week cannot be called a normal performance. Every day we had an incredible load, ascents, descents ... But I am repeating myself.


Ashir Murshiev was great supporter and promoter of Akhal Teke breed. He as a rider participated in endurance rides like Ashgabad-Kushka, Ashgabad-Moscow, Tashkent-Aravan and Chimgan. He died after long illness on February 15th, 2020.

R. I. P. , Ashir ....

Ashir - April 2011 Ashgabat - telling about his Chimgan adventure.

Photo Yulia Kuznetsova

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