I saw my first Akhal-Teke in 1986, when my husband and I were moving from Michigan to Washington State. I stopped off at Eberhard Sprandel’s farm in Colorado (it happened to be on the way!) and lost my heart. I bought my first Teke mare, Molnija, sight unseen later that year and have never regretted it. She died in 2006 at age 20, but left behind quite a legacy.
I bought my second Teke at the Sprandel Auction in 1990 and Mirija joined my herd. At this time, these two Teke mares were the only Akhal-Tekes in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986, I’ve ridden dressage, done some jumping, had a few children and I’m now participating in endurance.
In 1993, I bought several more Tekes and I was on my way.
Since then, I’ve had over 40 foals born at my farm, many of them by my now retired stallion, Astrachan.
Happily, my new stallion, Salam, is proving that he passes along his lovely disposition, great gaits and excellent topline and is adding a few foals a year to his legacy. My property isn’t all that large, and I keep tabs on all the horses I have sold as well as coddling my own retirees. These factors make me a very disciplined breeder, usually producing only 1 or 2 foals a year, but expanding the breed is no longer all on my shoulders. There are now about 100-250 pure and part-bred Akhal-Tekes in the Pacific Northwest.
Being a breeder is a big responsibility — the lifespan of the average horse is over twenty years, and they need a network for their future.
That means joining forces with other breeders to build an organization that doesn’t just market horses, but keeps owners and riders connected. This story from Darla Dickenson about Kamilishen, the filly she brought from me in 2008, and her young daughter Nola, at their first “water jump,” is a beautiful example of why we put so much time and effort into spreading the word about our beloved breed.
I started the first North American Akhal-Teke newsletter in 1995, The Akhal-Teke Quarterly and published it for 8 years. I hosted the First Annual North American Akhal-Teke Conference in Snohomish in 1995 and again in 2012. I have sat on the Board of Directors for the Akhal-Teke Association of America for many years. In 2012, I took over the ATAA Newsletter and am on the 6th year of my editorship. In 2007 a group of breeders (including myself) helped produce a DVD about Akhal-Tekes entitled “The Akhal-Teke” that won several awards for the company that directed and produced it, HorseFlicks.
Although I took some time off from organizing in order to focus on competing in endurance, I returned as ATAA Secretary in 2012. We now have a steadily growing membership, which allows for breed awards with organizations like the USEA and the AERC, as well as the Purebred and Partbred registries, our annual conference, a yearbook and a constantly developing website.
In 2010 I spearheaded an Akhal-Teke breed booth at the World Equestrian games in Kentucky, underwritten by the Akhal-Teke Breeders Co-Op, an alliance of North American breeders, owners and enthusiasts. This brought together people all parts of the country, and together with breed demos at a parallel event in Lexington, exposed the breed to tens of thousands of equestrian enthusiasts. That was quite an adventure – I wrote an article about the experience.
And in 2013, the ATAA helped raise the funds for a second Horseflicks film about the Akhal-Teke, this time focusing on the versatility demonstrated by the growing number of Akhal-Tekes in the United States. 2014 brought an opportunity to go global — I traveled to Turkmenistan for the ‘Day of the Horse’ – a chance to see the breed that has shaped my life in their native land, and to connect with the international community of Teke lovers.
It’s a long way from one lone Teke in 1986!
photo credits: top, Salam and Cathy Leddy by Karen Wegehenkel; others by Monica Bretherton