Turkmenistan leader accepts honor of being named ‘People’s Horse Breeder’
Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov accepted a new honorific title, the “People’s Horse Breeder,” on Sunday at celebrations for the Day of the Horse in the isolated Central Asian country.
Strongman Berdymukhamedov, who has led the ex- Soviet country of 5 million people since 2006, was awarded the title during a weekend of equestrian events including a horse beauty contest.
Dressed in a traditional gown and a white lambswool hat, he accepted the honor and compared the energy-rich country to its signature Akhal- Teke breed of horses, renowned for their strength and speed.
“Our country is moving forward with the speed of an Akhal-Teke stallion and I call on you all to move forward and only forward!” he declared to a cheering crowd.
The crowd responded with chants of “Glory to the Protector!” using a popular title for the leader.
Berdymukhamedov’s love for horses is well- known. He is the author of a book on the Akhal- Teke breed and took Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on a horseback tour of a giant complex for 400 of the horses outside the capital Ashgabat last year.
In 2013, the Day of the Horse celebrations ended abruptly when Berdymukhamedov toppled off his steed seconds after winning a race and was immediately surrounded by black-clad security guards.
He was not seriously injured in the fall, clips of which have gained tens of thousands of views on YouTube.
This year Berdymukhamedov did not enter a race, but his grandson, Kerimguly, won a short horseback sprint.
The celebrations also included a horse beauty contest, which was won by a horse called “Neutrality,” a name reflecting the non-aligned republic’s official foreign policy.
The winners took home Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs and other Japanese and Korean-made cars.
The Day of the Horse holiday was started by Berdymukhamedov’s late predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, an eccentric dictator who renamed the months after members of his family and erected a golden statue of himself that revolved to reflect the sun.