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On the last Sunday of April, Turkmenistan celebrates the Day of the Turkmen Horse, Akhal-Teke.

The famous horse breed takes its name from a Turkmen tribe, the Teke.

This year, the country is sending an Akhal-Teke racehorse to take part in the Victory Parade in Moscow on May 9, the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Turkmens are very proud of their Akhal-Teke horses, which are known for their endurance and resistance to heat in desert climates.

The country even plans to host annual "beauty contests" for the horses.

Turkmens say the Akhal-Teke has been a horse of choice for many emperors, warriors, and other leaders for over 3,000 years -- including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, and more recently Georgy Zhukov, the famous Red Army wartime general.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, an avid horse rider himself, has authored a book called "Akhal-Teke Horses -- Our Pride and Glory."

While little is known about the enthusiasm for horse riding of his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, he was known for frequently giving away Akhal-Teke horses as presents to world leaders, friends, and friendly countries.

In 1997, Niyazov presented Hans Meissner, a German cardiologist with a horse that was reportedly worth $580,000.

Meissner, who had performed heart surgery on Niyazov, admitted to not being able to ride a horse.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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