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Turkmen President Wins Horse Race As Country Marks National Horse Day

Turkmenistan's authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is known for his love of horses. (file photo)

Turkmenistan has marked its national Horse Day, an annual holiday celebrated with particular enthusiasm by authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

State media reported that Berdymukhammedov, who holds nearly absolute power in the tightly controlled Central Asian country, rode the winning horse in a race held to mark the holiday on April 29.

The race took place at the Equestrian Sports Complex near Ashgabat as part of nationwide events to celebrate the Turkmen Horse Day, which culminated in an annual horse-beauty contest.

Berdymukhammedov is known for his love of horses and has authored books on the national Akhal Teke horse breed, which is revered in Turkmenistan.

In 2011, he decreed that a beauty contest for the country's thoroughbred horses should be held in Turkmenistan annually on the last weekend of April.

Authorities in Turkmenistan, which activists and rights groups accuse of stamping out free speech and tolerating no dissent, unveiled a giant golden statue of Berdymukhammedov on horseback in the capital in 2015.

The statue was seen as a sign of a growing personality cult celebrating the authoritarian leader, one comparable to that of Berdymukhammedov’s eccentric and ruthless predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in in 2006.

Berdymukhammedov narrowly escaped serious injury in a horse riding event in Ashgabat in 2013, when his horse fell after crossing the finish line, throwing him in front of other horses which only just missed him.

With reporting by
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