...and on the eighth day, God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.
The Russian Kavkaz, or Caucasus, is a mountain region system in Southeast European Russia. This mountain system extends approximately 750 miles from the mouth of the Kuban River on the Black Sea, southeast to the Apsheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea.
Transcaucasia includes Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. North Caucasia, part of Russia, includes Chechnya.
The beauty of Caucasus is written about in Russian literature. Poetry and Tolstoy’s novels “The Cossacks,” and “Hadji Murad” are some examples. (1)
Legend says that the horses of the region were responsible for the creation of the Caucasus Mountains.
A very long time ago, it was said that these mountains could travel by themselves. One day, as they were moving about between the Black and Caspian Seas, they saw herds of beautiful, wild horses. These horses were so splendid that the mountains became enamored of them, and rooted themselves in the spot for eternity, thus forming the Caucasus Mountains.
The legend is true, somewhat, in that there are vast plains on the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, providing grazing area for a remarkable variety of horses.
The Russians have established a number of stud farms in the region, some of which are renowned internationally.
One such farm is the Tersk Stud, founded in 1889 by Count Alexei Stroganov on the edge of a spa town called Pyatigorsk., or “five mountains.” These days, the Tersk Stud is one of the most prestigious stud farms in the world for producing purebred Arabians.(2)
A few miles from there is the Stavropol Stud, which produces the best Akhal-Tekes bred outside their region of origin. They also breed high quality Tersky Horses, which were first developed on the Tersk Stud Farm.(3)
The Tersky Horse is a small, gray animal with strong Arabian influences, but at more affordable prices.
Between the cities of Krasnodar and Stavropol, the Soviet regime continued the tradition in the vast expanses of the northern Caucasus of creating several top-notch state stud farms. In 1920, they founded a Thoroughbred farm called the Voskod, or “dawn,” Stud, which produced the finest English style horses in the USSR, including the famous champion “Aniline.”
In the 1960's, a Trakehner and sport horse stud farm was set up within the Krasnoarmeiski (Red Army) sovkhoz or state farm.(4)
It was greatly admired by heads of state such as Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) and Leonid Brezhnev (1906-1982.) Russian Dressage champion Elena Petushkova also visited there.
The Arabian, Turkomans and Thoroughbreds are obviously not indigenous to the Caucasus region. The real Caucasion horses can be located in small republics bordering Georgia, where herdsmen still use them to round sheep and goats.
It is in this deep mountain area around Mount Elbrus that you find the pearl of Caucasus, the Kabardin Horse. (5)
This horse is the product of generations of line breeding as well as the blood of outside horses used in invasions. Those who favor the animal claim that none of the defects have been passed along, yet all of the good qualities have. It does have a good number of the good qualities of its ancestry.
Sturdily built, it usually stands about 14.3HH and comes in dark brown, bay or black, with a slight Roman nose. Its stand square and has a roomy chest with a short croup, making for an good pack animal. The Caucasus mountain dwellers use it for both riding and pack saddle purposes, but the Kabardin has mostly been replaced by Jeeps for traveling in the mountains.
Since it is bred and born in the mountains at altitudes of 8,200-11,480 feet, it has the vascular and respiratory systems of an equine athlete. Combine this with hard legs and feet and it becomes a tireless climber. It is a hardy, courageous and calm animal able to withstand wide varieties of weather and temperature.
Since it is extremely surefooted and an easy keep, it was much sought after by the Cossacks of the Kuban and Terek Rivers.
These days, since it is no longer the only means of transportation, it is in danger of extinction.
The Karachai Horse, similar in coloring and size, is closely related to the Kabardin and shares the same qualities and characteristics. In fact, the only real difference is in the name, derived from the tiny republic from which it is bred. (6)
The Karachai is bred in KarachayCherkessi and the Kabardin is bred in the republic of Babardin-Balkari.
The horses look similar to small Thoroughbred horses, with no dish in the nose.
The Orlov Trotter is the most beautiful and successful of Russia’s attempts at producing carriage horses.(7)
In the mid-eighteenth century, there were no good carriage horses, even though this was the only means of transportation within that vast country. The steppe horses were too small and European horses did not have the stamina to go long distances.
The country tried to create various types of light draft horses, but were not quite successful.
Count Aleksey Orlov (1737-1808) produced a trotting horse on his fabulous Khrenovsky Stud
which he built on the vast expanses of pastureland in the Voronezh region. Situated south of Moscow, it was given to him by Catherine the Great (1729-1796), whom he helped come to power, possibly by conspiring with the assassination of Emperor Peter 3rd.(8)
An expert horse breeder at his stud farm, Orlov skillfully crossed Dutch, English, Arabian and Dutch horses to create the Orlov Trotter, a breed of fastmoving and powerful horses.
The average height is 15.3HH with a roomy chest, hard legs and strong loins. For over two hundred years it has pulled many types of carriages across the length of Russia.
No self-respecting troika would settle for anything less between the shafts than an Orlov Trotter.
It comes in dapple gray, and has become a Russian national symbol. So revered was it that thirty years after Count Orlov’s death, Emperor Nicholas 1st nationalized the Khrenovsky
Stud, which still breeds OrlovTrotters to this day.
Ok, comrades, this kind of puts you in the mood for some Chicken Kiev, Borsch, and a side of Vodka, in a martini or even a Moscow Mule, a la copper pot.
Sipping mine, shaken, not stirred, with plenty of olives, to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”
1-8: “Horses,” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Jean-Louis Gouraud