Turkmen leader orders annual horse beauty contests

A Turkmen soldier rides a white Akhal-Teke horse during a Victory Day parade rehearsal on Red Square in Moscow, Russia on May 2, 2010. Akhal-Teke horses are also popular in Russia

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Turkmenistan's president has issued a decree that beauty contests should be held every year for the country's thoroughbred horses.

The decree by President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov will see horses of the ancient Akhal-Teke breed take part in a competitition every April.

The best horses of the breed will be picked "to promote the glory of the heavenly racehorse worldwide", it says.

President Berdymukhamedov enjoys broad powers in the Central Asian nation.

The leader of the former Soviet republic is also reportedly known for being a competent horse rider.

Best carpet prize

Akhal-Teke horses are often given as gifts to foreign leaders and feature in Turkmenistan's national emblem, according to Reuters news agency.

The breed is distinguished by its glossy coat, long neck and legs, and famed for its speed and stamina.

Turkmenistan is the only former Soviet state in Central Asia where eating horse meat is strictly taboo.

The national competition will also include an award for the best carpet featuring the horse, the best "holiday attire" for the breed, the best portrait and the best scupture.

In 2004, the country's former president, Saparmurat Niyazov, opened a $20m (£12m) leisure centre for horses, complete with swimming pool, air conditioning and medical facilities.

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