A picture taken on September 27, 2018 shows Ak Khan, an Akhal-Teke breed steed, taking part in a parade marking the 27th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence in central Ashgabat. Image Credit: AFP

Aashgabat: (AFP) Long treated as a national celebrity, the favourite horse of Turkmenistan’s former president is to be immortalised with a personal statue in the gas-rich Central Asian country.

The Akhal-Teke breed of horse enjoys a prominent role in government propaganda in the former Soviet nation and Ak Khan - whose name means White Khan - was the prized stallion of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who stepped down in March after 16 years in power.

On Monday, state newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported that Berdymukhamedov’s son and successor, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, had approved the monument in the province of Akhal outside the capital Ashgabat.

The monument will “increase the glory of the Akhal-Teke horses - the national pride of the Turkmen people,” the paper cited a presidential decree as saying.

Berdymukhamedov, 64, stepped down stating a desire to allow “younger leaders” to govern. His only son subsequently won a snap election in March, beating rival candidates.

The former president is known by state media as Turkmenistan’s “protector” and remains head of the upper house of parliament.

In 2015, a golden monument portraying Berdymukhamedov atop Ak Khan, a dove on his wrist, was unveiled in the capital.

Berdymukhamedov took power in 2006 after the sudden death of Saparmurat Niyazov, whom he served first as his personal dentist and later as health minister.

In 2018, Ak Khan, whom Berdymukhamedov claims to have reared personally, won a Guinness World Record for walking 10 metres in 4.19 seconds on his hind legs.

In 2017, he bore a rider who lit the flame of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games - a relatively obscure sports competition backed by the Olympic Council of Asia.

Turkmenistan hosted the games with much pomp.

In March 2021, the then president was shown visiting the stables where Ak Khan’s foal was born. The strongman named him “Ashgabat” and wrote a song for the foal.

A month later, Serdar replaced his father as chairman of the national horse association.