The Budenny Horse (pronounced “bood-YAW-knee”) is one of Russia’s most popular and versatile native warmblood sport horses.
Depending on the translation from Russian, this breed is also spelled Budyonny or, less commonly, Budonny or Budennovsky.
Colors: Chestnut, Bay and Brown.
Height: between 15.2 and 16hh.
Conformation: Tall and rangy, robust and sturdy, well boned and muscled, medium-sized and properly set head with a direct profile. Jaws well developed and widely separated. Long neck and highly set.
High, fairly long withers. Relatively short back, wide and even, however some flatness near the withers is quite common. Wide loins, medium length and muscular. The croup is usually long, of normal slope and width.
The shoulder is of medium length or long, and well sloped. The ribs are long and oval. The legs are bony and clean with well defined joints and tendons. The pasterns are of normal length and slope. The hoofs are correct and hard.
Character: brave, spirited and willing.
Uses: Jumping, dressage, and driving.
After the massive casualties of World War I, the Russian cavalry was heavily depleted and in need of remounts. Marshall Semyon Budonny, a Soviet cavalry general, undertook the task in 1921 with a grand vision of creating the ideal cavalry officer’s horse. The resulting horses were used in Russian cavalry divisions during World War II and after.
Years before in wars with France, Don horsemen hired by Russia chased the enemy across rivers with limitless daring. Their horses were a steppe breed born and raised on the unforgiving steppes of northern Russia. They were called Don horses after the culture that cultivated them.
Budyonnys were bred from a cross of local Don and Chernomor mares and Thoroughbred stallions. The Chernomor (also known as the Tchernomor or the Cherkassky) is a type of Cossack horse similar to the Don, although smaller.
They are descendents of the horses raised by Zaporozhian Cossacks, and were first bred around Krasnodar, north of the Caucasus Mountains. During the first round of breeding for the Budyonny horse, blood from Kirghiz and Kazakh horses was also used, but the progeny was found to be not as hardy or conformationally sound, and later the Budyonny was used to improve these two breeds.
The first Budyonny horses were known as Anglo-Dons, and the best were inter-bred, with the foundation stock for the Budyonny selected from their offspring. The foundation stock consisted of 657 mares of Anglo-Don, Anglo-Chernomor, and Anglo-Don/Chernomor crosses. These mares were crossed with Anglo-Don and Thoroughbred stallions.
In 1948, the breed was officially recognized. In the Rostov region, government-guided stud farms crossed Don and Anglo-Don mares with Russian and European Thoroughbred stallions to improve the look, speed, and conformation of the Don. Because foals inherit over 50% of their looks and temperament from their dam, using native mares helped to preserve the integrity of the steppe horse.
The Budenny Horse possesses a highly trainable and intelligent mind. Known as one-person horses, they bond with their handler as befitting a breed destined to be a soldier’s partner. The Budenny needed to be easily controllable, sure-footed, brave, spirited and able to make independant decisions for itself so that its rider could be otherwise occupied.
After the close of World War II and the disbanding of the USSR Cavalry in 1953, the Budenny was transitioned into the role of sporthorse. In Russia, it is well known as an exceptional showjumper, and endurance races are regularly run to test for the quality of young stock.
Budennies have been known to perform well in jumping, dressage, steeplechase, and eventing. They are also used as light carriage horses.
The Budenny Horse possesses the unique physical attribute of being able to recover faster from hard exercise and with a lower pulse rate than the average horse. This makes them exceptional candidates for sport and is testament to the rigorous athletic standards that base stock were subjected to.
Worldwide, there is an estimated total population of 2,500 registered Budenny horses. The breeding population is reckoned by the number of mares, of which there are around 600.
Today, there are three distinct Budenny types:
- Typical: Horses which optimally combine the qualities of the Thoroughbred and the Don. They are large, rectangular, good bone, well-developed muscles and a dedicated work ethic.
- Eastern: These horses show a strong influence from the Don. They are characterized by a smoothness of lines and roundness of form with an original beauty and elegance of appearance, especially in combination with a golden shade of chestnut, brown or bay.
- Massive: Of an extremely large size, these horses have deep, big ribs, and a torso of extended format. They are characterized by a simplicity and roughness of form. These horses, along with those of the typical type are also associated with playfulness in demeanor.
Crossbreeding with thoroughbreds and Arabians is allowed in the registry, but there is a total amount of 5/8ths blood of Thoroughbred or Arabian allowed for foals to be considered for registration with VNIIK as full Budenny horses.
Thoroughbred crosses should result in offspring of a Typical type. Arabian crosses should result in a more Eastern type, with elegance but without compromise to the Don influence. Under this 5/8ths rule, there are specific color restrictions in terms of the broodmares or sires used in a cross to a Budenny:
- Thoroughbred – Solid colored. Chestnut and bay preferred; no grey.
- Arabian – Chestnut or bay only.