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The Budenny The Budenny
The stallion Simvol (Sagar - Ivolina), b. 1947,

An improved Don horse.
Spirited & enduring, robust & undemanding.
Competition jumper & steeple chaser.
Advanced educational horse

The breed is a good example of the Russian approach to the horse. By centuries-old Russian standards a horse should be a real all-rounder: good under the saddle and when hitched into a carriage. And so the Budenny is a Russian-style universal half-bred horse, bred as a perfect charger for Russian cavalry officers. Now it is bred for sports, racing, and as a light-draft horse.

The breed is fairly young. Systematic work on its development was begun in 1921, when after World War I and the devastating Civil War the country found itself in need of a good remount horse for cavalry. The breed was officially registered in 1949.

The Budenny has the conformation of a typical riding horse. It is tall and rangy, robust and sturdy, well boned and muscled. It has a clean, medium-sized and properly set head with a direct profile. Jaws are well developed and widely separated. The poll is long. The neck is long and highly set.
The withers are high and fairly long. The back is relatively short, wide and even, however some flatness near the withers is quite common. The loins are wide, 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 boney and clean with well defined joints and tendons. The pasterns are of normal length and slope. The hoofs are correct and hard.

Average measurements of Budennys
Stallions Mares
Height 165 163
Body length 168 168
Chest girth 188.7 188
Bone below the knee 20.6 20.4

Eighty per cent of Budenny horses are chestnut, often having a golden sheen, which is a throwback to the Dons. Bay and brown horses are found otherwise.

Temperament & disposition
As it has been bred as a military horse, the Budenny is extremely brave, spirited and willing. Outside of the battle field, these assets make it ideal for steeple chase. The Budenny is a horse of temperament and quiet disposition. Some individuals may be a bit difficult with strangers.


A good Russian cavalry charger was supposed to be a fighter, one that could cover around 100 kilometer a day for several days in a row, and at the end of a hard day’s march have yet enough energy left for an attack, i.e., for a 5-6-kilometer gallop charge.
The Budenny was thoroughly tested for those qualities before 1941, but of course the acid test of the breed was World War II. The Budenny passed it with flying colors, and proved to be a formidable war machine.
In the war the Russian cavalry units had to cover up to 600 kilometers in 4-5 days with the scantiest of supplies and minimal rest. Officers’ horses were subject to even higher burdens. When allowed several days of rest Budennys restored quickly. It is safe to say that the breed met the toughest of requirements imposed on a high-class cavalry mount.
After the war several endurance rides were conducted. In 1946 a group of Budennys were tested in a 200-km ride at +40 degrees Centigrade. On completion of the ride they were put though a control gallop and rigorous vet checks. With most satisfactory results.
In 1950 a 24-hour test ride was performed for Budennys. A 6-year stallion Zanos covered 309 kilometers (19 hours of ride), other entries showed slightly smaller mileages. The Budenny thus makes a good endurance partner, especially for heavier riders.

Although the Budennys have many qualities common to all of them, breeders differentiate and cultivate several intra-breed types.
Massive type.
Large, massive, and somewhat rough. A well developed bone structure and robust constitution. Sturdy and undemanding and absolutely suitable for herd keeping. Also good in carriage. Especially valuable are those with elements of oriental typiness.
Oriental type.
More elegant in oriental style. Light and fairly smooth shaped. They feature a fairly strong constitution, but in comparison with the massive type are more demanding in what concerns feeding and keeping conditions. As a rule, they have a gold sheen of a chestnut or bay color.
Medium type.
Fairly massive but rangy, with fairly good legs and shoulders. Well muscled and athletic. They suggest more Thoroughbred influence, and are faster.

The success of the Budenny breeders rests on the three whales: good and ample foundation stock, careful selection, and most rigorous testing and culling.
The breeders drew heavily on the rich experience of earlier Cossack breeders. At the same time, they enjoyed all kinds of support of the Government. They had at their disposal all the stock and supplies they needed, the best Don mares and Thoroughbred stallions, superb food and veterinary resources.

The region where the Budenny was produced is a zone of traditional steppe horse breeding — the Don steppe and the Northern Caucasus, exactly the place where the world-renowned Don horse has emerged. The Don steppe was a vast open space with arid healthy climate, and a high agricultural potential. The breeders were Don and Kuban Cossacks, a race of skilled riders and breeders.

The major task of the breeders was to produce a good mount for cavalry officers, who needed a much better horse than troopers. An officer’s horse used to have more work to do, because an officer used to commute from the head of a cavalry column to its tail, to do errands of the high command, and so forth. Therefore, his horse had to be fast, enduring, and undemanding.
Also the horse had to be easily controllable and sure-footed, because in action both of the rider’s hands could be occupied, and he would have to quickly shift the mass of his body (See Jighitovka). At the same time, the horse should have a high survival potential in battle and on the march. It had to be fairly independent to be able to make critical decisions itself, so that the rider would concentrate on strategic tasks. Needless to say, the horse had to be very brave and spirited.
The Budenny The other task of the new breed was to serve as an ameliorator of other steppe breeds. The Don horse, although a renowned Cossack charger, could not meet the demands of improving other breeds. The industry needed a higher horse with a better conformation. The potential ameliorator had to enjoy the benefits of the two worlds: that of the Dons, with their sturdy conformation, huge survival potential under most unfavorable weather and nutrition conditions, ability to be kept in herds, and that of the Thoroughbreds, with their speed and movements.
It had also to be produced inexpensively and with a predictable quality.

The breed's name
The breed takes its name from Marshal Semen Budenny (1883-1973), a major Soviet cavalry commander. Budenny personally supervised all the aspects of the breed’s development.

Past experience
The breeders analyzed the past experience of the Don private breeders who had also attempted to produce an improved steppe horse. They failed.
One reason was that smaller private Don studs could not afford a large number of expensive Thoroughbred sires. And so they tried to add some English blood through the mares, which was cheaper. It is common knowledge that the dam exerts more influence on the progeny than the sire. Therefore, even first generation progeny of Don sires and Thoroughbred mares were unsuitable for herd keeping. When put out, they showed very poor development and could not be used as a basis for a new breed.

The Budenny breeders followed another path. Because the Soviet regime allowed immense concentration of resources, they used good Thoroughbred sires on elite Don and Chernomor mares.

Foundation stock
The Budenny breed is based on Don and Chernomor (similar to the Don but lighter and smaller) mares crossed with Thoroughbred stallions. Kazakh and Kirgiz crosses were also involved, though less successfully.
Of the 657 mares used in the original experiment to produce the Budenny, 359 were Anglo-Don (a Thoroughbred cross), 261 Anglo-Don x Chernomor, and 37 Anglo-Chernomor. These mares were put to Anglo-Don stallions, half-breds that are regarded as the breed’s foundation stock. When Thoroughbred characteristics were insufficiently pronounced in mares, they were re-crossed with Thoroughbred stallions.

Especial attention was paid to choosing suitable sires. In Thoroughbreds the breeders were looking for massive constitution, good conformation, and speed. All in all, about 100 sires contributed to the breed, although only four appeared to have been successful: Simpatiaga, Svetets, Inferno, and Kokas.

Initial testing and culling
The young were broken at a year and a half. Most of them were raced on the flat, older horses were also tested in long-distance rides.
To work out good movements and paces and to identify the most productive horses, stallions were ridden for a long time. The best horses from the studs were sent to the army to be used under officers and students of the Budenny Higher Cavalry School.
After comprehensive testing, about 10% of mares and 5% of stallions were returned to the breeding program. They had to be high, of massive bone and muscle structure, orientally typey, have good movements and chestnut color with a golden sheen. Depending on type and quality of the young, various conditioning methods were used. This enabled the young to be developed in a required direction and to produce outstanding sires and broodmares.

Rigorous selection
The production herds were made up of mares of the same type (see above), but selection was done individually for conformation, pedigree, performance, and quality of the progeny. Rigorous selection and culling were practiced at all the stages of a horse’s development.
Inbreeding was not used, in later decades it was used quite sparingly in certain lines.

Of critical importance for the development of the breed was a new method of keeping, namely a combination of herd keeping in the open steppe with very careful control of the feeding and other conditions. It is used ever since to breed Budennys and other improved breeds.
Keeping and conditioning were considered to be of extreme importance in developing an undemanding horse that could fend for itself in the steppe with only a limited added feeding.
To protect Budennys from storms and blizzards they were kept in the steppe near thick hedges, during especially unfavorable weather they were put into barns and given some hey, the yearlings were given some oats. In mid-summer the steppe is scotched by sun, and the horses need much water. They have to be brought to watering places three times a day, thus covering more than 25 kilometers a day. To protect them from mosquitoes and horse flies, the herds are grazed “against the wind” and on hills.
It was found that such reasonable exposure of the young horses to the elements all the year round toughened them. The foals grow fast and become sound and healthy mounts.
A further advantage of this method is that it is quite cheap.

Current breeding program
After the cavalry was disbanded in the USSR in 1953, breeding of the Budenny became more sports- and race-oriented. Overall, more Thoroughbred blood began to be added. The Budennys have been widely used in classical equestrian sports, with spectacular success. One Budenny, Pinkest, was an Olympic champion.

Steeple chase potential
The toughness and gallantry of the Budenny make it a good steeple chaser. Budennys have taken part in many Parbubice steeple chase meetings, most of them were placed and one, Priboy, was a winner. The steeple chase potential of Budennys was assessed by Jenny Pitman, a prominent English steeple chase trainer, when she visited Russia.

Troika, the ultimate Russian horse resource centre All the information and photographs for this section were kindly provided by Troika, the ultimate Russian horse resource online. For further information on Russian horses and horsemanship please click here

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