The Budyonny (bood-yaw-knee) was named after Marshal Budyonny, one of the most famous Bolshevik cavalry commanders of the Russian Civil War (1918-1920). The Budyonny was created originally to produce enduring cavalry horses to compensate for losses sustained during the 1st World War. The Budyonny breed was developed through a very selective breeding program of crossing the Don and Chernomor mares with Thoroughbred stallions. The Anglo-crosses infused with some Arabian were again crossed back to Thoroughbred stallions. The Budyonny was refined in later years, developing an elegant type of horse with stamina and endurance beyond question and yet maintaining a calm, sensible temperament.
The Budyonny is known to perform well in dressage, cross-country and jumping. From the beginning they were developed through selection and grueling testing on the racetrack and on cavalry equitation courses. A horse of multiple talents emerged. Years later the need for the sport horse brought about the refined horse that we know today as the "golden horse." The inherited sheen appears on not just the stallions, but mares and geldings as well. They stand from 16h to 17h and are well balanced and compact.
Eighty percent of Budyonnys are chestnut, often having a golden sheen, which is a throwback to the Don, and the remainder are bay or brown.
Temperament and Disposition
Since the Budyonny was bred as a military horse, the breed is extremely brave, spirited and willing. Off the battlefield, these assets make it ideal for steeplechase. The Budyonny is a horse of quiet temperament and disposition.
A Russian cavalry charger was intended to be a fighter, one that could cover 100 kilometers a day for several days in a row, and at the end of a hard day's march have enough energy left for battle, i.e., for a 5-6 kilometer gallop charge. Before 1941, the Budyonny was thoroughly tested for those qualities, but of course the ultimate test of the breed was World War II. The Budyonny passed with flying colors, and proved to be a formidable war machine. During the war Russian cavalry units had to cover up to 600 kilometers in 4-5 days with limited supplies and minimal rest. Officers' horses were subject to even higher burdens. When allowed several days of rest Budyonnys 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 Budyonnys were tested in a 200 km ride at +40 degrees Centigrade. On completion of the ride they were put through a controlled gallop followed by rigorous vet checks, with very satisfactory results. In 1950 a 24-hour test ride was performed for Budyonnys. A six-year stallion, Zanos, covered 309 km in 19 hours while other entries showed slightly smaller mileage. The Budyonny thus makes a good endurance partner, especially for heavier riders.
The Breed's Name
The breed takes it name from Marshal Seymon Budyonny (1883-1973), a major Soviet cavalry commander. Budyonny personally supervised all the aspects of the breed's development. When the Marshal's last name was translated in to English, a number of alternative spellings have been used, including Budyonny and Budenny.
Current Breeding Program
After cavalry disbandment in the USSR in 1953, breeding of the Budyonny became more sports- and race-oriented. Overall, more Thoroughbred blood began to be added. Budyonnys have been widely used in classical equestrian sports, with spectacular success. One Budyonny, Pinkest, was an Olympic champion.
From the Thoroughbred the Budyonny has acquired its elegant appearance and agility; from the Don it has received substantial bone and an undemanding nature. The Budyonny has grown significantly in size and substance over the years, primarily as a result of the infusion of Thoroughbred blood. Since 1952, for example, the average measurement for stallions at the withers has increased by over 8 cm. Most specialists concur that the breed has now reached optimum size. The 1999 measurements in centimeters for stallions were 169.9 (withers), 198.7 (girth) and 21.5 (cannon bone), and for mares 166.5 (withers), 196.2 (girth) and 21.0 (cannon bone).
1. Budennovskaia poroda loshadei (The Budenny Horse Breed), 2000; M. I. Kibort, A. A. Nikolaeva, VNIIK (All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of the Horse)
2. Edwina J. Cruise, Professor of Russian, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts