Denise Hearst, Publisher, Arabian Horse World, USA

Marek Trela at Janow
Marek Trela at Janow

Poland, Why We Should Care

By Denise Hearst, Publisher
Arabian Horse World

February 24, 2016

As of this writing, just a few days after we heard the news that two Polish Stud Directors had been fired — Director Marek Trela of Janów Podlaski, Director Jerzy Bialobok of Michalow, as well as Chief Arabian Horse Specialist Anna Stojanowska from the Agricultural Property Agency — we still don’t know exactly what led to this day, or what the future holds for the studs. They were replaced by persons with little or no experience with Arabian horses in what can only be termed a reckless and irresponsible decision.

Many of us were attending the Scottsdale show when the news broke, and it was all we could think about.

We know that the Directors feared this day, as the threat of privatization of the studs was never far away. We also know they were brave, swimming every day against the tide. As Director Trela said recently, “I would have never believed that our Polish Arabian State Studs, that survived two world wars and communism may get shut down in times of democracy and freedom.”

In a 1999 article published in the Washington Post, there was a foreshadowing. “In a country where the post-communist privatization of state industry and agriculture is an article of faith, Janów Podlaski is an untouchable state farm, protected by the wealth of its history and central to the continuing prestige of the Polish horse in the world of Arabian horse breeding. Even as the Polish state moves to privatize most of the 32 state-owned studs and 13 stallion depots, it has explicitly excluded Janów Podlaski and two other stud farms that specialize in Arabians.”

“‘If Janów was privatized, which is really unthinkable, 200 years of excellence in breeding would be washed away,’ said Director Trela. ‘This is one of the few places, perhaps, that you can say with certainty that it should never be privatized.’”

“For a number of years, Trela and others here were worried that private investors would tempt the new democracy with a cash offer and snap up Janów Podlaski … But with the state’s commitment this year to maintain the stud as a national trust, Trela is anticipating a successful and peaceful new century. ‘For the first time in our history there are no real threats,’ he said. ‘I expect democracy to be good for Janów, and if it is, the Polish breed will still be flourishing when the next century turns.’”

If only that were so today.

The studs represent centuries of Arabian horse history and breeding wisdom. They were, we thought, enduring structures — all upended with the stroke of a pen. There seems to be no democratic outlet for the deep passions the stud farms aroused. No fair hearing for these men. News that Trela has been replaced by a politician who has never bred a horse, and Bialobok replaced by a young woman with some experience breeding Malopolski horses, intensifies the confusion and dismay we feel.

We lovers of the Arabian horse took succor from the studs’ existence, and from the directors’ decades of service and the continuity of their programs. Because these stud farms could do what no private breeder can — maintain forward momentum for, in Janów’s case, 199 years.

The directors cherished and preserved not only contemporary lines, but what some might consider to be less fashionable sire and dam lines, knowing that sometimes a breeder must reach back to the past in order to move forward. In that way, the studs were our libraries, our security that the diversity of the breed, in this little corner of the world, at least, was safe.

Who else, where else, does such a situation exist? Perhaps El Zahraa? Marbach?

We can only guess at the anguish the directors are feeling today. Given orders to pack their belongings, to leave their life’s work behind, to say farewell to their horses, missing the foal crops soon to arrive — perhaps the last to carry their imprimatur.

Maybe it’s all a bureaucratic snafu. Maybe we’ll wake up tomorrow and all will be set right. We can hope. We can sign petitions and send letters to unfeeling legislators in Warsaw offices. Here is the link: https://www.change.org/p/reinstate-anna-stojanowska-jerzy-białobok-and-marek-trela. We can agitate. We have received news of a demonstration scheduled for this Saturday in Warsaw.

In quiet moments we can think about what these horses mean to us. We close our eyes and wonder if there is there anything as soul-stirring as the entrance of those grey mares of Poland in the senior mare classes? That’s when we felt a shared sense of rapture with other members of the audience, as the beauty and lovely spirits of those horses filled our eyes and hearts, making us feel grateful that such a thing as the State Studs of Poland existed.

Last August, we gathered under the oak trees at Janów Stud and enjoyed the annual breeding parade. Director Trela told us little stories about each horse, sprinkled with a breeder’s insight … and love.

For example, of Pogrom’s dam, Petla, he said, “Every stallion we try her with she gives the best of him. She is not a spectacular mare but she is a very good broodmare and takes good care of her foals. She is special for me.”

Of a mare that had sold at that year’s auction, he said, ruefully, “She is shown here for the last time. It’s sad for me but it’s life. But her daughter will stay and that’s killing the pain for me.”

And finally, the family of Algeria (Celebes x Algonkina) arrived. One by one, eleven mares were led into the ring. “This is what can be created from one little Celebes daughter if the breeder will just believe and trust,” Trela said.

One by one, they exited, and Al Jazeera (Kahil Al Shaqab x Alhasa) was brought back and turned loose, a red ribbon braided into her mane.

Then he said, “When I look at mares like this, I understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”

Unfortunate and epochal events are sweeping through the world these days, and I’m afraid we’re seeing one unfold in Poland right now.

We should all care about that.

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