Jeffrey Wintersteen, USA

Marek Trela and Palmetta, Polish Nationals 2015, photo by Stuart Vesty
Marek Trela and Palmetta, Polish Nationals 2015, photo by Stuart Vesty

Jeff Wintersteen is a breeder of Arabian show and race horses, writer for Arabian Horse World, and expert in Polish Arabian breeding history

February 25, 2016

In August 2010, just before the Friday night Pride of Poland preview, a violent thunderstorm tore through the stud, toppling a tree and flattening the temporary barn used to house sale horses from Michałów and private breeders, pinning them and some grooms inside. A security guard was keeping the guests inside for safety, and it took a moment to convince him that I could help. Once free, I sprinted around the corner for my first glimpse of the chaos. At the center was Director Trela, emerging from the partially flattened barn leading a horse and shouting orders. Trela handed off his charge and quickly dove back into the barn. I followed after him, but soon realized that I was as much hindrance as help, not understanding the Polish orders and there was no time to translate for the lone American. I quickly took on another role, spending the next twenty minutes holding two mares in the lashing rain, thunder, lightening and wind.

Amazingly all horses and humans escaped unscathed, but new lodgings were needed. With the power out, and in utter darkness, a drenched procession snaked through the stud to the open barn of Woroncowska. Safely under a roof, we still could not let the stallions, colts, fillies and mares loose. I waited in the deep straw, surrounded by darkness and the familiar smell I love so much. Occasionally my mare would put her muzzle on my neck and I could feel her warm breath; her way of saying, “are you still there?” After an hour, power was restored and her groom came for her. I regretted handing over the lead, my handing sliding down her back as she was led away. I had been devoted to Polish horses since before my first trip in 1995, now I was just as devoted to their people. As for Trela, I would follow him anywhere.

Like Stu, I am also angry, especially with Poles and non-Poles who equivocate on this issue. It is like standing before that collapsed barn and saying, “Maybe it will be better for the horses? We should wait and see.” Whether conspiracy or idiocy, neither is forgivable. And if I am honest with myself, I am also afraid: afraid for the horses, afraid for my friends, and afraid I will never set foot again in what has become such a special place for me. That said, I know where I stand. Please stand with me.

Photo by Stuart Vesty – Trela and Palmetta in 2015

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