Scott Benjamin, international judge and breeding advisor, is known worldwide for his work with the Polish studs and his fervent promotion of Polish Arabians everywhere.
GUARDIANS OF THE POLISH ARABIAN HORSE
During the late workday hours of Friday February 19th Central European Time, a crime of incalculable magnitude was committed, not only against the Polish Arabian horse, but the Arabian breed worldwide. In one fell swoop, the three leading experts and chief stewards of the Polish Arabian breeding program were dismissed from their positions of authority and influence by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture: Dr. Marek Trela as the President (Director) of Janow Podlaski Stud, Jerzy Bialobok as the President (Director) of Michalow Stud, and Anna Stojanowska as the Chief Arabian Horse Specialist in the Agricultural Property Agency. Not since Nazi tanks rolled across the Western Polish border on the morning of September 1st, 1939, has the fate and survival of the Polish Arabian horse been more in jeopardy or grave danger.
Most encouragingly, the vast majority of the Arabian horse community worldwide has reacted with shock and disapproval, while standing united in support of the State Studs, the Polish Arabian horse and the universally respected leaders that were unjustly removed from their duties. From inside Poland, the opposition to these irrational removals has been the loudest and most vehement, with defense for the people, horses and programs arising from every sector of influence, including private Arabian owners and breeders, respected media personalities and journalists, regional politicians and community leaders, and Olympic equestrian athletes.
Amidst all the furor, confusion, finger pointing and debate, one single truth remains poignantly and painfully evident: the future of the Arabian horse in Poland is at risk. Yes, the staff at each of the studs – grooms, breeding managers and the like – are still in residence and doing what all Polish caretakers do best: taking absolutely superlative care of the Arabian horses in Poland, day in and day out, 24/7/365, through the best times and the worst. But by removing the existing leadership at both Janow Podlaski & Michalow, as well as the government inspector/liaison in Agricultural Property Agency, the sitting government in Poland has done what NO other governing party has EVER done since the establishment of the State Studs almost two centuries ago: played politics with the Polish Arabian horse – the National Treasure of Poland and undeniably one of the country’s most iconic, recognizable and universally respected brands.
Through centuries of turmoil, atrocities and hardship, the Polish Arabian horse has miraculously and courageously survived implausible odds, the national program and reputation rebuilt from a mere handful of horses cobbled together after World War I, and again with a slightly larger group of purebreds that managed to survive pillaging enemy armies, wartime occupation, and an arduous evacuation through hostile battlefields in World War II. In the 20th century alone, these horses, and the Polish Arabian breeding program, have survived the destruction and devastation of Bolsheviks, Nazis & Soviets, as well as almost half a century of oppressive Communist control. To now find the fate of the Polish Arabian horse in its greatest peril within the free and democratic environment of 21st Century-European Union-member Poland as the result of rash, reactionary and imprudent actions from a handful of vindictive bureaucrats, is the most tragic and unconscionable outcome imaginable.
The men – Marek Trela & Jerzy Bialobok – and woman – Anna Stojanowska – dismissed in Poland last week were not just government functionaries in a position of management, nor bureaucrats filling their latest appointment. These men and this woman are the living, breathing, day-to-day hard-working, action-taking Heart and Soul of the Polish Arabian breeding program, the modern day master breeders and visionaries, the risk takers, the dreamers, the leaders: the Guardians of the Polish Arabian horse. For almost forty (40) & twenty-five (25) years, respectively, they have been singularly identified worldwide with the Polish Arabian horse, and are universally acknowledged as the leading authorities on not only the current state of the Polish Arabian breeding program, but the centuries long history and tradition of the Arabian horse in the Polish homeland.
Trela, Bialobok & Stojanowska are the 21st century stewards of the Polish Arabian horse, the chosen successors and custodians of a National Treasure that was envisioned, created, nurtured and responsibly propagated under the masterful leadership of the three pillars of the Polish Arabian horse: Janow Podlaski’s longest serving Director Andrzej Krzysztalowicz, Michalow founder Director Ignacy Jaworowski, and Poland’s greatest ambassador & Chief Arabian Horse Inspector Izabella Pawelec-Zawadzka. These late legends are undeniably most directly responsible for the unprecedented success and esteemed reputation of the Polish Arabian horse worldwide in the 20th century.
Today, in the new millennium, the success, respect and universal acclaim the Polish Arabian horse has earned and enjoys in more far-flung corners of the globe, and in more competitive endeavours than ever before, are unequivocally a direct result of the monumental efforts, steadfast dedication and life-long service of Marek Trela, Jerzy Bialobok & Anna Stojanowska. This exchange of wisdom, knowledge and experience from one generation of horsepersons to the next in the State Studs of Poland is unparalleled in the Arabian breed worldwide. Not only is the conscientious transference of knowledge directly responsible for the unparalleled success of the Polish Arabian horse over the last seven decades, it has positively influenced the breeding of Arabian horses around the world with inestimable progress and prosperity.
The Arabian horse belongs to the people of Poland. As the direct result of the efforts of centuries of dedicated horsemen and horsewomen, it is without reservation one of their national treasures. Beyond its influence domestically, this Polish National Treasure has also positively affected EVERY single country around the world in which Arabian horses are bred, and undoubtedly, nearly every Arabian breeding program of importance and significance worldwide. This was not by mere chance that the Polish breeding program has succeeded.
It has taken courage, vision and leadership from those closest to the horse over the course of the last century, namely Krzysztalowicz, Jaworowski & Pawelec-Zawadzka from the Second World War to the new millennium, and from the last two decades of the 20th century to the present day by Trela, Bialobok & Stojanowska. These uncommonly dedicated and passionately devoted men and women are, as stated earlier, the Guardians of the Polish Arabian horse. No people know these horses better, nor love and care for these horses with more devotion. Their selfless dedication to the Polish Arabian horse is their life’s work, not just a professional title that sits on a desk or hangs on a wall. Each of these three know ALL of the Arabian horses at Janow Podlaski, Michalow & Bialka intimately. They can recognize each by name, in the stables and in the paddocks, not only from by the way the look, but by the way they behave. This kind of intimate knowledge can ONLY be gained through years of hands-on experience.
Internationally, the names, faces, achievements and generous spirits of Marek Trela, Jerzy Bialobok & Anna Stojanowska are synonymous with the Polish Arabian horse, and for that matter, the country of Poland itself. It is in these leaders, these breeders and these stewards that the entire global Arabian horse community places their trust, respect and confidence. Just as with Krzysztalowicz, Jaworowski & Pawelec-Zawadzka before them, the worldwide Arabian horse community rests easier, endeavours more confidently and progresses more positively with the assurance that the Guardians they know, trust and revere – Marek Trela, Jezy Bialobok & Anna Stojanowska – are at the helm of our industry institutions – Janow Podlaski & Michalow Studs – and are responsibly and most capably guiding the Polish Arabian breeding program.
It is not just the positions and professional futures of Marek Trela, Jerzy Bialobok & Anna Stojanowska that are at stake in this political game of chess – it is the generations of knowledge, wisdom, experience and expertise that have been carefully and responsibly handed down from the last generation – Krzysztalowicz, Jaworowski & Pawelec-Zawadzka – to the hand picked and purposefully trained modern-day Guardians of the Polish Arabian horse: Trela, Bialobok & Stojanowska. Literally, fifteen (15) to twenty (20) generations of Polish Arabian horses live in the minds and breeding genius of these 21st century Guardians: detailed descriptions, recollections and vivid images of horses seen, bred, handled and stewarded by their predecessors, from whom this invaluable and irreplaceable knowledge was attained through decades of diligent study and labour.
It has been this transference of expertise and insight that has allowed Marek Trela to create his modern-day masterpieces of PINGA, BELGICA, AL JAZEERA, PEPITA & PIANISSIMA from Krzysztalowicz’s beloved PIPI, BANDOLA, ALGERIA, PENTODA & PILARKA, respectively. The same holds true in Michalow, where Bialobok has envisioned and produced WIEZA MOCY, GALILEA, ZIGI ZANA, PUSTYNIA KAHILA & EMANDORIA, from Jaworowski’s unforgettable WIZJA, GIZELA, ZAZULA, PLATYNA & EMIGRACJA, respectively. It is vividly manifest with Krzysztalowicz’s PEPTON & PENITENT in Trela’s POGROM & PIAFF, as it is with Jaworowski’s EKSTERN & ESPARTERO in Bialobok’s EQUATOR & GEORGETOWN.
The unwavering commitment to duty and responsibility towards each new generation within the Polish Arabian breeding program first fell to Izabella Pawelec-Zawadzka as Chief Inspector, whose job it was each spring to evaluate, score and either include or reject every single breeding specimen produced by the State Studs. Today, that responsibility belongs to Anna Stojanowska, who learned from the several generations of broodmares and stallions approved by her celebrated predecessor, and who now, can claim to have approved every single broodmare and breeding stallion comprising the current breeding programs of all the three State Studs. This evaluation and approval process not only affords an intimate knowledge of and hands-on interaction with every Arabian horse produced at the State Studs in the last two decades, it requires an uncompromising expertise on equine conformation and the millennia-old breed standard, as well as a circumspect view of not only where the Polish breeding program has been, but in which direction it is headed.
These men and woman are SO much more than just presidents of agricultural management companies or a specialist in a federal ministry. They are indeed the Guardians of the Polish Arabian horse, having been trained to be so by their legendary predecessors, and having earned universal respect, admiration and success through their own merits as breeders, judges, leaders and authorities in the global Arabian horse community. This unbroken line of purposeful mentorship, responsible stewardship and diligent guardianship that stretches back across almost 100 years of collective experience and endeavour MUST NOT be lost or sacrificed under any circumstance, for the good of not only the Arabian horse in Poland, but the future of entire breed worldwide.
You will not find, anywhere in the global panorama of the Arabian horse, horsepeople and professionals that are more dedicated to, more passionate about or more all-consumingly entwined with the Arabian horse, and its place of honour, prestige and permanence in Poland. Through every tragedy and triumph, celebration and sorrow, struggle and success, from the daily early morning inspections of every single horse in residence, to the late nights spent caring for an ill or injured horse, or comforting a mare enduring a difficult delivery, these remarkably humble, devoted and dedicated horsemen and horsewoman have been there: stewarding, guiding, protecting, promoting and defending the horses that are proudly, passionately, overwhelmingly and unabashedly “their lives’ work”. Like the extraordinary Arabian horses they have nurtured and created, they are indeed the Pride of Poland. It is a direct result of their efforts, as the conduit through which the wisdom, sacrifice, knowledge and experience of their legendary predecessors is expressed and realized, that we all enjoy the very best of this equine breed that has mattered more to humanity than other for almost five thousand years.
Speaking from a more personal perspective, I am in a very unique position to speak out and advocate for Marek Trela, Jerzy Bialobok & Anna Stojanowska. Not only have I professionally known these three universally renowned Arabian horse experts for the past 25 years (before any of them were granted their positions of leadership that were just last week unjustly and callously stripped away) I knew their legendary predecessors – Andrzej Krzysztalowicz, Ignacy Jaworowski & Izabella Pawelec-Zawadzka – in the same capacity. I have worked alongside each one on literally hundreds of occasions, in the stables caring for horses, at breeding inspections assessing the collective breeding program each spring and autumn, in transport trucks making the long journeys from Poland to the major shows of Europe, at events around the world positively promoting and raising international support and awareness for the Polish Arabian horse, in center ring during the Polish National Show while celebrating the success of the horses they have created and nurtured, and at ringside during the annual Pride of Poland auction working diligently to not only obtain maximum value for their beloved breeding stock but to find the right home in which their horses could thrive and contribute to the benefit of the breed long-term. I have laboured, sweated, debated, learned, strategized, planned, reflected, laughed, celebrated, triumphed, cried, mourned, suffered, endured, rejoiced, loved, lost and lived with each and every one of these exceptional human beings through the highs, lows and every day life of caring for, stewarding, promoting and guarding the past, the present and the future of the Polish Arabian horse.
These three people have selflessly given and willingly sacrificed the best moments, days, years and decades of their lives to the Polish Arabian horse, not for fame, nor glory, nor for personal financial gain, but for the well being, preservation and uninhibited advancement of a breed they have loved, respected and honoured in their every action and achievement. As a direct result of this uncommon dedication and unwavering commitment, the Polish Arabian horse is now more well respected, and more successful in ALL equine endeavours around the world than EVER in its 400+ year history. We must stand united, as an international community of horsemen and horsewomen, in resolute solidarity for these extraordinary people – for our peers, our mentors, our leaders and our friends – until this monumental affront to the future and security of the Arabian horse, not only in Poland, but especially worldwide, is corrected and the guardianship and leadership of Marek Trela, Jerzy Bialobok and Anna Stojanowska are once more restored at the helm of the Polish Arabian Studs.
Poland, and our beloved Arabian horse, need us NOW more than EVER…