Press conference in Warsaw, February 29, 2016, Anna Stojanowska, Jerzy Bialobok and Marek Trela, with several veterinarians contributing.
[This is a summary, not a transcript. Big thanks to Joanna Podhorodecka for doing this!]
Marek Szewczyk opened the discussion by introducing the speakers, who called the conference to address the charges made against them by Waldemar Humięcki, President of Agricultural Property Agency. Journalists received a written statement addressing the charges.
TVN 24 asked about the dismissal procedure. On Friday 19.02 Stojanowska was invited to Sutkowski’s office, who in a raised voice informed her that there were serious charges against her and she was to be dismissed for disciplinary reasons. Later that day disciplinary dismissal was changed into a regular release from employment. At the same time officials were sent to the Studs, to inform the managers of their dismissals. Białobok was in Warsaw at the time. On Monday, when the new manager arrived, he showed her the grounds and handed over the stud accounts. The delegation that informed Trela of his dismissal included the new manager, Marek Skomorowski, who took the company car, the credit cards and the account tokens. Trela removed his belongings from the office and left for Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Addressing the charges made against her, Stojanowska explained that even if they were true, she was only an inspector and had no influence either on the management of the studs or the content of the agreements signed by their directors. She was charged with something she could not have done, as it was beyond her responsibility.
Marek Trela addressed the question of Pianissima’s demise by reading the account of the events made by the stud employees and the veterinary doctors’ statement. Pianissima was on show the day before and everyone could see she was in excellent condition. Trela left for Rome, where he received the information that the mare showed symptoms of colic. At 15.45 a stable hand observed the symptoms: Pianissima was lying down and rolling. She was given analgesic and relaxant medication, and when rectal examination confirmed colic she was immediately driven to the veterinary clinic in Warsaw, where the surgery started at 19.45. It revealed volvulus with substantial rotation and colon fracture. In consultation with Marek Trela, the decision was taken to euthanize the mare.
The veterinary doctors present (Prof. Marek Tischner, Janusz Okoński, Piotr Szpotański, Bernard Turek) confirmed that colonic volvulus is a serious and often mortal condition, which cannot be predicted or prevented from happening. If there is more than an hour from diagnosis to surgery, the chances of the horse’s survival are minimal. The surgery can only be performed in a clinic, by qualified personnel and cannot be attempted in field conditions.
The next question was the financial condition of the studs. There have been two governmental reports on that: one by the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) and the other by Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA). The reports have been published and both are positive. The most serious doubts concerned the fuel tanks at Janów, which needed maintenance, and the fact that the Stud did not charge for boarding the horses who stayed longer than agreed after the auction. This concerned specifically the mare Palabra, who immediately after the sale got her leg caught in the bars of her stall. The staff managed to free her without any further harm, but she needed surgery. To preserve the company’s good name, Trela decided not to charge the new owner for the board during her recovery.
Addressing the charge of lowering the value of horses, they explained that there is no accepted official procedure for valuing horses, and the price of a horse results from many factors, not the least of them being the potential buyers. The reserve price for the horses is often set an hour before the auction. Pianissima was never intended for sale and never given a specific price. When leased to US, she was insured for 600.000 euro. Setting the price, as the Agricultural Property Agency just did, is ultimately harmful for the market as it sets a limit for potential future transactions.
Stojanowska emphasized that under the management of Trela and Białobok the two studs brought profit every year, varying between 600.000 – 3.700.000 zlotys and largely depending on the results of the auction. Last year’s profits reached 3,2 million zlotys for Janów and 2,3 million for Michałów, not only due to the horses, but also the Studs’ other activities, like cattle. Other studs have worse results since there is no comparable market for their horses.
Białobok said that Michałów is a tasty morsel, with its 640 hectares of land, 400 horses, 600 cattle, 40 employees, new stables, facilities and equipment, but what is priceless is its breeding stock, which has brought the stud 21 Europe championship, 13 World championships and 11 US championships. He suggested that perhaps their successors would prove more successful, which was met with laughter from the audience.
In reply to the charges connected with lease contracts, Trela explained that they have been leasing horses for over 40 years and great care is taken to make such agreements beneficial to both sides. From the point of view of the horse owner the profit is twofold: leases are a large source of income as well as an effective form of promotion. Trela reminded the audience that it was the horses leased to US in 1970s that were largely responsible for the popularity of Polish Arabians.
Stojanowska pointed out that studs require specialists in head positions to manage their diverse activities, such as breeding, race-track training, preparing horses for shows and auctions. Szwedek explained that the stud manager decides not only about the finances, but also about the breeding program, often having to balance contrary goal: the need to retain the breeding stock and the necessity to make profit.
In reference to the charge of renting an apartment to himself, Białobok explained that the agreement was signed between himself as the tenant and the stud represented by head accountant. They have 10 apartments for employees holding specific functions which require their presence round the clock. The rent is average for the area and the same for all tenants.
The names of Dobrzański and Wójtowicz were brought up by one of the guests. Stojanowska answered that both are Arabian horse breeders and their customers, but beyond that she knew nothing of their activities. Trela mentioned that Dobrzański once inquired about the mare that did not sell in the auction, but did not pursue the topic when told the reserve price.
When asked about plans for the current breeding season, both directors admitted that such plans have been made and will be implemented by the new management, provided the stallions are still available.>/p>
The discussion moved on to embryo transfer. Professor Tischner explained that it is a well-established method in animal husbandry, a relatively simple procedure by which up to 5-6 embryos per season can be collected. It is harmless for the mare and has no negative effects on her future breeding career. Trela observed that the limit on one embryo transfer foal per mare that can be registered in Polish stud books was set due to marketing reasons, not for any health considerations. In the case of international leases, embryo transfer allows the mare to participate in shows and to return to the home stud earlier, without the necessity to wait for the birth of the foal. Stojanowska repeated that in Poland there are no legal regulations on flushing animal embryos, so any law-breaking is out of the question. The only limits concern entering embryo transfer foals into stud books.