Betty Finke, Journalist & Arabian Breed Historian, Germany

Why the chain of Poland’s Arabian Heritage Should Remain Unbroken

By Betty Finke

Poland is very fortunate to have the two most successful and universally respected state stud farms in the entire world.

State studs are the backbone of any breed, ensuring a continuity of breeding far beyond what any private stud farm can achieve. There are not many state farms for Arabian horses, and among them, Janow Podlaski is the oldest. For two centuries, it has protected the legacy of the Arabian Horse of Poland, whose roots extend back even further. It has survived the devastation of two world wars, has suffered several evacuations, massive loss of horses, and changing political systems. It has survived because, through all these upheavals, its fate was in the hands of men who knew what was at stake and who knew what they were doing. Each one of its directors learned from his predecessor as he grew into his role. This does not happen suddenly. It is a slow process, a process of learning — learning about the horses, their history, their characteristics, learning what is best for the breed, for the present as well as for the future. It takes years.

Michalow may not be as old as Janow Podlaski, but the heritage of its horses is equally as venerable and the same conditions apply. Here, too, the knowledge has been passed on from one director to the next, a natural progression that guaranteed nothing was lost.

Under Andrzej Krzysztalowicz and Ignacy Jaworowski, respectively, Janow Podlaski and Michalow rose to greatness during the 20th century. They bred horses that influenced Arabian breeding across the world, they created broodmare bands second to none.

Their successors Marek Trela and Jerzy Bialobok carried the heritage forwards into the 21th century. Under their stewardship, Janow Podlaski and Michalow have become top players in the global Arabian industry. This century has seen the renaissance of Arabian breeding in the Middle East and the consequent rise of the Arab countries to dominance in the Arabian show scene and industry. In all of Europe, only the Arabians from Michalow and Janow Podlaski have been able to stand successfully against their Middle Eastern competitors. They have been able to do so because their directors knew what they had to do and how to do it. By judiciously admitting new bloodlines, they made their horses competitive in the modern world, yet never losing touch with their ancient heritage. No matter what was added to the mix, the horses have always remained distinctly Polish Arabians, their roots tracing back to the old, consolidated families these stud farms have preserved for centuries.

It is a delicate balance to maintain. It is a task impossible to comprehend for anyone not familiar with the subject, much less to continue.
State studs depend on the goodwill of their governments as well as the capability of their directors. The former Russian State Stud Tersk, for many years itself a global leader, has sunk into insignificance, lacking leadership with enough vision to carry it into the future. Bábolna in Hungary once gave the world its own unique brand of Arabian, the Shagya. Ever since the Hungarian government replaced its director, it has gone through a series of directors and is barely heard of anymore. Back in the 1950s, the Egyptian state stud El Zahraa only escaped dissolution because one man stood up and pleaded for its preservation as a national heritage, on a par with the Pyramids. It survived, but has been struggling ever since, passing from one director to the next.

It is not one man standing up pleading for Poland’s heritage. It is the world.

Poland’s state studs have succeeded in maintaining unbroken continuity in Arabian horse breeding, which is reflected in their achievements today. Poland’s Arabian horses are admired, respected, and sought-after the world over, they fetch huge prices, they win championships wherever they are shown. Poland has won the All Nations Cup, the most prestigious prize in the Arabian show scene, so often now that it might as well stay there.
None of this would have been possible without the vision, the knowledge of the people who made the decisions. Janow Podlaski and Michalow are the only Arabian state studs in the world whose continuity has never been compromised. Until now.

By removing those who have made all this possible, Polish Arabian breeding has suffered the greatest disruption in its entire history. It is a threat every bit as serious as the last war. And why? Yes, there may have been mistakes. Nobody is infallible. There may have been too many embryos. But in view of the big picture, these things pale into insignificance.

If an important historical building had a slight crack in the wall – would the solution be to demolish the entire building? Placing the fate of a 200-year-old heritage in the hands of people who have no knowledge of it, would be courting disaster. Breeding Arabian horses is not a matter of bookkeeping, least of all at this level, when a national heritage is at stake. It takes commitment, knowledge, and vision. It takes directors teaching their successors, so that they may grow into their responsibility, just as they did themselves. To preserve the continuity and integrity of Poland’s national treasure, the Arabian horse.

With this in mind, I respectfully urge the Polish government to rethink its decision.

It is not yet too late.

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