Gudrun Waiditschka, Editor in Chief of Arabian Horses In The Focus, is a respected journalist and horsewoman who has been actively involved with the Arabian horse her entire life.
Walking down the tree-lined avenue towards the iconic Clock-tower stable in Janow Podlaski, you breathe history. I’ve always loved to be here as I love both Arabian horses and history, and especially the history of Arabian horse breeding. Right now, we are witnessing another chapter in Arabian horse history unfolding – but I would rather prefer not to…
As a teenager, I had a favourite book: Erika Schiele’s “The Arab Horse in Europe” in which she described the history of Arabian horse breeding in each European country. Great emphasis was put on the state studs and one could locate them on a map. “If only I could go there once in my life”, I was thinking as a twelve-year-old kid.
Since then, I have visited most of them, including the Polish State Studs Janow Podlaski, Michalow and Bialka. Not just once, but many times. At the same time many of the State Studs in other countries have been closed down (Yeguada Militar / Spain), have been privatized (Chreneovoje and Tersk in Russia) or fallen into oblivion over time (Bábolna / Hungary), mainly because they were not competitive enough in the ever changing world of Arabian horse breeding. The Polish State Studs – up to now – are different. Not only are they profitable, their breeding products have defined the standard, have gained the highest merits possible in the show rings worldwide while at the same time preserving a 200 year old legacy.
Now, all of a sudden, the world famous studs Janow Podlaski and Michalow have been “decapitated”, they have been deprived of their “brains”, of their leaders. I have seen this type of change in leadership in other state studs before (e.g. Hungary). As we all know, changes may be for better or worse. However, if a stud is at its climax of success – can it get any better with new leadership? I am afraid not. It would be difficult enough to maintain it at previous heights.
Don’t worry. The decline will not come overnight, as there are skilled people in the studs, who will take care of the horses on a daily basis. The breeding plans for this year are made. As for the auction – just put the best horses for sale, and you will have a satisfying result. To select which horse shall go to which show, will be the first challenge, but here you can rely on the “old champions” and the public will be happy to see them again. Even international co-operation will still be an option, as there will be plenty of breeders offering their second-class stallions for free – I’ve seen all this happening before… The real problems will start with the breeding plans for next year… and in four or five years you can see yourself according to the economic figures, whether to sack the most brilliant minds and skillful breeders we have in Arabian horse breeding was a good idea. Unfortunately, it will be too late…
But there is one more aspect, that moves me even more than the predictable demise of the State Studs. It is the personal tragedy, imposed on Marek Trela, Jerzy Bialobok and Anna Stojanowska. I know all three for 15-20 years, and I can truly say that I have never met any more dedicated people, their jobs were their lives – or vice versa. To accompany Marek Trela on his morning round through the stables at 5.30h, when he recalled the story of each horse, explaining why this foal came up to his expectations, another not quite, are amongst my most treasured memories. Together with the late Izabella Zawazdka, these people have shaped my image of Poland, as I am sure is true for many others. They do not deserve to be sacked in such a manner.
Of course, with their expertise and reputation, they will find new employment, if they wish so, but their rightful place is in Poland, in Janow Podlaski and Michalow, to continue their work which inspired so many other breeders worldwide.