There are only few stallions bred in Poland that have managed to become World Champions. Specifically, it was accomplished by: Gondolier in 1982, Fawor in 1983 (junior stallions), Piruet – twice (1989 and 1993), Ekstern in 2000, and Morion 2015 (junior category). This year, Michałów’s Equator (QR Marc – Ekliptyka/Ekstern), “always second” before, joined the gold medal club. He is an experienced show horse that has been competing for the “crown” several times already, and won a silver medal in Paris three times. Finally, there’s the success awaited for years!
Success at home, success abroad
This is what professor Krystyna Chmiel says about his show career in Poland: “Equator was heading forward from one victory to another. As a yearling (2011) he won his class in Białka and Janów, and he was also awarded a Res. Champion title in Białka, second only to Janów’s Pomian (Gazal Al Shaqab – Pilar/Fawor). It was similar when he was two years of age. He won in his age group, and was recognized as Junior Champion Colt at both shows.
Equator is also Polish National Champion (2012 among junior stallions, 2014 among senior stallions) and three-time winner of the European Championships (2012 as junior, 2014 and 2015 as senior). “Having returned to show grounds in the older age classes, Equator never stopped winning because, in addition to his typey head, he also has a horizontal topline and dynamic movement, with a suspension phase and high tail carriage”, professor Chmiel explains. “In 2014, he won the Polish National Senior Champion title in Janów Podlaski, with a difference of .34 pt above Pogrom, a bay stallion from Janów, 2009 (QR Marc – Pętla/Visbaden), which had just returned from his triumphant march across the American rings, where he received the most prestigious American trophies, but he could not withstand the mental pressure and experienced a burnout. Instead of presenting a nice-looking trot, he was climbing time after time, and as a consequence Equator, showing a more balanced behavior, not only won in this class but also the Senior Stallions Championship.
2016 was a year of success for Equator in the United States, from where he returned as Scottsdale International Breeders Classic Champion and Las Vegas Breeders World Cup Champion. In addition to his good appearance, Equator has a well-balanced character, which I have already mentioned before. At Michałów, which is his home stud, he was very popular among riders because he was kind when saddled, and he worked so perfectly with handlers at shows that after his victory (with the highest score of the show at 93.67 points) at the 2018 World Championship in Paris, his delighted trainer Raphael Curti kissed him on the muzzle and neck. Before the spectacular victory at the World Championship, Equator won the European Championship at Lier, preceded by a Res. Champion title at the All Nations Cup”.
This is what Raphael Curti says about kissing Equator: “For sure Equator is one of the sweetest stallions I ever met. The kiss in Paris was a mark of affection, especially that he is my first world champion.”
The path to gold
“In autumn 2017, together with director Maciej Grzechnik, we were thinking about planning for Equator’s further career, as last December he was finishing his two-year lease to the United States”, says Hanna Sztuka, breeding director at Michałów Stud at that time. “There were two options available: returning to Michałów, or continuing his career abroad. Despite the enormous hassle and pressure (obviously via the Internet), we decided that he should continue his career outside Poland. Although he “only” won a silver medal in Paris in 2017, we believed Equator was capable of winning the gold. The decision to put him into the hands of Raphael Curti, a trainer who was still young but already very experienced and devoted to his work with horses, seemed to be obvious, based on our very successful cooperation on the promotion of Galerida. The decision also turned out to be justified. The Al Sheikh Stud, owned by Mohamed Sheikh Suliman, became the partner in promoting Equator in 2018”.
Hanna Sztuka explains that the lease of Equator was different from those encountered at Michałów before: “Together with our partner, we created a new formula, through which we were able to take advantage of Equator’s appearances abroad to promote the new Al Sheikh Stud and the Michałów brand accordingly. At the Middle East shows, Equator represented Michałów and appeared under the Polish flag; at the European shows, Equator represented Al Sheikh Stud, appearing under the Israeli flag”.
“The reality about Equator is that he was shown by so many people, so many times… When he arrived at my farm my goal was to make him as happy as possible. I believe the horse is a bit sick of all this showing. All his life he has been in training, so my team and I tried to balance it and give him horse life and going out while keeping him in training. It’s a very intelligent horse that knows the show ring almost too well, so yes, we understood each other from the beginning, but it was all about balancing”, Raphael Curti reveals.
“The appearances of the Michałów horses in spring 2018 in the Middle East started with the Sharjah show, where Equator won the gold medal, following an exciting battle against Eden C”, Hanna Sztuka remembers. “It was Equator’s great performance. He presented all his advantages: the perfect movement, the extremely correct conformation, and this masculine charisma, enabling him to dominate among stallions. The Polish national anthem we could hear at the awarding ceremony was a unique event in the history of the show. Thanks to Equator, Emandoria and Galerida, the championships were truly dominated by Michałów, like those held three weeks later in Dubai”.
As we remember, Equator had to give way to E.S. Harir in Dubai. This is what Hanna Sztuka says about that event: “This was when the fierce competition started, which continued until the end of the year, closing with Equator’s strong victory in Paris. There were some concerns about Equator being able to withstand such a long show season, yet they turned out to be unfounded”.
“Equator in Menton had an allergic reaction just before the show and it was a very difficult situation for us, whether to show him or not, so after a dialogue with the Michałów director and with the leaser we decided to try and he was good although not great. And for sure it was not our day. To prepare him for the greatest success in his career was about the balance between him being in his mind, the most happy possible and it’s really all about him showing himself to his best ability, Raphael remembers.
Hanna Sztuka: “The work Raphael has done with his team, and the care they offered to Equator, let the horse remain in perfect shape until his last show in Paris; indeed, Paris was where he reached his peak moment. Like in sports training, the important thing is to get your best form at the right time, not a month earlier or a week later. The love and care Equator got from Jennifer Von Dahn, his personal caregiver, made him always calm, relaxed, keen on showing himself to the public. Equator is an extraordinarily balanced horse that knows exactly what people expect of him. As he enters the ring, he immediately “lights up the fire”, yet he is attentive at every moment, watching his trainer carefully. He doesn’t show any emotions at ceremonies, only complete relaxation. He knows he’s earned it. He’s done his job, and that’s it.”
This is how Raphael Curti talks about the Paris performance: “I participated with Equator in many shows this year and for sure Paris was the most memorable one. The Paris performance I believe was one of his best, especially in the championship. Equator is what we call “a class horse”, he gives all his best in the class, that’s way he is always winning his classes. Of course he is a very correct horse and he moves for 20s, but he was never a championship horse and he still is not. I believe the win in Paris was due to his performance in the finals, he moved again, he had a perfect stand up, he was really happy. Was it easy then? Absolutely not! But we did our best and we were hoping to win but we knew it was going to be a very difficult, very deep competition. I believe that day was the Equator day. He outshone his competitor”.
“I must acknowledge my team of people that is behind me – without them nothing would be possible. People see only the trainer and this is 10 or maybe 20% of the work. I especially want to give credit to Jennifer Van Dahn who has been from the beginning “the lady of Equator”, since he arrived in Privilege. She loved him and cared for him”, he adds.
Source of success: E-line is holding up tight
This is what professor Chmiel writes about Equator’s female line: Janów has its P-line, and Michałów has the E-line. It dates back to Estokada 1951 (Amurath Sahib – Saga by Hardy), a chestnut mare, brave yet not very sophisticated, Oaks and Criterium Stakes winner, with the best Coefficient of success of 4.44 in her year that, when paired with the right stallions, could deliver the first European Champion in 1973 – Estebna 1961 (by Nabor) and her full sister Eskapada 1960, who started a dynasty of champions of both sexes. They both started their own sublines at the Michałów Stud. Equator comes from the first of those sublines, through the following bloodline: Ekliptyka–Ekspozycja–Esperanca–Espaniola–Esencja–Estebna. Interestingly, they were not extraordinary show mares. The importance of individual selection comes up here! A different history was recorded for the 2018 Platinum World Champion, formerly the World Senior Champion Mare in 2013 and Junior Champion Mare in 2005 – Emandoria 2004 (Gazal Al Shaqab – Emanda by Ecaho). Her dam also became the World Champion in 2001, and there were Champions or Res. Champions of Poland (Emisja, Emigracja and Eskapada) in each of the backward generations (Emanacja–Emigracja–Emisja–Espada–Eskapada), as well as European Champions and All Nations Cup Champions (Emanacja), and the winner of the US Nationals Top Ten – Espada. All this was accomplished within the straight bloodline only, while the number of champions among side lines would be so enormous that this publication would be short of space. The pairing of a E-line mare with QR Marc, bay stallion, 2005 (Marwan Al Shaqab – Swete Dreams/Magic Dream), from Saklawi I strain, famous sire of show winners, yielded an extraordinary result in Equator.
Professor Chmiel points out that Equator started his breeding career early, as a three-year-old: 16 foals by him were born in Poland in 2014 (10 fillies, 6 colts), followed by ten in 2015 (4 fillies, 6 colts) and four in 2016 (2 fillies and 2 colts), not only at his home stud of Michałów but also at private breeding. Some of them were distinguished at shows: Dong, bay, 2014 (out of Demeter) – winner of 3-year-old stallions class in Janów 2017; Kwarc, grey, 2014 – 2nd Res. Champion of yearling colts, 2015; Pontia, bay, 2014 (out of Polonica) – Res. Champion of yearling fillies, Białka 2015, first in two-year-old mares class at Białka 2016; and the best of those, Dastan, bay 2015 (out of Dama Pik) – Yearling Champion Colt, Białka 2016, winner of yearling colts class in 2016, Janów, bronze medal among junior stallions at Białka 2017, aged three – Junior Champion Stallion at the Marina di Pietrasanta (Italy) International Show.
Equalion, a bay stallion 2015 (out of Evolett), born at Zalia Arabians, won the Kauber Platte Junior Stallions Championship as a two-year-old; at the moment, he is a sire at his home stud. Equator passed on him the beautiful, dry head with a dishy profile, large eyes and nostrils.
Hanna Sztuka concludes: “Now we have the long awaited return to Michałów, where Equator will fulfill his duties as a sire at home. What next? In 2019, the first foal crop out of Equator’s daughters will be delivered at Michałów, which will be a true test of his breeding value. I am waiting for it with great attention.”