For the enthusiasts of Arabian horses cheering on Polish breeding the Arabian Horse Gala 2017 (August 11-14th) was not an easy experience despite a beautiful 200 year anniversary of Janów Podlaski State Stud. For the first two days horses, presenters, organizers and the public suffered in the tropical heat and on the third – in rain and cold. But Arabian horse fans fared well with extreme weather conditions and can endure a lot. It was only the greatly disappointing Pride of Poland Sale that ended with the lowest result in this event’s history: 410 thousand Euro from the main sale (six mares sold) and 144 thousand from the Summer Sale (eight mares) that spoiled the mood. This inevitably raises the question whether the auction should be continued in such form. The organizers will definitely have to think over the selling of horses this way.
It seems that we have to get used to the fact that our recent national pride (Arabian horses) stopped being a pride to certain group of people – although it is the same group of horses. It is difficult to distinguish where those people are eagerly awaiting organizing mistakes and where they are provoking unfavorable situations for the event. This leads to one conclusion: it’s not about horses or concern about breeding, but a fight for lost power. “What has happened with Arabian horses in Poland is unfortunately our country in a nutshell”, said Anna Stojanowska (formerly of the Agricultural Property Agency) to money.pl portal and it is difficult not to agree with this. Also in other fields – almost all – there is a ruthless fight to get everything as it was before the last presidential and parliamentary election (2015) that have changed the political scene in Poland.
Two weeks before the National Show its organization was endangered, as the draft list of competing horses was leaked online. All who had a chance to see it realized that it was not a file ready for any publication, but waiting for correction (for example one of the fillies was placed among colts). How did it manage to find itself on of the subpages of the Pride of Poland website? The administrators of the website – Poznań International Fair – participated in the championships already for the second time, so they knew that the list cannot see daylight until a day before the show. As a result of carelessness or bad will (last year the Pride of Poland website was hacked) the entries had to be annulled and collected again, which greatly delayed work on the championship catalogue. In the end the catalogue was printed on time, but there was a lot of confusion and bad emotions.
Bad press was also heated by “fake news”. In case of the Pride of Poland the main fake news circulated first by “Świat koni” and later by other “friendly” media was the alleged plan to sell Pinga as Lot 0. The bogus info was probably a continuation of last year’s hysteria associated with the delayed return of the mare from her lease. However despite all efforts the spread of the news was limited to media owned by Verlagsgruppe Passau.
Later we witnessed a comedy regarding free passes called “invitations for honor guests”. The loudest were: a person representing a non-existing (since several years) magazine and seller of horse cosmetics… And the hostility of real media towards the Pride of Poland event truly surprised people from abroad following this situation. It was difficult for them to understand why Polish media are trying to destroy a signature event of Poland. Perhaps an answer to this question comes from many year French correspondent in Poland Bernard Marguerite, who told the weekly “Do Rzeczy” that “the media are more and more often becoming only a tool in the information war”.
Failure of the auction. Lots of guests, few buyers
There was no lack of people from the industry at Janów. There was the owner of Al Baydaa Stud from Egypt, Ahmed El Talawy, current lessee of Galerida; there was also Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani representing Al Shaqab Stud from Qatar. There was the long time cooperating with Polish breeders Christine Jamar from Belgium (Jadem Arabians). There were also the long awaited guests from China. The organizers stated that 30 people registered for the sale (44 last year, which shows a drop by 30%). The best clients were buyers from Romania, who last year made successful purchases and returned to the sale this year to buy. Who was missing apart from Mrs. Shirley Watts? Very noticeable was the absence of Tomasz Tarczyński and his Iranian group, rather active during previous sales.
The bidding, unlike other parts of the program, began with a half hour delay. Perhaps it was due to final testing of the electronic bidding system, which technically worked seamlessly. But already during the first horse it turned out that electronics slow down and “dehumanize” the bidding process. Increments of two thousand Euro in case of a horse that achieves over a 100 is a true lesson in patience. What’s worst is that the prolonged biddings most often did not lead to selling – either way the horse returned to the stable without achieving its reserve price. After two hours we were only in the middle of a drowsy auction with no end in sight… After more than four hours only six horses were sold. The lack of spotters in the ring, which have direct eye contact with the clients, did not help. The auctioneer, Michał Romanowski, did not see the faces and could not read their intentions – for him these people were just numbers. The bidding was therefore mechanical, without any emotions. In short, instead of fun there was boredom and finally torment of the guests, eagerly awaiting the auction’s end.
Everything shows that the valuation of the horses failed, just like last year. If we’re not offering huge stars, but decent broodmares, then the prices must be adequate. Not accepting some of the offers must have caused a surprise.
It all began rather well, because Gerda from Michałów, offered as Lot 1, was sold for 36 thousand Euro to Al Baydaa Stud. However the second in line, Janów’s Etira, walked off the arena unsold, although the bidding for her, step by step, reached 45 thousand Euro. This cooled off the natural emotions accompanying the beginning of the sale and caused consternation among the buyers. The mare, apart from one medal from St. Petersburg, cannot boast more show successes or any breeding achievements. As a daughter of Etnologia she definitely has a huge breeding potential, but cannot be considered a star. It seems that this mistake was costly, because that is the moment when the event came to a halt. There were no buyers for Psyche Victoria from Chrcynno and the owners’ expectations were high – the auctioneer started off from 100 thousand Euro. With Anawera (Lot 4), a five year old show mare who already has one filly on the ground and is in foal to World Champion EKS Alihandro, the bidding slowly took off – and after a long and tedious road to success achieved 110 thousand Euro. The price was offered by guests from Romania. Unfortunately there was only one buyer interested in Michałów’s Laranda (Lot 6), so he would have had to bid against himself. In previous years there would probably have been an “anonymous buyer” from Down Under to bid over the phone. But this way the 50 thousand Euro was too low to have the horse change owners. The buyer wanted to negotiate after the sale, but the president of Michałów Stud decided to offer her at a different time. Falborek’s Eksterna (Lot 7) returned to the stables unsold; while El Dorella found a buyer from Sweden for 47 thousand Euro. Then came out Prunella – and it was her who became the auction’s record seller, although this record is “just” 150 thousand Euro. Her bidding was not fierce, rather weary – a characteristic of the electronic system – but she did reach a reserve price. Prunella went to Suweco Stud of Nina Suskevicova of the Czech Republic. Is such a price for a three year old show champion high or low? At a recent auction organized by Giacomo Capacci in Villa Passerini near Cortona (Italy) the highest price was also 150 thousand Euro, offered by buyers from Israel for this year’s Reserve Champion from Scottsdale and Las Vegas, Arwa Aljassimya.
The auction continued and subsequent mares left the arena unsold. Only Pianissima’s granddaughter Pimenta was purchased for 42 thousand Euro (Great Britain) and the granddaughter of Pipi, Polana, achieved 25 thousand Euro. That was the end of any selling during the Pride of Poland 2017.
Some of the buyers set their minds of purchases at the Monday Summer Sale. But even then the interest was lower than expected – only 8 of the 29 offered horses were sold. After the sale Białka closed off on two transactions, thanks to which three horses will go to China – Janów’s Alsara and Białka’s Peluza and Emrisa. The highest sold horse at the Monday sale was Michałów’s Elgazonda (29 thousand Euro), won by Christine Jamar from Belgium. Two other Michałów horses (El Empiria, 23 thousand, and Zenga, 15 thousand) will go to Romania. The most touching moment was when for 12 thousand Euro Mrs. Anna Janas-Naze purchased Białka’s Hulina. The Polish breeder did not conceal her happiness. “My horse life has turned full circe”, she wrote on Facebook. “We welcome Hulina to our family, from the damline of my beloved late Herold!”. Such moments show that this “fun” can have a deeper sense.
And so the highest amount from selling horses was collected by Janów Stud (Prunella and Anawera are this year’s record holders; in all Janów sold 5 horses). The most horses were sold by Michałów (seven). Białka found buyers for 3 horses among the five offered. The least successful were the private breeders – only one horse changed owners, for the lowest price of both sales (Echo Bey Karima, 5 thousand Euro).
Efficiency suffered due to transparency
It is difficult to not ask why despite an intensive and properly aimed promotion potential buyers did not come to Janów? Definitely a result of “bad press” that could scare off those less resistant or calling for boycott. Scaring clients with a prosecutor is also not a good way of promoting Polish breeding. At least we were spared the exalted claims of “saving horses”… Either way it seems that the most that suffered were the private breeders, though it is not their war. Similar to the play of Max Frisch “The Arsonists” (1953) – a capable businessman living in a city full of arsonists believes that being nice will spare him trouble. He is disillusioned in the fire, but then it is too late…
But the list of causes of the failure of this year’s auction is longer and they are not just inner reasons. There are competitive auctions, saturation of the market (Middle Eastern studs such as Al Shaqab once came for breeding material to Poland, now they organize auctions themselves with hundreds of horses); the spread of embryotransfer due to which there are several foals from one superb mare per year.
There are several conclusions. First of all, a fear of accusations of selling out the most valuable breeding material stood in the way of the auction offer being more attractive. There were too few magnets on the list to stimulate the imagination of buyers. Conservative decisions did not bring success, especially since it would be best to counteract the intimidating of buyers by giving them an offer to fight for.
Second, the passivity in defending last year’s sale, which was not a failure, took its revenge. Its result placed it in the middle of the table. But the opponents of the event not only imposed their narration but also caused guilt in the organizers due to alleged violations, still under investigation by the prosecutor as notified by the “total opposition” and former president of Janów Podlaski, Marek Trela. Telling the public opinion that there was a crime (when in fact there was not) is sawing the branch you’re sitting on. Undermining the integrity of the auctioneer from a year ago also did nothing positive for the sale. The auction is an element for the brave. This courage was not here – and that’s how the one of its kind innovative bidding system came to be. It provided transparency of the auction, killing off all spontaneity, bidding speed and atmosphere of this event. You don’t need to have foresight to know these machines will be gone next year. As farrier Radosław Mojsym said in an interview for “Duży Format” (Gazeta Wyborcza): “This business has its cheats. Horses at markets will always be sold before dawn”. Transparency is a great virtue, but when you sell dreams – and that’s what it’s all about – the machine will not replace a person who knows his job.
Despite many adversities the organizers owe the failure also to themselves. It’s not enough to set up glamorous tents, the buyers should be cared for. If this is not taken care of, then you are working against yourself. Surprising is the wide smile of former Michałów director Jerzy Białobok (although he did not win Anawera), who after the auction appeared to be the happiest person in the room. He immediately walked towards the team of TVN, known for “cheering on” the Pride of Poland. Because he is also sitting in this wobbly boat of the Arabian business. The boat has not yet sunken, but has taken on a lot of water.
As we found out next year we can expect even five different auctions in Poland (two state stud and three private ones). So if there will be no auto reflection then the situation can become even more complicated, for all participants of this war. A collective suicide of the entire industry will take its toll also on the “trolls”, though none of them has their own horses.
And what conclusions will the Pride of Poland organizers draw from this year’s failure? We will see in a year’s time.
(Net prices in Euro)
Pride of Poland 2017
(24 offered mares and 1 stallion)
Prunella 150 thousand Czech Republic
Anawera 110 thousand Romania*
El Dorella 47 thousand Sweden
Pimenta 42 thousand Great Britain
Gerda 36 thousand Egypt
Polana 25 thousand Poland
Summer Sale 2017
(29 offered mares)
Elgazonda 29 thousand Belgium
Demeter 23 thousand Namibia
El Empiria 23 thousand Romania
Fermata 22 thousand UAE
Alsara 15 thousand China
Zenga 15 thousand Romania
Hulina 12 thousand Poland
Echo Bey Karima 5 thousand Poland
Europia sold after the sale for an undisclosed sum to Romania
Peluza sold after the sale for an undisclosed sum to China*
Emrisa sold after the sale for an undisclosed sum to China*
*not picked up
You can find the whole coverage of the Polish Nationals and the Pride of Poland Sale here: