This year, the appetite for Białka was extremely acute. The breeders wanted to present their young horses again to an audience wider than just judges and officials after a one-year break; and the audience was hungry for a direct view of Arabian youngsters. After all, on-line broadcasts are only a substitute for a real experience. Defrozen pandemic restrictions meant that it was finally possible to go to the enchanting Białka Stud to meet all those who come to the Junior Arabian Horse Spring Show every year. Marek Romański, acting President of Michałów Stud, told me that during this year’s Białka he was most pleased with the presence of the audience.
The regulars of Białka know why the Junior Spring Show is such a unique event in the Polish show calendar. Arabian enthusiasts come to Białka not only because the June event is the inauguration of the show season. They are present there not only because of the first verification of the breeding choices made that have been made. The unique value of the Białka event is expressed in the concept of genius loci, which makes Białka a unique, almost magical place. This genius loci, that is, the elusive spirit of the place that surrounds Białka, cannot be artificially created, as this spirit is created by many years of tradition. The lack of perception of such subtleties was probably the reason for the unfortunate proposition from before the pandemic to move the Junior Spring Show to near Cracow. Let’s hope that similar concepts are irretrievably gone. Białka is for the Junior Spring Show what Janów Podlaski is for the National Show. 2018 has clearly shown that debating tradition brings dire consequences. So let’s enjoy Białka in Białka.
Fans of Białka are an international group. The world-renowned and appreciated show judge Koenraad Detailleur counts himself among this group. As he stated in one of the interviews for Tutto Arabi, the Junior Spring Show in Białka is one of the shows that he most willingly judges. This year he joined the jury panel once again. Koenraad, who is also a famous breeder from Belgium, likes Białka because as a judge he can see and discover very promising young Arabian horses that he has never seen before. Some of the yearlings presented in Białka often later win prestigious international titles. So it is one of those few shows where nothing is known or decided in advance. It should be emphasized that Białka Stud and its crew are professionals. Therefore, it is not surprising that the organization of the event was flawless, the musical setting based on universal evergreens raised the mood, and the unpretentious atmosphere without the use of publicizing officials favored the focus on Arabian youngsters.
The colts class inaugurating the championship showed a very disturbing phenomenon, which is the lack of Polish stallions in both state and private breeding. In short, the Saklavi I male line completely dominated Arabian horse breeding in Poland. I asked a respected breeder, Wojciech Parczewski, why private breeders do not use Polish stallions, i.e. stallions from male lines indicated by the Polish breeding program. Wojciech Parczewski’s answer was simple. These stallions are unavailable, they are simply not there. Therefore, breeders use what they have, that is Saklavi I. This year many breeders presented their offspring by the stallions Ghaith Al Zobair, Wadee Al Shaqab and the Polish-bred Morion. There were also many other, highly exotic pedigrees, to quote only the following: Habibi B (Psyche Keret – 227 Hafiza B / Teyshir B). However, as it turned out, the use of Morion gave the best results. The winner of the yearling colts class, Michałów’s El Maestro (Morion – El Medonia / Shanghai E.A.) won the Yearling Colts Championship. Janów Podlaski did not manage to compete in this class (or in any other) with Michałów. The beautiful grey colt Agadez (Magic Magnifique – Adelita / Kahil Al Shaqab) was only 4th in the Yearling Colts Championship. Let’s hope that next time Adelita will be bred to a Polish stallion instead of another celebrity from the Saklavi I family. The use of the stallion Shiraz de Lafon in Janów’s breeding is astonishing, but the year-old Encarino (Shiraz de Lafon – Eneria / QR Marc) will probably encourage to stop further experiments involving the mating of Janów mares with various odd stallions. The Silver Medalist among the yearling colts was also Michałów’s Porto Rico (Złoty Medal – Parmania / Kahil Al Shaqab), the bronze medal went to the charming Glorius M (RFI Farid – Ginga / Galba), bred by Piotr Podgórny.
The two-year-old stallion class had a poor lineup, as did the three-year-old stallion class. The two-year-old highly decorated Ferrum (Morion – Ferrmaria / El Omari) did not have a worthy competitor in his class, winning the undisputed and unanimous title of Junior Champion Stallion for Michałów Stud. Marek Kondrasiuk’s two-year-old colt Chicago (Wortex Kalliste – Calatea / Ekstern) turned out to be the best of the private-bred junior stallions, winning the Bronze Medal of the Junior Stallion Championship. In the two-year-old class it is worth mentioning Janóws-‘s Czaro (Poganin – Cedora / Kahil Al Shaqab). Czaro is distinguished by his Polish pedigree on the father’s side. He fought bravely, achieving a score of 90.17 in his class and fifth place in the Junior Stallion Championship. It is a pity that among two-year-olds we have such a situation: there is Ferrum, and then nothing for a long, long time. Generally, it is a bad prognosis for breeding.
The three-year-old stallion class again showed the supremacy of Michałów horses in Białka. Pointer (Sahm El Arab – Palanga / Ekstern) won the class and the Junior Stallion Silver Medal. As you know, Pointer was placed on the Pride of Poland 2021 auction list. Janów’s Pinito (EKS Alihandro – Piniata / Eden C) competed with him in one class. In 2018 Pinito became a revelation among the colts born in Janów. Unfortunately, it quickly turned out that little Pinito was very sickly. It is a blessing that he has finally managed to regain full health. The second in class Pinito took only fourth place (Top Five title) in the junior stallions championship, just ahead of his stable mate Czaro. Unfortunately, this is where the “successes” of Janów Podlaski Stud in Białka end. Concluding the topic of three-year-olds, it is worth mentioning another pearl by a stallion from outside the Saklavi I family, i.e. the stallion Palert (Alert – Pericola / Kahil Al Shaqab) from Małopolska Hodowla Roślin Sp. z o.o.
In breeding, fillies are valued and arouse the greatest interest. There was a lot to choose from, as the yearling fillies class was very numerous. I waited with interest for the presentation of Janów’s yearling Basilea (Pogrom – Bambina / Kahil Al Shaqab), full sister of Brodnica, who was withdrawn from the championship. Basilea confirms that the Pogrom-Bambina mating is very fortunate. Unfortunately, Basilea, like other horses from Janów Podlaski, did not show any willingness to compete, making the impression of being tired. As a result, she did not go beyond second place in the class. The outstanding yearling Bogini Róż (Kahil Al Shaqab – Black Rose / Abyad AA), bred by Dąbrówka Stud, won first place in her class and the title of the Silver Medalist of the Yearling Fillies Championship, but nothing managed to break the supremacy of Michałów Stud. Morion’s daughter, El Mariella (Morion – El Marina / Ganges), took the first place in the class and the title of the Yearling Champion Mare. The remaining Top Five places of this championship also went to Michałów. The competition in the two-year-old mares and three-year-old mares class is reflected in the result of the junior mares championship. All the places were taken by mares from Michałów Stud, headed by the only mare in Białka arousing genuine admiration, that is El Medida (Morion – El Medara / Shanghai E.A.). El Medida deservedly and unanimously also won the title of Best in Show. Thus, Morion became the best sire of Białka 2021.
To sum up, during the last weekend we saw many good horses in Białka, but there were no fireworks. The use of the same, world-fashionable sires from the Saklavi I line in breeding gives a very even, but very similar, group of horses. As a result, the competition is not very exciting and sometimes even boring. The poor result of private breeding shows that a fashionable sire is not a simple guarantee of success. Long-term breeding thought is essential. For state Arabian horse breeding, the conclusions from the Białka event are devastating, and the fall of Janów Podlaski Stud from triumph in 2019 to a historic defeat in 2021 clearly shows the effects of manual control of state Arabian horse studs. The strength of Michałów Stud was the weakness of Janów Podlaski Stud. Personnel reshuffle is not a substitute for a strategy that you simply lack. The current owners of state horse breeding do not have any vision or plan for this area of state activity. Things go on with the force of inertia, on the basis of announcing successive illusory “successes”, subsequent auctions and shows, following the philosophy that it will be done somehow. In a word, we pretend everything is fine. In fact, state-owned Arabian horse breeding is on a precipice. There is no breeding program, because even professor Krystyna Chmiel is not able to break through to decision-makers with such a program. Instead of the Polish Breeding Program, we have lease of mares from the state studs for embryos and a complete lack of any well-thought-out breeding policy. Finally, the decision-makers must clearly define whether we want to bring state-owned horse studs to an entity whose goal is only self-financing, eliminating the mission and subordinating breeding only to the profit criterion. Or maybe, however, openly focus on the Polish Breeding Program and a mission, going programmatically towards breeding unique Pure Polish horses in the state studs? Krzysztof Poszepczyński announced the creation of a special award for the best Pure Polish horse among horses competing in the National Championships in Janów 2021. However, there are discrepancies in the community regarding the definition of what Pure Polish means, i.e. mainly how many Saklavi I can be in Pure Polish . The next PAHBA General Meeting is supposed to discuss this issue. We will see with what effect.
The facts are as follows. State horse studs must act as a gene bank by making breeding progress. To do so, they can no longer function as commercial companies. Arabian horse breeding is an area where breeding meets cultural heritage. Therefore, a mechanism should be created to finance state studs, partly from the funds of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and partly from the budget of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. These postulates are not new, but policymakers do not heed them. The National Arabian Horse Institute sounds proud, but in the end a new and specific formula for the financing and operation of Arabian horse studs must be created. Meanwhile, we are doomed to operate in the area of ill-considered, unspecified and incomprehensible propositions such as “the merging of studs”. It is also difficult to talk about collecting a gene bank, since it is not really known what breeding program is to be implemented. Following this path, we doomed ourselves to breeding regression and the sale of the best individuals for the financial result at the end of the year. All the way to zero.
There was also no planned program of permanent, year-round promotion of Arabian horses from state studs through a special team appointed for such promotion. The idea is as old as the hills. The Arabian horse is a commodity that requires advertising to convince buyers of the uniqueness of the product offered. Marek Grzybowski knows something about it, and he was a co-author of the successes of the auction in Janów. Instead of working to create a program of promotion of the Polish Arabian horse, the repeated pattern of spitting on state-owned Arabian horses in the global media is allowed in the period preceding the Pride of Poland auction. The last media campaign performed by the same people as always, was de facto spitting on Polish studs under the guise of fighting for Encarina. Instead of recreating a unique product, which is the Pure Polish horse, we have brought the Polish Arabian horse to be similar to all other Arabians in the world, available everywhere. No promotion, black PR and outrageously low reserve prices are a recipe for transforming the Pride of Poland auction from an elite event into a cheap horse market. Is that the point?
There are also some down-to-earth aspects without which there is no chance of success in state-owned horse breeding. It is about the planned training of staff for state studs, from grooms, farriers and presenters, through animal technicians, veterinarians, to stud management specialists. The scholarships announced by Ardanowski in 2019 for the best graduates of veterinary and animal husbandry who want to work at state studs turned out to be a hollow word. The facts are that the studs lack grooms and other personnel necessary for the daily care of horses. If there is no one to give water, feed, take out to the pasture, clean hooves, etc., etc., all plans will be to no avail. The problem in this area is really serious and needs to be tackled. Finally, it must be said that the policy of changing presidents as pawns on a chessboard, from one acting president to the second, according to the criterion of “divide and rule”, led to a deep crisis of Janów Podlaski Stud. Will we finally see a normal competition for the presidents of Michałów and Janów Podlaski?
A charming place such as Białka Stud deserves the best of everything. For a long time this stud played the role of Cinderella, standing in the shadow of the show giants, which until recently were Michałów Stud and Janów Podlaski Stud. There was no idea for Białka. However, it seems that such an idea already exists. The head of Białka Stud, Jarosław Skrzypek, revealed to me the basics of this idea. The stud in Białka will keep the show lines, but at the same time it intends to develop a sports line, mainly towards horse racing, but also endurance. Moreover, Białka Stud is planning to develop a horse riding school and horse recreation department. Thanks to this information, a breeze of optimism blew. However, it must be remembered that the implementation of these utterly sensible plans requires time and money. However, the great atmosphere in Białka and the beauty of the noble Polish-bred Arabian horses make us hope that not all is lost.