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200 years of the „P” line: How inconspicuous dams produced queens. An incredible story of the Szamrajówka damline
Author: Monika Luft | 2011-12-29 | Print
I don’t know whether I would’ve ever decided to have my own horses if not for the legend of the Szamrajówka damline. I was fascinated by the long and dramatic story of this family, inseparably interwoven with the tragic history of Poland – a story which already lasts a round 200 years. During this time this dynasty has given 18 generations of pure-bred horses.

The oldest stud

„The oldest stud, initially breeding oriental horses and later pure bred Arabians, on which concrete historic information has been retained, was established in 1778 by Crown Grand Hetman, Franciszek Ksawery Branicki (1729–1819), in the Szamrajówka khutor, part of the Biała Cerkiew estates in the Ukraine”, so Professor Witold Pruski wrote on the beginnings of this damline in his work “Two centuries of Polish Arabian horse breeding 1778–1978 and its successes abroad”. It was in Biała Cerkiew that around the year 1810 the mare Szamrajówka was born, who established a valuable family, today often called the “P” line. Descending from this line are both superb show horses – like the famous World Champion Pilarka 1975, who despite her fame did not elude dramatic experiences, because, before she found her way to the stud of Mr. and Mrs. Watts as a mature mare, she faced hunger after the bankruptcy of her previous owner, the fashion designer Gucci; Penicylina 1976, sold for the impressive amount of 1,5 million dollars; or today’s poster child of Janów Podlaski, the world-successful Pianissima 2003 – and racing horses, proof of which are Derby winners Pierrot 1969 and Piechur 1979, as well as Oaks winner Pieczęć 1976.

„In 1803 the keeping of a studbook was began at Szamrajówka, a document which was very thoroughly filled out for over 100 years”, writes Roman Pankiewicz, author of many publications on Arabian horses, also known as the breeder of Bask, in his book “Polish Arabian pure-bred horse breeding 1918–1939”. The Szamrajówka studbook was lost during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and all horses at the stud perished. More than sixty Arabian mares were slaughtered by machine guns as “equine aristocracy”... Fortunately, many horses earlier sold or given as gifts survived, and so did their pedigrees. The Szamrajówka damline was prolonged in Poland by the grey Kewa 1923, imported in the interwar period from Yugoslavia to Janów Podlaski. In 1939 this excellent mare (by Siglavi Bagdady II) was taken away together with her daughters to the USSR. It was not until 1956 that her granddaughter Piewica 1953 (Priboj – Włodarka/Ofir) came to Poland from Tersk. From this moment on the line is called the “P” line, as with that letter begin the names of all of Piewica’s descendants.

Branicki, who wrote himself down in the history of Arabian horse breeding as a good manager of a wonderful stud, is labeled a traitor in Polish history as a participant in the Targowica Confederation, which was a conspiracy of Polish magnates against the progressive reforms of the Constitution of May 3rd, 1791. For that in 1794 he was sentenced in absentia to be hung. However his horses were doing extremely well. They grazed on virgin, black steppe soil. The climate there was harsh – scorching summers and freezing, snowy winters – so the horses were toughened up, healthy and strong. The legacy of the venerable father was passed down to his son, senator Count Władysław Branicki (1783–1843), who enlarged the stud with many valuable desert bred sires, including Wernet d.b., who turned out to be epochal for the Biała Cerkiew herd. From 1850 the Branicki family, together with Prince Roman Sanguszko from Sławuta, began organizing racing trials for their horses. “In order to prepare a horse for that it had to be carefully conditioned, and that could only have been beneficial for the breed”, observed the Poznań-based publication “Ziemianin” [“Landlord’] in 1854. The breeding’s renown grew and many studs from the Ukraine, Volhynia, Podolia, Lesser Poland (Małopolska), Greater Poland (Wielkopolska), as well as Russia purchased horses from the Branicki family, which later turned out to be salutary for the survival of the Biała Cerkiew sire and damlines. In 1897 part of the Szamrajówka herd was lost in a tragic fire, which consumed the wooden stables. Only 19 Arabian fillies, four foals and 3 stallions were saved. After this incident appliances were modernized and brick stables built. But there was little time left for the borderland studs... Together with World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution came their extermination. In 1918 Biała Cerkiew ceased to exist.

Fortunately, thanks to the earlier extensive influences of this stud, representatives of the Szamrajówka family were scattered nearly all over Europe. The daughter of Hadrja 1898 (by Hamdani I), a great-great-great-...granddaughter of the mare Szamrajówka – Kalga 1905 (by Amurath) found her way to the Yugoslavian Inocenzdvor, where she produced Kewa 1923. The latter, when Poland regained its independence after 123 years of partitions, was purchased by Janów Podlaski Stud, which was rebuilding itself after World War I. “Unfortunately” – writes in her book “One tworzyły piękno” [“They created beauty’] Professor Krystyna Chmiel – “her further career was cut off by the statement: Lost during war actions of 1939”. Lost together with Kewa were also two of her daughters, Oaza 1933 and Troska 1937, but Włodarka 1938 (by Ofir), at that time a yearling, survived. Together with other horses robbed by the Soviet army in Poland in September of 1939 she found her way to Tersk, where bred to the stallion Priboj 1944, son of the stolen from Janów stallion Piołun 1934 (by Koheilan I), she produced very good progeny with above-the-average racing abilities.

A token of „friendship”

In the 50s of the past century, as a token of „friendship” between the USSR and Poland, a group of Russian Arabians from Tersk participated in races at the Wrocław racetrack. Of course the Russian horses, as writes Prof. Chmiel, were “trained after the fashion of the Thoroughbreds, commencing training a year before our horses and selected for speed” and so they didn’t have the slightest problem in winning. The Derby of 1956 was won by the Priboj daughter Potencja 1952 (of the Selma d.b. damline), but most importantly six mares out of those that came to Poland at the time were purchased for Polish breeding. Among them was the daughter of Włodarka and Priboj – Piewica 1953. “She differed from our mares” – told me Roman Pankiewicz, who remembers her very well – “but she was correct in build, though not very refined. However she had her charm which photographs do not convey”. For the family of Szamrajówka it was an epochal and symbolic moment: together with Piewica the bloodline of horses from Biała Cerkiew – which seemed to be irretrievably lost – returned to Poland. Piewica joined the Albigowa herd and produced 13 foals, 7 colts and 3 fillies. Without them there would be no successes of Pianissima, Pinga, as well as the other representatives of this world-famous damline today.

Penza 1959, born in Albigowa, the daughter of Piewica and the bred by Roman Pankiewicz sire Faher, turned out to be a dam and (through daughter Pemba 1964 by Czort) granddam of successful stallions: European and Polish Champion Penitent 1979, Pepi 1975, as well as racetrack record-holder and Polish Champion Pepton 1977 (by Bandos).

Another daughter among Piewica’s progeny, Pierzga 1964 (by Negatiw), bred in Janów Podlaski, wrote herself down in history as dam of several valuable horses, among them Derby winner Pierrot 1969, whose son Santhos turned out to be a sire of superb racing Arabians. As writes Prof. Chmiel, the German Santhos is getting revenge through his progeny, which win races on the Polish track under the German flag, for the selling of his sire to Germany without leaving at least one successor in Poland! Pierzga could also boast splendid daughters: Pierzeja (1974 (by Bandos) – dam of Derby winner Piechur 1979 (by Banat), who later also gained the titles of US National Top Ten and All Nations Cup Champion; Oaks winner Pieczęć 1976 (by Palas), who produced the stallion Piruet 1983, winner of the titles of (for his French and later Italian owners) European and World Champion, as well as Salon du Cheval Reserve Champion in Paris; the famous Pilarka 1975 and the no less meritorious Pentoda 1970.

Pilarka – a separate chapter

Pilarka (by Palas), one of the first products of a true „Golden Cross” – a combination of the Egyptian line of Nazeer (through Aswan and his son Palas) with the line of Skowronek (through Naseem and his son Negatiw) – is a separate chapter in modern Polish Arabian horse breeding. A European and World Champion, she distinguished herself not only with exceptional beauty, but also with intelligence and gentle nature. „Oh, she was the queen of the herd. And director’s Andrzej Krzyształowicz favorite. She loved to pose” – so said about her Zofia Raczkowska, a splendid photographer, author of Pilarka’s most well-known photographs. „I saw her the first time in Oostend, Belgium” – Klaus Georg Beste, a long-year General Secretary for the German Arab Horse Society, recalls Pilarka in his interview for the website – “where she had won the Championship title. She had dominated the scene with her charismatic expression and unbelievable presence”. The Director of the Janów Stud, Marek Trela, admits that a mare of such charisma happens once in a couple of generations: „Taking the Janów history into consideration, the most similar horse to Pianissima was Pilarka – her great-grandmother. She was the last one that was causing that kind of emotion and reaction. The shows were more modest, there was no setting like now, but I remember a standing ovation in Oostend. The mare wasn’t doing anything at all, just standing and watching the people, and the audience was absolutely crazy, screaming and applauding. The boy held the end of rope and the horse caused these emotions itself. She received loads of twenties from seven judges; it was an unforgettable experience”. Unfortunately, even such a wonderful mare did not elude a life of misery. She was sold at the Janów auction in times of crisis for Arabian horse breeding, in 1990, for only 215 thousand dollars, to fashion designer Paolo Gucci, who at the time also purchased Michałów’s Pikieta 1983 (by Probat) and the stallion Pilot (Fawor – Pipi/Banat), a grandson of Pilarka. „I remember how director Krzyształowicz felt when he sold Pilarka…” – said in an interview for director Trela. – “I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant. We tried to buy her back, to provide her a safe home for old age. We didn’t manage it, but fortunately she found a shelter in Halsdon Arabians”. “Melfield Stables, the stud of Paolo Gucci, had two branches: in the US and England” – recalled during her visit to Poland Wendy Carr of Silverdale Arabians, who provided shelter to a group of Polish horses, wasting away in the neglected stud after the fall of the Gucci’s breeding empire. “The studs were truly magnificent, unfortunately the owner was greatly failing in health and after the bankruptcy the horses were forgotten, walking on muddy pastures”. Silverdale Arabians ensured them decent living conditions until the auctions during which the abandoned horses were sold off. Pilarka, together with her “companions in misery” Pikieta and Pilot, was purchased by Shirley and Charlie Watts. Pilarka, despite her advanced age – she was 24 years old in 1999 – left them, as a form of gratitude, two more fillies by Pilot before she ended her life in 2000.

Pilarka's daughters & granddaughters

Among Pilarka’s daughters which remained in Poland the best was, as claim the followers of this damline, Pianola 1982 (by Bandos), Polish Junior Champion Mare, who sadly died due to influenza before she had a chance to prove herself in breeding. The line was prolonged by Pilarka’s first daughter, Pipi 1981 (by Banat), who produced as much as 15 foals over 17 years! A Polish Champion herself, she was dam of the already mentioned Pilot 1987, Junior Champion from the Białka show and Champion from Blommeröd and Towerlands; Piaff (by Eldon), Polish Junior and Senior Champion, as well as US Top Ten Champion; Pilica 1994 (by Fawor), dam of the unearthly Białka Junior Champion, as well as Polish Junior Champion in 2003 and European Champion in 2005 – Palmeta 2001; and Pilar 1996 (by Fawor), Polish Junior Champion, sold at the 2010 Pride of Poland Sale for 240 thousand euro to Al Shaqab Stud from Qatar. Pilar left in Poland, among others, the bay Pinga 2004 (by Gazal Al Shaqab), Polish Junior and Senior Champion and Best in Show of the Polish Nationals in 2010. Her half-sister Pinta 2005 (by Ekstern), Polish Junior Reserve Champion and full sister Pieta 2003 were purchased at earlier Pride of Poland Sales by Shirley Watts for 500 and 300 thousand euro, respectively.

The Triple Crowned Pianissima – a true phenomenon

Another Pilarka daughter, Pinia 1984 (by Probat), produced the lovely Pianosa 1998 (by Eukaliptus), Junior Champion from Białka and Polish Senior Champion Mare of 2004, but most importantly the dam of another epochal mare in Polish breeding – Pianissima (by Gazal Al Shaqab), who made the “P” line famous all over the world. Pianissima is, in the words of director Trela “an extraordinary mare, it is impossible to define her value in prices that were given in this business”. A double Triple Crown winner as both junior and senior, US Junior Champion, Al Khalediah Festival Champion, she took the world arenas by storm, successfully at that. If there exists a symbol of Polish breeding today, then it is undoubtedly Pianissima. „She is very special to me and my career” – recalled in his conversation with website Greg Gallun, who presented Pianissima both in the US and Poland – “I’ve seen thousands of horses in my life, many of them wonderful – after all, it’s what I’m dealing with! I’ll never forget the day when I first saw Pianissima. It was here, in Janów. We were walking through the stables with Director Trela and George Z and I was looking at the pedigrees. I first saw the name Pianissima. Then she turned and looked at me – I froze. I knew something extraordinary is taking place. I thought: Oh my God, could this be true? I looked at her again and then at George Z. I saw the same awe in his eyes. And Director Trela was just smiling, he already knew what treasure he had. We spoke no words, only exchanged glances. Words were unnecessary.” „Later I witnessed her debut here in Janów”, continued Greg Gallun. “I saw her in Paris. To me she’s unique, the one and only. During the National Championships in the US in Kentucky I observed the reaction of the public. A lot of horses are shown there and Pianissima was not that well known then. And it happened! She received a standing ovation. It couldn’t have been otherwise”. This is how Pianissima is described by Professor Chmiel in her book “One tworzyły piękno”: “A true phenomenon, with a kilometer-long, swan-like neck, large eye and nostril and a muzzle so short that only a Pekingese or Persian cat may have a shorter and more dished one. Furthermore Pianissima is dry as the proverbial bone and has a topline shaped just as perfectly as her dam”.

The Białka P-line

Another daughter of Pierzga, Pilarka’s five years older sister Pentoda (by Bandos), Polish Senior Reserve Champion Mare of 1983, produced 10 foals. Her first progeny was the already mentioned Penicylina (by Palas), who at the Polish Ovation Sale in Scottsdale in 1985 set a record price for a Polish mare with 1,5 million dollars – a record which was beaten only in 2008 by Kwestura. Another one of her daughters, Pentoza 1978 (by Ellorus) distinguished herself at Białka Stud, among others as dam of Perforacja 1986 (by Ernal), who produced Polish Champion Pesal 1991 (by Partner). Yet another Pentoda daughter, Perełka 1988 (by Ernal), became Junior Champion Mare already as a yearling. Unfortunately, she died prematurely, yet leaving, among others, the mare Pelisa 1994 (by Europejczyk), who in the private stud of Chrcynno-Palace created a separate subline. From it descend her internationally successful granddaughters, the full sisters (by Ekstern): Psyche Victoria 2006 and Psyche Kreuza 2008, as well as the international champion stallion Panicz 2006 (by Gaspar). Pentoda’s granddaughter (and a daughter of Pestka 1983 by Probat) Pohulanka 1996 (by Pepton) – sold in 2011 to France by 35 thousand euro – is in turn dam of chief sire at Janów Podlaski, Poganin 2001 (by Laheeb), Polish Senior Champion Stallion from 2007, who during the last World Championships in Paris won the senior stallions’ class in great style and who also has his fair share of achievements as a sire – he gave among others the very titled son of Kwestura, Kabsztad 2006 and Chaos Persefona 2007, champion from the A-ranked show in Middelfart (Denmark). Another among the numerous daughters of Pestka, Pepesza 1993 (by Eukaliptus), was exported in 2006 to the US for the price of 135 thousand euro. In Poland, in Janów Podlaski, she left two chief sires: Perseusz 2001 (by Laheeb) and Pegasus 2003 (by Gazal Al Shaqab).

The youngest generations

The youngest generation of the „P” line is represented among others by Palabra 2007 (Enzo – Palmeta/Ecaho), champion and Best in Show from Białka; her two years younger half-sister Palatina (by QR Marc), champion from Białka 2010; the above mentioned Psyche Kreuza, champion and Best in Show holder from Białka and Polish Junior Champion of 2009; Pogrom 2009 (by QR Marc) out of Pestka’s granddaughter, Pętla (by Visbaden), Junior Champion Colt and Best in Show at Białka, Polish Junior Reserve Champion Colt of 2010 and Polish National Champion Colt 2011; the second reserve champion from last year’s Białka, Pipi’s granddaughter Primera 2009 (Eden C – Preria/Ararat); and the Top Five from Białka, Pilarosa 2009 (Al Adeed Al Shaqab – Pilar/Fawor). The modern Palabra has been sold at 2011 Pride of Poland Sale by 400 thousand euro to Saudi Arabia and Pogrom is now on lease in the U.S (Midwest Arabians). Without a doubt all these horses, bearing beauty which would bring no shame to the best Arabians in the world, have little in common in terms of conformation with their progenitor Piewica. During several “equine” generations Polish breeders, mainly those from Janów Podlaski where the line of Szamrajówka is most numerously represented, managed to rear – out of a sole descendant of this valuable family – horses, which conquer the world and make Polish breeding famous. The history of the “P” line is proof that persistence, consistency, patience, breeding intuition, belief in success and surely also a bit of luck can bring fantastic results, in spite of various twists of history, adversities and even the greatest crises.

The article has been first published in the “Arabians Horse Mag” (France)

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