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10 December 2009

Antoni Pacynski Interview

by Tom Reed & Maren Engelhardt
Horse International Vol 10 2009

Antoni Pacynski was born in 1943 in Jaroslaw, Poland and competed Trakehners and part-Trakehners at the highest international level. He also managed one of the great Trakehner stud farms, the Polish State Stud Liski.  Tom Reed and Maren Engelhardt sat down with Antoni at the Trakehner Stallion Approval in Neumunster to discuss his life, horses, and the Trakehner breed.

TR/ME: Antoni, perhaps you could tell us your history as a rider.

AP: I rode my first Senior Polish Championship in 1957. I was 14 years old, with a Trakehner, and I placed second.  And then every year I rode in the European Championship for Junior Riders and Young Riders.  In 1970 in Venice in the European individual championship the Italian rider Castellini was champion and I was second.

I studied veterinary medicine and I also studied breeding, animal husbandry, and genetic management. In 1968 I  competed in the Mexico City Olympics on the part-Trakehner horse Cyrrus.

TR/ME: Antoni, you also have been involved in managing a Trakehner stud farm?

AP: Yes, I was the breeding director and manager of the Polish State Stud Liski.  There were 600 horses, sorted by color in the Trakehner fashion. We did this to honor Trakehener history.

All of the mare lines at Liski are traceable to the mid-1800s.  The original stock was 40 mares that came as a war payment from Germany to Poland; the mares were reparations. And Liski purchased 17 mares and one stallion from Kirow, the Russian Trakehner stud. 

TR/ME: What were the breeding goals?

AP: My father was already involved in horses so my three brothers and I were all showjumping riders, and only showjumping. At Liski at first we started breeding eventers and three Trakehner horses made it to the Rome Olympics in eventing, one on the Polish team and two on the Canadian team. If we had taken the two Trakehners on the Canadian team and put them with the Trakehner on the Polish team, and made a new team, this all-Trakehner team would have done better than the team that won the Bronze Medal!

It used to be only jumpers in Poland but today not so much anymore. We used to ride horses from Liski all over the world including the biggest nations cups and championships but today, no. Today it is more mainstream breeding. As an example of what we used to breed, I had a Trakener mare at the Aachen Grand Prix and she only made one mistake during the entire show.

TR/ME: Does Liski still breed this kind of horse that can do well at Aachen?

AP: No. The breeding goal disappeared after the Iron Curtain came down. The selection process and the breeding goal have disappeared.

TR/ME: Can breeders, both Trakehner breeders and others, still look to Poland for excellent jumping genetics?

AP: Yes. At this moment there are good horses and not enough good riders. The quality of the riding is really bad. You can find a spectacular young horse for a good Polish rider and he will win the young horse classes but there is a big gap going to the grand prix.

TR/ME: Are there still good mares in Poland?

AP:  Yes-no!

TR/ME: Are there any fantastic showjumping stallions in Poland available to breeders throughout Europe? Are they still alive and fertile?

AP: Yes, definitely, but the people don't realize that they have these diamonds in the rough at home. They have the horses in the field but the step from taking them from the field to make them a showjumper is not possible. Genetically? Yes. But practically in real life?  Very difficult.  Because of the disconnect between the sport horse and the breeding a lot is wasted. The kiss of death is the perception that everything from the west is good. And it is not true!

TR/ME: What did you think of the jumping stallions that were here at the Trakehner stallion approval this week?

AP: These horses were good enough but not world class. The heavier type of stallion is needed for the German riding style. It is hard for regular German riders to adapt to the more light and modern type of showjumper. The Trakehner is a much better match for the American style of showjumping because it is lighter and forward-going.

A Trakehner from Liskii named Alibaba won the Pan American games about 20 years ago and the horse was only 8 years old. He wasn't picked for the Olympics because of his age. But under that type of riding he still excelled. Unfortunately he died of colic a year later.

TR/ME: What did you think of catalogue number 10, the stallion Hennessy?

AP: I have a very high opinion of that horse. I rode his grand-sire, Arcus xx, in showjumping. Fantastic! I would like to tell you a story about Arcus. The sire of Arcus, Cross, was two times the Horse of the Year at the Warsaw race track.  His son Arcus was not a very good race horse; but he was a very good jumper.

At the European Championship selection trials Arcus won the team competition and the Grand Prix Qualifer. In the Grand Prix he was beaten by a few hundredths of a second. Between the first and the second round of the selection trials the chef d'equipe of the Korean Team went to the Polish stud manager and put a check for $100,000 on the table for Arcus but the manager said "No."  Then he ran the Nations Cup: two rounds with no faults. So the Korean offered $200,000 for the horse. The Pole said "No."  After the third day and Arcus placed second in the Grand Prix the Korean left a blank check on the table and said "I have a spot in my transport that goes straight to South Korea. We have to ride this horse in the Olympics." And of course the stud manager said "No."

On the way back home from that show Arcus tried to jump the partition in the truck - he was a bit crazy! He broke his pastern in a hind leg. So they put screws and plates in it and for two years the horse was sidelined. He couldn't even breed. After these two years he was stationed at an Anglo-Arabian stud farm and he started breeding. But they got very unlucky and lost an entire crop of foals to a viral infection that was passed on by the stallion. They did not know where the infection came from because Arcus had never touched a mare. So as a 17-year-old he was put back under saddle because he could not breed and he started at the European Championships twice. So he had only a handful of foals on the ground. The first one that he sired won the Polish National Championship as both a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old. But he jumped out of the pasture and ran into a car.

The sire of Hennessy, Caruso Nero, was one of the few progeny of Arcus. Caruso Nero was very masculine, quite wild, a real stallion. Not easy to handle. He was ranked very highly in Poland as a 4- and 5-year-old showjumper and he started at Lanaken. And after that Humbertus Poll went to Poland and bought him right away.

TR/ME: That's a very good story. A couple more questions, please. What do Trakehner breeders here in Germany need to do to improve the jumping capabilities of their horses, which I believe will help them breed better eventers and dressage horses? And is the Heops son they approved, Come Close, the type of stallion that should be approved?

AP:   Hennesy and Come Close are two very different types of animals. I prefer the lighter type like Hennessy but politically it is very important that a horse like Come Close, which is ugly and big and can only be approved because of his jump, is approved because years ago, even just a few years ago, they would not give a horse like that even a remote chance of passing. That is the important thing that we need to learn here. But I am certain he will not help the population as a breeding animal.

TR/ME: So it is symbolic exercise?

AP: Exactly.

TR/ME: Thank you so very much!