The challenge of running an historic, former state stud
By Agata Grosicka
Photography: Peter Llewellyn
For most people, managing any stud farm produces its own set of challenges. However, Magdalena Wodzicka-Donimirska – president and general breeder of SK Moszna since 2001 – was in the unique position of taking over this former state stud in southern Poland, which had been privatized, and which has a history of producing horses of quality and beauty. Breeding is never a walk in the park, so is it all worth it?
Magdalena Wodzicka-Donimirska is, naturally, keen to keep history alive and flourishing, and followed an interesting road to make it happen.
Q How did you come to take over at SK Moszna?
Between 1990 and 1991 I served my intership in Moszna when I tried to improve my jumping skills. It was when I met a great team of showjumping riders – Zygmunt Rozpleszcz, Krzysztof Kordysz and Rudolf Mrugala, all trained by Hubert Szaszkiewicz, they were one of the best showjumping teams at that time. To be trained by Hubert Szaszkiewicz was like my dreams coming true. Andrzej Walczak, who was the director of the state stud accepted my application and I began to work as a groom in the competition stables. In the evenings I did my training. For eight months I had a chance to get to know the stud, the horses and the people. It was when I realized that this is what I would like to do with my life.
Afterwards I spent some years in Germany working in many competition stables including, including with Norbert Koof (showjumping world champion at Dublin in 1982 riding Fire). Equestrian sport in Germany was of the highest European quality and once I got to know it better I decided to abandon my horse passion for a while and concentrate on my studies and business.
In 1999, I came across an advertisement with a sales pitch for Moszna State Stud, which at that time was already bankrupt. I went there to check what was going on and met my old friends and a stallion, Wag (Omen xx - Wezera x Firstgraff) who had been disqualified as a breeding stallion and put on the waiting list to be bought. So I bought Wag and kept him in Moszna, which got me more and more involved in the matters of the studfarm. I remembered the great times and couldn’t accept the fall of such a stud, so I talked some farming enterpreneurs into investing their money in Moszna. They agreed to do so under one condition: I would be in charge of the studfarm, and together we would try to bring back its greatness. I said yes, of course, but really didn’t know what I’d agreed to do. Although there were other potential buyers, in the end our offer was the last one left on the table. Even today I don’t understand how it happened, but we bought it and I guess it was my destiny. Now, when I look back, I think we were the only ones motivated enough to take the risk and go through everything we went through while reinventing Moszna Stud:
We had 8.5 million PLN in debts (equivalent to US$2.2 million), a two million PLN fine ($508,000) for cutting down the historical forest, which was done by the former Board, plus investing in new machinery to cultivate 1,600 hectares, new infrastructure and buildings, as well as looking for a workforce. For the first 10 years of my management it was like putting out one fire after anpther, and I’m not sure whether I could do it again now...To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber