Jeffrey Wintersteen Littleton, Colorado | AHW
Passages: Saying Goodbye to &* Pianissima *Kordelas
The year 2004 was a magical year in Poland, especially at Janów Podlaski. *Gazal Al Shaqab’s first foal crop in Poland was turning a year old, and it was evident that Gazal and Poland would be something special. One could never imagine how successful the use of Gazal would be and his very first foal, Pianosa’s bay filly *Pianissima, epitomized this. At the Nationals that year she was the talk of the show, the exquisite filly handled by Director Trela’s son Jan. Those in attendance knew she was bound for Paris, and it did not take a clairvoyant to know what the end result would be.
*Pianissima transcended nationalities and was loved by all who saw her. Her triumphs are well documented, but for those that knew her personally, it was her unique personality, charm and fondness for people that will be most cherished. I remember after one Spring Show, I returned to Janów to look at some of the racing foals with Director Trela. The next day, good friend Anette Mattsson and I headed for the mare pastures to wander about before saying our goodbyes. *Pianissima had just returned from the U.S. via Dubai and was settling into the normal life of a Polish broodmare. She saw us the moment we ducked under the fence, nickered and came over. Of course she was expecting a treat, but then was more than content to stay with us rather than return to the mares. It was asif she was as much a person as a horse.
*Pianissima descended from another Janów great, World Champion Pilarka. Director Trela once revealed that former Director Krzyształowicz’s greatest regret is that Pilarka left no daughter of the same quality as herself. Director Trela has come to realize, however, that his former boss and mentor was mistaken in that regret. Director Krzyształowicz left all the genetic resources for his successor, specifically the unraced and rather unremarkable Pinia, the grandam of *Pianissima. Director Trela’s task, as he has said, has never been to recreate his greatest breeding triumph, but leave enough for future generations to build upon. As Scott Benjamin eloquently points out, we take comfort that he may well have done that.
“*Pianissima was magnetic — literally! If she was anywhere near you, you would know it, and you would go to her … sometimes only with your eyes, other times the force to bring you closer to her was undeniable. She was a bit arrogant, and honestly she had every right to be. She was special and she knew it. My heart aches for the loss of this magnificent mare and my prayers go out to those who took such wonderful care of her. Once-in-a-lifetime has never been a more appropriate phrase than now — she truly was.”
The news that appeared on the official website of Janów Podlaski Stud on October 19 electrified the entire breeding world and enthusiasts of the Arabian horse — “*Pianissima is gone.”
How could that be? She was just 12 years old and on October 15 she presented herself beautifully during the autumn breeding inspection at Janów. Just on Friday I saw her in the foaling barn, where she was to await the foaling of another descendant. But when this news was confirmed there was simply shock, disbelief. She was to be here forever, such horses do not pass away at such a young age, but you cannot question the decision of the gods, perhaps she was needed in the greener pastures, where she joined her dam Pianosa, grandam Pinia, greatgrandam Pilarka and other ancestors from Janów’s famous P-line.
My first memory of her dates back to 2004 and the WAHO Congress, which took place that year in Poland. In the evening at the Słuzewiec Racetrack, illuminated by spotlights, the presenter led out a one-year-old filly. A representative of one of the Arab countries turned to me and with tears in his eyes and a voice filled with emotion said “Please tell me it is a statue, horses are not this beautiful.” Of course it was — *Pianissima, a phenomenon, beautiful perfection — these are just some of the terms from an unending list of accolades that were used to describe her.
From the very first show — the Junior Spring Show in Białka, where she claimed the title of Champion and Best in Show, repeating the success of her dam — the amount of top marks on the judges’ cards kept growing. There were bets placed on how many “20s” she would get for her next performance and whether she would receive the champion title unanimously or would one judge ‘deviate’ from the rest. *Pianissima did not climb up the career ladder — starting with a bronze, silver, then waiting for the gold, when other highly decorated rivals departed the competition. Each one of her shows was a gold medal and a champion title — she was “born to win.”
I was fascinated with *Pianissima from first sight. I was happy with each of her successes, but my most beautiful memories come from stud visits — when I watched her grazing in the pasture, when we bid her farewell before her journey across the ocean, when she returned and allowed to be bribed by bananas in exchange for posing for photographs, and lately when she took care of her daughter Pamina — named for the Queen of the Night from Mozart’s “The Magical Flute” opera.
Everyone always eagerly awaited the next news about *Pianissima — it’s a great pity that this last piece of information is so sad. A legend — the most beautiful, most decorated mare in the world will now remain just a memory.
*Pianissima was not only the most stunning Arabian horse that grazed this planet, she was also a mare that touched the heart of everyone that she met, with her great personality and mesmerizing beauty.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
I had the pleasure of judging the Polish Nationals in 2004. In the yearling fillies class, a bay filly came in that just took our breath away. For many of us, of course, this was the first introduction to *Pianissima. She was amazing then and went on to be one of the most beloved and famous mares of all time. I was so taken with her that I made my friend, Irina Filsinger, take my picture with her after the show. Unless you had the opportunity to see her up close, you had no idea how truly beautiful she was! It is very sad that she is gone.
One cold winter morning I was walking in Janów’s yearling barn with Greg Gallún and Director Marek Trela. All yearling fillies were tied to the feeders in the open barn. As we were walking through the middle, one by one they turned their heads toward us. And then *Pianissima looked at us. Greg and I looked at each other — it was silence. We were speechless. One year later I negotiated the lease. I accompanied her to almost every show in the U.S. I was her groom in Saudi Arabia when she won at Al Khalediah. In my opinion, describing *Pianissima as special, unique or exotic doesn’t do her justice. There was only one *Pianissima. There was nothing like her before and there won’t be anything like her ever.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I would be lying if I were to tell you I was not shaken by the devastating loss of *Pianissima. But rather than focus on the tragedy of this unwelcome news, I would encourage us all to celebrate the positive life that *Pianissima embodied. From the moment she arrived she was special; most incredibly, the first foal for both her celebrated parents, Pianosa and *Gazal Al Shaqab, in Poland. She blazed an unparalleled career in the showring as the first unanimous Triple Crown winner in Europe in a single year as both a Junior and Senior Mare, a feat likely to remain unsurpassed in our lifetimes. She was also the first horse to be named Polish National Champion Junior and Senior Mare, as well as twice Best in Show, on the only two occasions she was shown. *Pianissima was also an incredibly popular U.S. National Champion Junior Mare at the tender age of three, moving many of North America’s most successful long-time breeders to make the pilgrimage back to her stall after her class to witness her perfection in person. For her devoted breeder Dr. Marek Trela, two of her most unforgettable showring moments were in the Middle East, at the Al Khalediah and Dubai International Arabian Horse Festivals. Trela stood proudly at her side listening to the Polish national anthem play upon her crowning as Gold Senior Champion Mare on both occasions, an extraordinary triumph in the ancient homeland of the Arabian horse. *Pianissima was also the very first Platinum World Champion Mare in Paris, an honor that could only have been bestowed upon her, where she, with Polish handler Pawel Kozikowski at her side, outshone the most beautiful and celebrated mares of the season in one of her most memorable, and most poignantly, the last of her public performances.
I have never known any horse to inspire such devotion as *Pianissima. She was the most popular and beloved Arabian mare on the planet. She embodied everything we all envision as perfection in the Arabian horse, and always lived up to everyone’s image once they had the chance to see and spend time with her. I loved her most, when she was happy at home in Janów, always bouncing out with all her exuberance for any impromptu presentation. She never failed to take your breath away, moving everyone to leave their seats to grab the chance to pat her, stand with her for a photo, and just bask in her glory. *Pianissima had the most captivating presence of any modern Arabian I have ever known, even out-shining her legendary great-grandam Pilarka, the most iconic Arabian mare of her own generation.
I will treasure the opportunity to have witnessed *Pianissima this past June at the annual Spring inspection tour with her Pogrom filly Pamina at side, fulfilling her ultimate purpose of passing on her exceptional genetics to the next generation of excellence at Janów Podlaski. As a special treat, *Pianissima was presented in conjunction with two of her daughters in residence, AJ Penelope (by *El Nabila B) and Pia (by *Ganges), both of whom also had Pogrom fillies at their side. With her Eden C daughter Pianova also at the stud, it was reassuring to know that *Pianissima’s legacy is safe and secure in the hands of the genius of Marek Trela, to whom we all owe an incredible debt for creating *Pianissima in the first place, and for sharing her with the world. The world is infinitely a better place because *Pianissima brightened every corner to have known her presence. May she forever serve as our inspiration.
I was a principal of the partnership responsible for bringing *Pianissima to the U.S. for her National Championship. At the time I was relatively new to the Arabian industry, and *Pianissima completely captivated me. I never knew a horse could be that beautiful. I guess you could say that *Pianissima was responsible for me embarking on this journey with the Arabian horse and building Hennessey Arabian LLC into what it is today. There will never be another *Pianissima, and I will always treasure my time with her.
*Pianissima wowed the world when she conquered the showring as a yearling and it has been no surprise that her success continued with a career of winning on several continents. She was always admired and loved for the extraordinary mare she was.
In my heart “Penny” will be remembered not as the show horse but as the mare in the barn or out in the pasture at Janów Podlaski. She was always seeking attention. She knew that she was the undisputed Queen and in her mind it was obvious that everyone wanted to pay her attention.
My heart goes out to Director Trela and everyone at Janów Podlaski for their huge loss. The world has lost an icon and a legend and we are a whole world mourning this truly special mare.
One of my best memories of *Pianissima was the year Greg Gallún showed her to National Champion Mare in Louisville and I was lucky enough to be one of the judges. What an awesome creature she was. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, I don’t think anyone could. I was fortunate enough to judge Polish Nationals in 2014 and while walking through the barns at Janów with Jeff Wintersteen, I got to meet *Pianissima again. It was an emotional and treasured moment, one I will never forget.
Along with everyone in the Arabian community around the world, I’m saddened by her lossand the tremendous loss that Director Trela and all of those at Janów must be experiencing.
On Thursday, October 15, during the breeding inspection *Pianissima felt well and looked excellent. As always we were impressed with her beauty. A day later the weather suddenly worsened with decreasing air pressure, and rain. Two days later *Pianissima passed away. Everything unfolded very quickly and despite an immediate reaction, nothing could be done.
Even among many other beautiful horses, she immediately drew your attention. This year I discovered this again. After many days of hard work for the nationals, the annual sale, and the Janów breeding parade, I sat down tired and turned my mind off for a moment, not looking at what was going on in the ring. Suddenly something snapped me out of my daydream, I looked up and saw *Pianissima walking by.
We know, of course, that in all great breedings what is needed is a bit of luck — the kind that accompanied the foaling of *Pianissima. Usually such a horse comes along once in a breeder’s lifetime. For *Pianissima we had to wait several generations. We believe, however, that Polish breeding will still see an equally brilliant representative of this line.
I am fortunate to have a magical story with *Pianissima. In December 2004, after being out of Arabian horses for several years, I read the December issue of Arabian Horse World magazine in which the international shows were featured. I kept reading about a yearling filly who dominated the showring and amazed everyone who saw her. Her name was *Pianissima, and I promised myself that if I got back into the Arabian horse business, it would be with *Pianissima. The next day I made several phone calls to old friends and trusted colleagues in the business and asked if they could help me acquire *Pianissima. Of course, they all laughed and said that it would not be possible. To make a long story short, after several visits to Poland, and after winning the Polish National Stallion Championship with *Piaff, and after buying the high selling mare in the 2005 Pride of Poland auction (*Elandra), I was successful in negotiating a lease of *Pianissima on behalf of myself and partners and shortly thereafter she was on her way to the U.S.
I owe special thanks to Greg Gallún and George Zbyszewski who helped me arrange the lease and for their great talent in caring for and showing the world’s most beautiful, decorated, and treasured Arabian mare.
Words simply cannot express what an honor and privilege it was for me. My passion for Arabian horses runs deeply and burns brighter every day. To have been a part of the *Pianissima story is nothing less than a dream come true for me.
My deepest sympathies go out to Director Trela, the Janów family, and to the people of Poland for this great loss. *Pianissima will always be remembered and treasured for generations to come. No history book on the Arabian horse is complete without her significant place in it. She set the standard to which we will always aspire as breeders and as lovers of the Arabian horse. Never to be forgotten.
Santa Ynez, California
Pianissima’s greatest efforts always gave everyone the feeling that this would never happen again. Every time I had the opportunity to lead her into the ring, or travel with her, or just see her on a daily basis, I knew I was in the presence of something that the good Lord only made once. As hard as someone will try, she will never be replicated, she is a once-in-a-lifetime horse.
But there were a couple moments that stood out when I was with George Z and Marek on a visit to Janów. It was a really cold, snowy spring day, and we were in no hurry. We went on a walk through the filly barn, and they were all tied in the open barn. I was walking down, super impressed with the Gazal foals. The last one was a bay filly that turned and looked at us as we walked up. Marek was standing in the center of the barn. I think he actually separated himself from us to gauge our reaction. I looked at this filly and thought, this is not real. I asked George, “Is she that beautiful?”and he just shook his head. We simultaneously looked at Marek who was just standing there with arms crossed and a grin that said it all. No one spoke for a while, we all knew we were seeing something that was transcendent. I remember that moment like it was yesterday.
Another moment that was really special was at U.S. Nationals in Lousiville. I knew, and all the Americans that had been to Poland or Paris and had seen her knew, how great she was. But when she arrived in the U.S., she was relatively unknown. When we came in the finals, it was like a tennis match where the crowd was initially trying to gauge whom to support. But as the class went on, everybody was pulling for *Pianissima. By the time she won, that place came undone for her.
How lucky are we at Gallún Farms to have had her! I remember one of my competitors said, “Well, I can beat that little bay mare.” I said, “Well good luck.” It never happened. Her determination as a horse was as extraordinary as any horse I have been around. She never schooled worth a damn, but when you put a halter on her to take her in the ring, she knew what her job was and never tried less than 100 percent. Nancy and I are still having a tough time dealing with life without her. We are still wounded. We actually took her picture from the office with us to Tulsa so we would have her around us in a way. There won’t be another *Pianissima.
I think *Pianissima was the most beautiful mare in the world. She was absolutely unique and one of a kind, impossible to forget. Not only her look, but her expression as well, always a cheerful, feminine, sweet and expressive little mare!
I saw her as a yearling at Janów and she was just breathtaking. When Director Trela called me to ask if I would like to have her in my barn, to prepare and to show her at the three title shows in Europe that year, I could hardly believe my ears! I still have her little shoes from each title we won together, painted in gold!
She was a little princess to have around, always sweet, always curious, and interested in carrots more than even most horses! She was a diva to work and condition, and could really show off and look stunning with tail on her back, snorting and dancing when she wanted to, but it was to be decided by her, no one else!
I will always remember when I met her and got to hold her in the ring at the Polish Nationals when celebrating her retirement from the showring. Even after all those years, she still remembered to put her nose under my arm, rest there and hope to be scratched on her favorite spot! She would do that in the ring, when I talked to her a little. It was quite emotional that she seemed to remember the way we were together!
It was a privilege getting to know *Pianissima in person, and anyone who has seen her big, black, intelligent eyes will understand she had a delightful and joyful temperament, willing to please and happy to cooperate! There was never any need to touch her with either whip or chain; she pricked her ears with sparkling eyes, eager to understand my questions to her. It was such a honor to have known her!