WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A renowned Arabian horse breeding program in Poland has held a disappointing auction, selling fewer horses and raising less money than in the past, after a political purge of its managers by the country's conservative ruling party.
The yearly Pride of Poland auction at a stud farm in Janow Podlaski, in eastern Poland, was world-renowned, drawing horse breeders from around the world.
But the 200-year-old state program suffered a heavy blow to its prestige in 2015 when the newly elected Law and Justice party fired its top breeders and replaced them with party loyalists with less experience.
Government critics on Monday described this year's auction on Sunday as a fiasco. Of 25 horses, only six were sold and 410,000 euros raised. The last auction before the 2015 purge raised 4.5 million euros.
The 2015 power shift in Poland brought changes across all of Poland's state enterprises, but the changes in the Arabian breeding program got more attention than the others because it hit professionals who had built up international relationships over many years with celebrities, Arab sheikhs and other millionaires.
Some of those people are now boycotting the Polish stud farms in solidarity with the former managers.
Two out of four mares on loan to Poland from British breeder Shirley Watts, wife of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, died after the management change.
A further setback occurred at last year's auction due to suspicions that there were fake bidders who drove up prices artificially, something that the state managers denied.
Slawomir Pietrzak, the manager at Janow Podlaski, brushed off the result of this year's auction, saying there were also auctions in the past that did not have great results and that the international market is changing.
"There is an overproduction of Arabian horses, and there are more and more auctions," Pietrzak said. "That's the market situation."