When Arabian Horse enthusiasts get together and begin to “talk shop”, conversations usually turn to breeding, lineage, and, of course, the stallion lines that shaped their most beloved horses. It’s never long before someone mentions Bask, and the amazing impact that he had on the breed, as a stallion and a performer, but few know the whole “story” behind the little bay stallion’s rise to his now legendary status.
*Bask ++ was foaled in 1956 at the famous Albigowa State Stud in Poland. He is a son of the legendary Witraz, and his dam, Balalajka, was a daughter of Amurath-Sahib, noted as one of Poland’s finest broodmares. Roman Pankiewicz, one of the manager’s at Albigowa at the time, gave the little bay colt his unusual name, as an ode to the hard working Basque people’s of Spain. He later explained that he liked to give a horse a simple, memorable name that meant something, and it seems that he chose wisely in this case.
As was the tradition in Poland at the time, Bask was sent to the racetrack in order to get a feel for his athletic ability, work ethic and soundness. He raced quite successfully and extensively for four years, and was not evaluated as breeding stock until he was six years old. When his racing career was over, Albigowa had stopped breeding Arabians, so he was sent to the Janow Podlaski Stud. Unfortunately, though Bask came from a long line of amazing horses and had a pedigree that was heads over most Arabian stallions at the time, Janow was already standing several Witraz sons, making it impossible to add him to their program.
The legendary Bask was scheduled to be gelded in Poland when he came up on Dr. Eugene LaCroix’s radar. He was able to purchase the horse for three thousand dollars, and originally planned to quickly resell him to a Swedish breeder, but the deal fell through and Bask was loaded onto a ship to make the voyage to the States. By all accounts, the trip was a rough one, and some report that several other animals aboard the ship did not survive. Bask, however, was a Polish bred Arabian; Tough beyond measure, hardy, and used to the rigors of the racetrack, so he arrived unharmed.
Upon his arrival, Bask was almost immediately put to stud and simultaneously retrained for the show ring. He had incredible hocks and front end animation, so it was immediately apparent that he was going to be a Park Horse. Witraz sons were known for their spirit and sometimes difficult natures, and Bask certainly inherited the “fire”, though most who met him and dealt with him on a daily basis recounted that he knew when to “turn it on and turn it off”, and was simply a “character”. That work ethic that was brought out during his racing days served Bask well in the show ring, and he was named United States National Champion Halter Stallion in 1964 and came back in 1965 to be named United States National Champion Park Horse (Park Horses have the most animation of the Saddleseat horses, often trotting “over level”). Bask remains one of only four Arabian stallions to have won National Championships in both Halter and Performance.
During his breeding career, Bask sired over 1000 purebred Arabian horses, and nearly 200 of those horses went on to become United States or Canadian National Champions. It is interesting to note that artificial insemination was not being widely used at this time, so the majority of these breedings were done the “old fashioned way”. Bask’s impact on the Arabian horse world is nothing short of mind blowing, and it is said by many that this one little horse, who stood just under 15 hands tall, altered the course of the entire modern Arabian breed. Countless current and past breeding programs have been centered around the *Bask++ line, and out of the six Arabians that I have personally owned, four of them have Bask in their pedigrees.
The majority of people who have owned, or do own, Bask bred horses quickly attest to the fact that they are natural show horses. His descendants seem to retain that touch of “fire” that makes them stand out; they are vocal, showy and charismatic, but they also possess amazing athleticism and and an incredible work ethic. Though Bask was a Park Horse, horses from his line excel in nearly every discipline from English and Hunter to Western Pleasure and even Reining.
*Bask++ died at the age of 23 from colic. He now lies at the Kentucky Horse Park in the “Champion’s Cemetery”, and a bronze statue in his honor graces the lobby of the International Museum of the Horse. Though he is gone, *Bask++ is another great of the breed who will never actually die, as his blood runs like an underground spring through so many horses who are still breeding, competing, and winning the hearts of Arabian Horse lovers throughout the world.
Featured image: http://www.myfineequine.com/baskpics.htm
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