Republic of Poland

Veterinary students at a competition in Edinburgh

27 March 2019

The competition, organized by the Royal School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, was attended by our team from the WUELS Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Magdalena Kościelna, Anna Fortuna, Aleksandra Hładziak and Arek Kaznowski represented not only our University but the whole Poland – they were the only team from our country which competed in two events: dressage and show jumping. – It wasn’t easy. We drew our horses and then had 5 minutes to get to know them and to ride as well as possible. The team performed brilliantly – after all it was the first such event for us. The final results were announced during the evening gala. They took into account separate results for show jumping and dressage as well as the joint team result – says Arek Kaznowski who won the first place in dressage with the result 67.71% on a horse called Enzo. The show jumping competition was won by Annea Kallings Larsson.

The WUELS team had already participated in the Edinburgh competition last year. However, Arek Kaznowski did not go then as he participated in the Polish University Championships.

- But the girls who competed last year told me it was worth it so this year I went with them – says the 3rd year vet student who has been riding since the 1st grade of high school and is now an Instructor of the Polish Equestrian Federation doing his basic course.

- I’ve been riding competitively for six years. Generally speaking, I’ve always wanted to do show jumping and I’m really into three-day event. This is a jumping competition, dressage and cross-country, etc. I have my own horse which I have taken to a few competitions. And, frankly speaking, my victory came as a surprise. On the other hand hard work brings fruit – laughs Arek Kaznowski and admits that it wasn’t easy to win in Edinburgh – Those students knew the horses very well. They work with them every day and we only had a few minutes to get to know ours. So they had the advantage, but they also helped us a great deal. Our team performed very well. The girls also did great at the dressage arena and the second show jumping event.

Before she started riding, Aleksandra Hładziak had been swimming for almost 10 years in a sports club. – But one day I decided that it may be time to change my interests and take up something new. I liked horses and I wondered if that wouldn’t be the right path to take. That’s why I started my equestrian adventure rather late – at the age of 15 – says the veterinary student who for the first time sat on a horse in 2011. A year later, she started regular trainings. For some time she also continued swimming but horses finally won.

- Now, during my studies, I ride occasionally when I have some free time. Horse riding wouldn’t be my passion if I didn’t love these animals. It’s one of the most difficult sports in the world, as it relies on another living being which may also have a worse day. I also like the competitive side of it. And I mean healthy competition, not a thoughtless gallop with blinkers just to be first, disregarding the well-being of the horse. Winning is of course nice and rewarding but can never be more important than horse’s health – both physical and mental. Unfortunately, at both small and big competitions more and more frequent are situations which should never take place. However, this is a topic for a different discussion.

When asked if it was her love for horses which made her study veterinary, Ola answers: - When I was 10 somebody asked me: “What do want to be when you grow up?”. I said I wanted to be an Olympic athlete or an artist – whatever it meant, because I don’t remember now – or a vet. So I decided quite early who I wanted to be. And horses… When I began my adventure with horse riding, I changed the preferences concerning my future specialization. From dogs and cats I transferred to horses.

After she finishes her studies, Aleksandra Hładziak wants to specialize in horse illnesses, but before that, she will have to work in the profession for two years. She would like to have contact with horses but if she gets to work with dogs or cats, that will not be a problem. – Being flexible in some situations is a very useful skill, which is only a means not an end in itself – says Ola and proudly admits that everyone treated the Edinburgh competition very seriously. – Representing the University internationally does not happen every day, so in order not to embarrass ourselves we had to prepare thoroughly. I didn’t always have time to train, but I managed. In the end, I was really happy with my result as both the dressage and the jumping went very well. Though it could have always been better :) I can tell everyone that it’s worth taking part in such events. The competition itself was, apart from the chance of gaining new experience, an opportunity to meet new people. Integration with students from many different countries was a good occasion to compare our schools. For example, in Poland there are six veterinary colleges and in Sweden and Hungary only one!

Anna Fortuna, another girl from the team has been riding since she was a child. She started already in the kindergarten and she is interested in natural horsemanship and work with horses based on behaviourism.

- It means, in a nutshell, to become a leader in horse’s eyes and to gain its respect and trust first through your work on the ground. And when we succeed – to continue our “conversation” in the saddle on a horse which is already eager to work. I’m fascinated with horses which are difficult to get through to, because when we finally succeed, we learn the most – says the WUELS student who chose veterinary specifically for horses and cannot imagine her professional future without these animals.

The Edinburgh competition was the first she has ever taken part in.

- It of course caused stress, which turned out to be quite unnecessary. – laughs Anna Fortuna and adds that, thanks to the trip, she had an opportunity to learn about new methods of working with horses, exchanged ideas and experiences with vet students from other countries with some of whom she still keeps in touch. – Everyone was concerned mainly with the horses’ well-being and international integration. Competition was of lesser importance. And, what’s equally significant, I integrated with my schoolmates. We made a fantastic team, which proved that passion has an incredible power of connecting people who previously did not know one another.

The fourth contestant in the team, Magda Kościelna has been riding horses since she was 10.

- My major achievements concern mainly the early stage of my equestrian adventure. Later, I began training two young mares and my participation in competitions obviously became less frequent – especially in championships – says Magda, who has, however, quite a few achievements to her name. She won the first place in Silesian Show Jumping Championships in the Pony, group 1 category in Rybnik in 2010, 3rd place in the Silesian Indoor Show Jumping Championship for younger juniors in Zbrosławice in 2011 and 1st place in the Southern Poland Show Jumping Indoor Cup for younger juniors in 2012, in the same year second place in the Final of Silesian League for younger juniors and, finally, the 1st place in the Silesian Indoor Show Jumping Cup in 2015. – Before I came here to study, I rode my two private mares but when I moved to Wrocław I had to give it up. They are currently under the care of two trainers, one from Rybnik, my hometown, and one from a stud near Prague. She went to Edinburgh by accident. – Initially it was Zuzanna Żabińska who was supposed to go but her IVSA duties prevented her, so she asked me if I could replace her. And that was one of the most pleasant surprises, I’ve ever head :) – admits Magda Kościelna, who after she graduates, wants to pursue a career in the treatment of companion animals.

Veterinary students went to Edinburgh for their own money. However, their expenses are refunded by the dean, Professor Krzysztof Kubiak, from the Faculty’s budget.

- We would like to thank our University for giving us the chance to take part in the International Equestrian Competition for Students of Veterinary Medicine. Not many people have a chance to experience something like that. And it was really worth it! – says our team.