We Walk Where Royalty Ran
An infamous champion Arabian who sired some 233 horses once called our neighborhood home.
I long thought I knew almost everything there is to know about our City and its history; not true! Having put the pieces together, it’s remarkable how little I still know about this slice of heaven that we call “home.” One notable overlooked chapter of our Hidden Hills history is about our hero, Witez II, and his arduous journey from abroad to finally settle in our midst.
Witez II was born in Poland April 1,1938, the son of a noted Arabian, Ofir. He spent his very early years at the Janow Stud Farm, which he left for a short time as World War II had broken out and the Russians were nearing the farm, aiming to kill the horses for food. He was taken with a group of other young horses to safety and brought back after the Germans stopped the Russian threat.
Witez II was trained as a race horse; however, all horse races had been cancelled because of the war, and so he was sent back to Janow to become a stud. Although most of the horses he sired were born in America, he did sire 10 outside of the U.S. The man who changed his life and gave us the opportunity to have a grand champion in our neighborhoods made sure Witez II would fulfill his destiny.
That man was General George Patton. Patton was a competitor in the 1912 Olympic Games. His event was the modern pentathlon, which included horseback riding, fencing, pistol shooting, running and swimming. General Patton rode horses all his life and knew many important aficionados of equestrian sports. The General learned from a Spanish horseman that the Russians were coming on strong again and were after some amazing horses at one of Hitler’s horse farms in Hostau, which is now in the Czech Republic. The Russians weren’t interested in making these horses a part of their army; they were going to kill them for food. Patton sent troops to save the horses, but first had to defeat the Germans before the rescue could be accomplished.
By 1945, the area where the horses were boarded was secure and a surrender was planned. Because the Germans who controlled the farm were also interested in the horses as horses, they had a color guard waiting and were also happy that the horses weren’t going to be taken to Russia and slaughtered. Witez II was one of the few horses that had been trained for racing, so he had a rider on him throughout the day, which was more like a fiesta than a surrender. Witez II and his rider lead the horses as they left to head for the ocean and the trip to the United States.
They arrived at Newport News Virginia, and Witez II spent the winter at Fort Royal, Virginia. But Witez II still wasn’t where he was destined to spend the rest of his life—Sunny California!
The trip to California came the next year, 1946, when Witez II and the other horses were transferred to the Army Remount Center at the old W.K. Kellogg Ranch in Pomona. There he stood stud for two years until the operation was turned over to the Department of Agriculture. When in 1948 all the horses were to be auctioned off, Witez II was bought for $8,100 by Carl and Francis Hurlbutt, owners of the Calarabia Ranch.
The Calarabia Ranch would one day become the North Western part of Hidden Hills. This is where Witez II would spend the rest of his life.
In 1951, the Hurlbutts were urged to enter Witez II in the All Arabian Show in Pomona, one of the biggest shows in America; Witez II was the Southern California Grand Champion of the show. Two years later, he became the Pacific Coast Grand Champion and overall Grand Champion at age 15.
Witez II was considered by many to be the most magnificent Arabian horse of all times. His color was Bay and he had a white mark starting from the tuft of hair between his ears and going down the center of his face to end between his eyes. I believe the mark looked like a map of the state of California where he lived until his death June 9, 1965. The last year of his life was here in Hidden Hills.
In the end, Witez II had sired 223 foals, 16 of which became national winners of both halter and performance. One notable winner was his daughter, Ronteza, who won the world championship for reined cow horses in 1961 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, by defeating 50 horses of all breeds.
Witez II had quite the life with more adventure than most of us could ever dream of. World traveler, embroiled in a world war, shipped across the seas to a new land as a teenager, prolific father with some special offsprings and a chance to grow old in one of the most enviable places in the country. He started his life with gunfire and smoke all around him and ended it in cool ocean breezes and rolling foothills where he was able to wander peacefully about.
Roger Schlesinger is second generation born and raised in Southern California. He attended Beverly Hills High School with two other Hidden Hills residents and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts from U.C.L.A in Economics and M.B.A from U.S.C. in Finance. Roger became a stock broker, a commercial rehab developer and finally a realtor-turned-mortgage broker by accident. He was on the Business Channel for most of the 1990s, and radio since 1997. In 2000, he went onto the Hugh Hewitt show nationwide for 14 years discussing mortgages and finance as the MortgageMinuteGuy. Today, Roger can still be found on local radio, working in mortgages, writing books or reminiscing about Hidden Hills for “Roger’s View.”