Senena Esty, one of the Standardbred sport's leading breeders, is the 2011 harness racing Lady Pace honoree. The Utica, Ohio native will be honored in winner's circle ceremonies following a 3-year-old filly pacing division of the Ohio Breeders Championship to be raced Jug Day afternoon at the Delaware County Fair.
“As a little girl my dream was to own a horse farm. I grew up on a family farm. Dad had cattle, pigs and a few horses. I was in 4-H and showed horses and that’s where my horse interests took root.”
Senena graduated with a degree in Equestrian Studies from Ohio State University and worked one year for distant relative, Terry Holton. “He really sparked my interest in Standardbreds and I enjoyed working with his horses.”
After one year with Holton, Senena moved to Texas and worked for a quarter horse farm where she helped in the breeding operation. “I picked up a lot of basic knowledge but after a year I got homesick and returned home.”
With Holton’s help, Senena was hired by Bill Kraner at Stoney Creek Farm in Newark, OH. She became farm manager and was in charge of the breeding operations. “Terry and Jerry Knappenberger schooled me in breeding and foaling.”
Senena and husband Jeff, who were married in 1988, lived on a small farm with cattle and a couple of broodmares. When Stoney Creek was sold, the Esty’s purchased an old, run down dairy farm near Utica. “We tore down two really old barns and took out the barbed wire fence. We even took down a couple of old houses.” The Esty’s named their farm Spring Haven Farm.
Senena’s husband, father and brother owned a construction company which specialized in building large scale homes and barns. “My husband had foresight when he started construction of our new barn. We were only going to have 12 stalls, but we began receiving more and more calls asking us to sell their yearlings and to board their mares. We realized we would need a larger barn and Jeff enlarged our barn to 27 stalls with a big office. We also had 27 stalls on another farm we had purchased.”
Senena’s goal is to sell all of their yearlings. “We have kept a few fillies to add to our broodmares but we always sell the colts. We only raise pacers. We own 50 mares, and we sell at all of the major auctions in the United States and Canada. We like to breed to the best stallions. We own shares in several stallions. We breed our mares based on conformation and pedigree and we also look at the sales results from the previous year.
“We sell about 120 total yearlings each year which includes about 60 to 70 yearlings for our clients. We raise some of the yearlings while others ship to the farm to have us prepare them for the sale.”
The highest price Senena has ever received for a yearling at auction was $215,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale. The yearling, a sister to World Champion, was bred and owned by her sister, Stephanie. The top priced yearling owned by Spring Haven Farm was a colt by out of Stormy Pursuit who brought $175,000, also at the Lexington Selected Sale.
Senena and her husband are the farm managers for Spring Haven Farm. “My husband and I are hands on.” she said. “ Foaling season is the most demanding by a mile. We have a bedroom here at the barn and we have a foal alert system which I sew into each mare. When her water breaks we are right there helping her have her baby. We are also blessed with having good employees.”
Despite the long hours, Senena and her husband never miss the Little Brown Jug. “We also go to the Hambletonian, North America Cup and the Grand Circuit at Lexington each year. We also like to travel, and every January we go to some fantastic places.”