By Jennifer Morrison
All Milena Kwiecien
ever wanted growing up in her homeland of Poland was a horse. Today, the 37-year-old not only has realized that dream, but has one of the most powerful Quarter Horse racing barns in Ontario.
Kwiecien (pronounced Fia-chin), who raced her first horse at Ajax Downs in 2014, has gone from one victory that season to 22 wins in 2018, second only to perennial leading owner Christine Tavares.
Including wins in the U.S., Kwiecien's horses, trained by Jason Pascoe, won 29 races last year and collected purses of $340,000.
“I didn't ever think I would end up with so many horses,” laughed Kwiecien. “I just wanted one when we came to Canada in 1996. But I love it, studying the pedigrees and acquiring some nice horses. It has become a full time job.”
It was when she was in her late teens and living in Mississauga that Kwiecien set out to find a riding horse. That first horse wasn't a pony, however, but a Thoroughbred stallion, Majestic Lord, a well-bred, six-time winner who became Kwiecien's riding buddy and pet.
Kwiecien, who studied economics and worked in catering in Toronto for 10 years, slowly began to add to her horse family. She met her partner Glenn Young who was shipping her horses, and they began to ride together.
“He loved the western disciplines and was involved in team penning,” said Kwiecien. “He eventually bettered his riding through one of my coaches and he really improved.”
Young, who was born in Burlington on the hay farm of his parents that now doubles as Kwiecien's Snow Pony Stables, moved to reining horses and has had a great deal of success in that sport. One of his horses, Gunnagunya, was a reining futurity winner in Hamburg, New York last fall.
The journey to Quarter Horse racing came about when Kwiecien and Young decided to check out another type of horse, Quarter Horses, at Ajax Downs.
“We bought a mare at the QROOI sale and a runner from the Mennonites and then went to look for a trainer. We met Jason and he has so much passion for racing, he was a perfect fit.”
Pascoe is a former equestrian rider who was just seven years into his career as a trainer when he started Kwiecien's first horses.
Kwiecien is an accomplished rider
In the short amount of time together, Kwiecien and Pascoe have won stakes races with R Painted Pistol, LS Prince, Too Much White, Denali Teller Off (High Point 2-year-old filly in 2016) and last year with High Point champs Spy for the Senate (Male 2-year-old) and Stripper Dust (Female 2-year-old).
“When we first started we knew it was a five year plan,” said Kwiecien. “If you’re smart, careful and lucky you can do well. It is so much fun though that it is worth putting some money towards it. And the purse money is good enough to have a chance to make some money.”
Kwiecien spends many hours sifting through sales catalogues and eyeing prospects at sales. One of her favourites, Spy for the Senate (also know as Griff), was bought as a weanling at an Oklahoma sale because his looks 'stopped me cold' and the colt shared the same birthday, Feb. 12.
“He was just so sweet and like an old soul. At one point I thought he could never be a fast runner because he was just too sweet.”
Spy for the Senate is one of many exciting horses for Kwiecien this year.
And while the majority of the Kwiecien runners, whose jockeys sport her popular bright blue silks with a white snowflake, were plucked from various sales in the U.S., she is excited to get her Ontario-bred program underway.
The impressive Maryland Magic
doubles as stallion and racehorse - Milena Kwiecien photo
Her first homebred, Chicks Dig Oscar (Harems Last Dash – Taxing Queen) is a 2-year-old training with Pascoe in Oklahoma. The colt is one of 24 Kwiecien has preparing for the 2019 season in the south.
There are another 24 horses at the Burlington farm, including her stallion Maryland Magic, whose first foals arrive this spring and who will return to racing again in 2019.
Young, who is on the board of Ontario Biomass Producers Cooperative, is anticipating his first crop of Switchgrass that is used to make organic stall bedding.
Kwiecien is hoping to not only expand her local breeding program but is hopeful that interest in the sport continues to progress and more new owners will join.
“We need to showcase and celebrate our good horses at Ajax and attract people's attention,” said Kwiecien. “It's the most fun you can have on a Sunday afternoon. Find yourself a good trainer who suits your goals and will keep your horse healthy and happy.”
Main photo by New Image Media