Krista Carignan is a young jockey and is currently the leading rider at Fort Erie up in Canada. I emailed her some questions and here is what she said to them:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
KC: I was born in a small mining town Hinton, AB Canada but I didn't live there very long. I grew up in Saskatoon, SK Canada.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up?
KC: I LOVED all animals, especially horses. I also worked ALOT, I had a couple of paper/flyer routes, also did a ton of babysitting. My Mom was an Elementary school teacher so she had all the hook-ups, and I remember the one summer I babysat at 3 different houses every day! That was pretty crazy. Apart from that I was pretty shy, studied piano for a number of years, and took Trumpet in school. I was raised with a very healthy appreciation of music, and come from a long line of musicians. Our family gatherings consisted of my aunts and uncles playing guitar/various other instruments and singing old country songs, those were the best times!
FOTH: Were you into horses at a young age?
KC: YES!! I bought my first horse when I was 14 I think. I always wanted to be around horses, it drove my mom a little crazy because she wasn't very interested in horses, plus they are extremely expensive. She always used to tell me to get a job where people would pay ME to ride their horses. I guess I listened pretty well to her about that :)
FOTH: What did you think of a live horse race the first time you saw one?
KC: I remember my Grandma used to call me to tell me when the Kentucky Derby was on and I would ALWAYS watch it. I just remember getting goose bumps, even at such a young age it just gave me such a rush when the horses would be battling to the wire. The first time I ever saw one in person wasn't until I was about 7 or so, there was a racetrack in Saskatoon and my best friend's Mom would take us and her little brother and we would 'bet' on the horses, it was awesome.
FOTH: What event or events led to you becoming a jockey?
KC: Well I started cleaning stalls when I was about 13 because I needed money to buy and keep my own horse, and the paper routes/babysitting wasn't getting me enough. From that point on I WAS HOOKED. I loved just being around the horses, and Thoroughbred race horses were especially appealing to me. They were so 'wild' just bundles of energy and athleticism. I pretty much worked my BUTT off for 2 or 3 years and the man I worked for Jim Hoffman, finally started letting me 'gallop' them around the track in the morning to get them fit. That was tough, learning how to be a good 'gallop girl'. I was really tiny and the horses were tough for me, I remember there being a month where I wanted to quit but I pushed through and once I got the hang of it, it was the best thing in the world. The following year I started riding races and that was it, I could never do anything else.
FOTH: How long have you been riding for?
KC: I guess this is my 3rd full year as a Jockey, but my first year as a ‘Journeyman Rider'. All jockey's go through an Apprenticeship first.
FOTH: Did you have somebody teach you how to ride or did you learn a lot on your own?
KC: I learned mostly by watching a lot of different Jockeys all over the continent. I was also a very good listener and found I could take peoples advice and apply it to what I was doing very easily. I had also grown up with horses, so they always made sense to me. There were, and continue to be a large number of people that I learn from day in and day out.
FOTH: Tell me a bit about your 1st race?
KC: It was going a Mile in Saskatoon, on a horse named Jade Arador for Jim Hoffman (my first boss). Everything was a blur,
I felt like I was going 100mph! I ended up running 3rd which up to that point was the biggest rush in my whole life!
FOTH: What tracks have you rode at so far?
KC: I have raced at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, SK. Stampede Park in Calgary, AB. Northlands Park in Edmonton AB. Fort Erie Racetrack in Fort Erie, ON, Woodbine in Toronto, ON. Finger Lakes Racetrack in New York State, Presque Isle Downs in Erie, PA, Also Mountaineer Racecourse in West Virginia, the last 3 though I only rode at on one or two occasions, I was never based at any of them.
FOTH: Tell me a little bit about Fort Erie and the area?
KC: Fort Erie is very under-rated. It's very beautiful, tons of farms and cottages on the lake. The people are very friendly and although it's pretty quiet it is right on the border of Buffalo NY and Buffalo has awesome restaurants, and malls and things like that. It's also only 20 minutes from Niagara Falls where there is always tons of stuff going on. It's actually a great spot, especially for a jockey. The Racetrack itself is breathtaking, it has such a great atmosphere and the horses love how quiet it is. It's also only an hour and 15 minutes from Woodbine Racetrack. Woodbine is a very competitive racetrack, and on average gives away more money to the horses on a daily basis than any other track in North America! And it runs all the days that Fort Erie doesn't so if you're ambitious enough you can just take a drive up the road and ride with some world-class horses and riders.
FOTH: Tell me about your 1st win and did the jockeys get you good after the race and have you had a chance to return the favor?
KC: My first win was in Saskatoon on a horse named Just For Dad. I had actually bumped one of the other jockeys during the race and he was sooo mad at me that I was too afraid to go back into the jockeys’ room, so I actually was NEVER EVER hazed like most jockeys are after their first win. But I was also the only girl riding and I had known most of the guys since I was a kid so I guess maybe that's why they took it easy on me.
FOTH: Take me through a typical day?
KC: Typically I am up and at the track by 6 or 7 am until about 10 or 11 am. During this time I will go around with my agent, Scott Lane. We will check with the trainers we are currently riding for and go around and see trainers who have horses we would like to ride. After that I would usually go home for some lunch and read my Racing Form to see what I ride that day then head to the Jockey's room around Noon and prepare for a day of racing. If I am at Fort Erie I generally like 7 or 8 horses a day.
FOTH: Do you feel you have a certain riding style?
KC: I am still developing my style; it changes frequently, although I do feel like I am beginning to become more consistent. I aspire to be a patient, smart, and aggressive rider.
FOTH: So you’re the leading rider at Fort Erie as I type this interview out. What would winning the riding title mean to you?
KC: Winning the riding title would just be the cherry-on-top of an awesome summer! Especially because I have been struggling for a couple of years now. I did alright in Alberta in 2008 before I moved out to Ontario. 2009 was a very difficult year; I only won about 24 races over the whole year. I was trying to be based out of Woodbine and just could not get any momentum. Having Scott Lane this year as an agent, along with moving my tack to Fort Erie was definitely the right move, I have never ridden so many horses and I've learned so much and really moved forward as a rider. I love the track and the people and would love to win the title especially for everyone who has given me an opportunity this year. The title would mean so much to me.
FOTH: How long would you like to ride for?
KC: FOREVER! lol but seriously the way I feel right now I will ride as long as my body holds up it is all I think about and all I ever wanted to do.
FOTH: Have you ever ridden in the US and would you like to one day?
KC: I have ridden a handful of horses in the United States and am actually just starting to work on my papers so that I can have the option of riding down there in the winters when it gets too cold up here in
Canada in the wintertime. There are a lot more race-tracks in the US and so there could certainly someday be an opportunity for me there and I want to be ready.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when you’re away from the track?
KC: I enjoy working out in the gym, also going for runs, or bike rides outside. Unfortunately I also absolutely LOVE shopping and fashion!!
I don't have a TV in my apartment so when I am bored I generally try out a new Vegan recipe or watch horse races on the internet.
FOTH: Do you follow any other sports besides horse racing?
KC: I enjoy watching hockey, football, basketball but am nowhere near as passionate about them.
FOTH: Do you think you will be involved in the sport of horse racing for a long time to come?
KC: I think so, unless something drastically changes. It's highly addictive, I absolutely love the horses, and I know how lucky I am to be able to do something I am so passionate about for a living.
FOTH: How do you prepare for a race and do you mostly listen to what the trainer tells you?
KC: I always look at the 'Form' before a race. This will tell me what the other horses in the races will do, and it also tells me how my horse likes to run his race. I will have this knowledge with me when I talk to the trainer before the race so when he tells me his plan for the race I will be the best prepared to try and make it happen.
FOTH: Do you have a favorite horse that you have ridden?
KC: I don't, I have many favorite horses and it changes all the time. My favorite horses are the ones that run the hardest and always try. Those are the ones that inspire people with their heart and determination.
FOTH: When you watch the Kentucky Derby on TV what goes through your mind?
KC: I WISH IT WAS ME! It just inspires me to be the best I can be and see how far I can go, and reminds me to be ready for any opportunity.
FOTH: If a young girl wanted to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?
KC: My advice would be to go to the racetrack and start from the bottom, start as a hot-walker or a groom and work your way up. There is so much that goes on with horses before and after races and so many people involved, as a jockey it's easy to lose perspective of that sometimes, but it's very important to fully appreciate how hard those people work, and the things they go through.
FOTH: What is the best part and worst part about being a jockey?
KC: The best part is connecting and communicating with the horses, and helping them to win and become the best that they can be. The worst part is losing, it's the hardest when you aren't doing any good but that's when you have to work TWICE AS HARD. It's a game of Peaks and Valleys.
FOTH: What becoming a jockey easier or harder than you thought it would be?
KC: Much harder, I didn't appreciate how physically and MENTALLY tough it is on you. You get hired and fired on a daily basis. Your body hurts most of the time and you never get any days off, but the payoff is SOOO worth it.
FOTH: Any problems with your weight at all and do you think the weights should be lifted up at all?
KC: I am very lucky with my weight because at 5'6" I am quite tall for a jockey. I find if I eat healthy (mostly vegan) and cook at home I don't have any problems. Just stay away from junk food.
FOTH: Any injuries so far and if so what was the worst one and do you worry about that at all?
KC: I broke my arm and some ribs and bruised my spleen lol in Saskatoon in 2007; I've had 3 or 4 minor concussions, along with a broken nose and a chipped ankle. Nothing to serious (knock on wood) bumps and bruises come with the territory.
FOTH: I am out of questions. Thumbs up for the interview and any last words the floor is yours.
KC: Thanks for the interview, very flattering to be interviewed,
take care, and hope I gave you something to work with.
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