Krista Carignan was born in Alberta, raised in Saskatchewan, currently calls Ontario home and has ridden in all three provinces.
The well-traveled Krista Carignan has certainly made her mark at racetracks across Canada. The 27-year-old jockey has over 300 career wins to her name, along with a leading rider championship, a feat she accomplished in 2010 at Fort Erie.
The Saskatoon-raised rider has also made her presence known in the community, including a life-changing visit she made to a Toronto area women’s shelter.
Carignan has also managed to keep pace with life in the saddle and motherhood, two roles that keep her busy and happy.
You’ve had a love affair with horse racing for a long time. Does it seem just like yesterday you were cleaning stalls at Marquis Downs?
“Yes! I cannot remember a time where my life did not revolve around horses. I didn’t come from a family with any background in horses, so it was always a struggle to find ways to be around them and ride them. Horseback riding is a pretty expensive hobby. It was my stepdad that took me to the backside at Marquis Downs when I was about 13 and helped me find a job. My mom was happy that I’d finally be making money with horses and not just spending money on them. But I was a very tiny 13 year old and I will never know what possessed my first boss Jim Hoffman to hire me. He really got me into the business. I cleaned my first stall, ponied my first horse, galloped my first horse and also rode my first racehorse for him. He’s also the one who initially pushed me to go to Ontario.”
You’ve had a lot of ups and downs, literally, throughout your career. What keeps you coming back?
“That’s an easy one — the horses keep me coming back. Ups and downs are a part of life no matter what you do for a living. I’m fortunate to absolutely love my job. Horses are amazing animals. They are incredibly powerful and at the same time they let us do all of these really specific things that are so unnatural for them. They are so much more intelligent and sensitive than people realize. I’m inspired by them daily. I feel so fortunate to have had the experiences I’ve had with them. They have made me who I am.”
What were some of the best bits of advice you received early on in your career, and which one do you still identify with?
“I think the first really important lesson was to be humble and really listen to people, and that’s definitely something that I can still identify with. I’ve been very fortunate to have had some really great role models in my career, and being willing to really listen to them and be very objective with myself helped me to evolve as a rider in so many ways.”
You’ve always been someone to help promote the sport and to contribute to the community. A few years ago, you visited a women’s shelter in Toronto. What was that experience like for you?
“It was both heartbreaking and inspiring. I think being fortunate to have grown up with a very supportive family there were things that never occurred to me. And seeing the conditions many of these women had to overcome and how it was a constant struggle to keep their families safe and the effort of everyone at the shelter to help them, it was very bittersweet. I will never forget outside of one of the doors there were at least five pairs of kids shoes and for some reason that visual really struck a chord with me. As a mother, thinking of living in fear for my life and my child’s life, it’s just something I cannot even wrap my head around. These women are amazingly strong.”
You are a proud mom. What’s the best part of motherhood? How are you able to make being a mom and a jockey work?
“Race-riding and motherhood is not the easiest match. I always miss my family when I’m at work and the racetrack is a seven-days-a-week job, so it can put a bit of strain on family life not having weekends off. However, both things bring me joy and my daughter loves to watch me ride, although she’s also my toughest critic. She always asks me, ‘Mommy, did you win?’ And if not, she will be sure to say ‘Aww…why not?’ I hope to have more kids in the near future. I miss racing when I’m away, but I know I can always come back.”
When you want to get away from it all, what do you enjoy doing outside of racing?
“I love playing with my daughter and taking her new places. We love to go to Dufferin Island and feed the ducks near Niagara Falls. Anything with her, whether it’s painting at home or going to the zoo with her friends, is my idea of a perfect day.”