Kirsty Luft-Nault is a pony person here at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino. You’ve probably seen her on the racetrack riding her own horse parading the Thoroughbred horses from the paddock to the starting gate.
“What I do is I pick the horse up at the paddock and make sure it gets to the gate. Some trainers will also ask you to lead the horse from the barn over, but that’s usually extra and not a requirement. All my job is, is to take the horse from the paddock to the gate,” Luft-Nault explained.
Luft-Nault explained a little more of what she does, “After we pick up the horse from the paddock, we parade them in front of the grand stand and we’re there to help the rider. We want the horse under control and we want to warm them up according to the trainer or the jockey’s instructions and we make sure that they get to the gate safely.”
When asked if each horse is required a pony, Luft-Nault said, “Generally, they like for each horse to have a pony. It really depends on the trainer.”
Not only is Luft-Nault around during the races, she is also busy in the mornings. “In the mornings I am a freelance exercise rider. That means I’ve found clients and they’ve asked me to come and exercise their horses in the mornings. And I will pony a little bit in the mornings as well.”
Some Thoroughbred horses who retire from racing become pony horses. “Both of my horses that I use for ponying are Thoroughbreds. My morning pony ran out his conditions, meaning that he won three races. My night pony actually won 5 races.” Luft-Nault said.
Although Luft-Naults’ ponies are retired Thoroughbreds, it always depends on the horse and what they are able to do after retirement.
As Luft-Nault explained, “It depends on the horse. Some retired racing horses will never settle and you won’t be able to get them up to the gate. It’s one of the reasons my morning pony hasn’t done night races yet. He’s nice and relaxed in the morning and I’d like him to stay that way. Not all retired racing horses can go on and become a pony because It’s highly intense, they do a lot of laps. My morning pony a few mornings ago ponied four horses, so he did eight laps around the track, which is a lot for what we do. Not so much for the Standardbred horses, but it’s a lot for us.”
Besides working at Century Downs, Luft-Nault is also involved with Olds College, “I’ve been at Olds College for their Exercise Rider and Jockey Training program for four years. It’s a rewarding experience because I’m out galloping with some of my former students and they’ve become friends. It’s a very unique program because you start out as their instructor and you end as their mentor/co-worker.”
We would like to thank Luft-Nault for all of her dedication and hard work here at the racetrack. For more details on Luft-Nault and her responsibilities, head on over to Century Downs’ YouTube channel or Facebook page (@CenturyDowns) for the full video on this story.
COMING UP AT CENTURY DOWNS
Join us for our 10 Days of Turkey hot seat draw. Win a free turkey on the hour, every hour, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from September 28 to October 7!
Watch and cheer on your favourite jockey as they race Thoroughbred and Quarter Horses to raise funds for prostate cancer on October 6!
Join us for a Thanksgiving Dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on October 7 and 8! Enjoy a hearty three-course Thanksgiving Dinner special in the Mid City Grill and Lounge for only $25! The menu includes Crème of roasted butternut squash soup with honey and coconut milk, Turkey with all the fixings, chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, duchess potato, bacon-rolled green beans and roasted root vegetables, and pumpkin cheesecake!
Join us for our Autumn Carnival! Dress derby style for this high stakes race day featuring The Harvest Plate on October 8!
See you at Century Downs!