Kaitlyn Larsen lives with scars up her right arm and a small tattoo of a broken heart on the outside of her hand.
Before she competes, she holds a cross around her neck and rubs the silver belt buckle on her waist. Both items serve as reminders of her fiancee, Reagon Walker, who died in a car accident last year.
“He’s with me all the time,” the 22-year-old Larsen said. “It’s tough, but it made me who I am. It made me a whole different person.
“I’m doing good.”
Aboard Laredo Montana, Larsen notched her biggest victory since the accident. The pair marked 224 on Thursday night to win the Mercuria NCHA World Series of Cutting Non-Pro finals at James Brown Arena.
Larsen of Weatherford, Texas, won the grand prize of $8,407 on the first of eight Mercuria stops this year. The top 15 cutters at the end of the season qualify for a four-round competition in the world finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mary Jo Milner and Smooth Asa Zee placed second at 222 for $7,272. Patrick Collins and Oh Cay Felix finished third at 221 for $6,138.
It was Larsen’s second Augusta Futurity title – she also won the 2007 $100,000 Amateur for 4-Year-Olds.
The victory marked quite a comeback for Larsen and Laredo Montana, who each survived the April 2011 accident. The two, along with Walker, were en route to a show in Oklahoma when a semi pulled out in front of them. The accident killed Walker instantly.
Larsen took three months off from cutting before making a return. She said her 7-year-old gelding by Light N Lena out of Little Memory Maker has helped with her recovery.
“I just mentally couldn’t handle cutting for awhile,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this horse, I honestly don’t know if I’d be here now. This horse has kept me going after the accident.”
Larsen said she’s put life on hold after the accident. Cutting is what Walker would’ve wanted her to do.
“I wanted to branch off and maybe get more serious and be a grown-up, get a real job one day,” she said. “This is my passion. I’ve been making a living at it. This is what I’m going to do for awhile.”