Kaitlyn Larsen thinks about the future and cringes. She loves what she's doing now, but she knows college is around the corner.
So she's trying to enjoy the present with her mare, Early in May.
The pair made the most of their run Thursday afternoon at the Augusta Futurity, ringing up 219 to win the $100,000 Non-Pro Any Age go-round by two points.
The top eight horses with scores of 215.5 or better advanced to tonight's finals.
Larsen, of Millsap, Texas, is unlike many other teenagers. At 17, she's already a home-school graduate.
She spends her days working - unpaid mind you - on her family ranch. She takes care of about 20 horses (including six show horses) and all their medicines.
"I enjoy it," she said. "Most people think I'm crazy for not getting paid to do it. I just love it."
In the fall, she's tentatively planning to attend Dallas Art Institute. There, she'll major in advertising and marketing.
"I cannot imagine being away from this," she said. "It's going to be really hard."
But riding Early in May, an 8-year-old mare by Playgun out of Dual Tari, hasn't been easy the past few months.
Larsen said she and horse got along well for the past three years. Recently, they've run into their share of bad luck. So when they entered the pen this time around at James Brown Arena, Larsen just wanted a conservative run.
"Just be clean," she said. "I wanted to be clean and make it to the finals."
They will try to improve upon their best finish last year in Augusta, a fifth place showing in the $50,000 Amateur Any Age. Two months later, the pair won the $50,000 Non-Pro Any Age at the Bonanza.
"She's always been a good horse," Larsen said. "It's just that we've been clashing a bit, and it hasn't been working out.
"That '19' is big. It'll definitely boost everything for me."
Larsen said she doesn't work her mare too hard, and for good reason. Early in May will need some time off soon since Larsen and her family are planning another embryonic transfer with her.
The process works like this: they get Early in May pregnant and then take the embryo out and transfer it to another mare. They've done the process three times before.
"She never knows she's pregnant," Larsen said. "I'm going to show her another couple of years and then I am going to let her be a mom. I think she'd enjoy it."