As a young child, Lexi Larson would point in excitement from the backseat window of her parent’s car whenever they passed a horse.

Her passion for horses has stuck with her ever since, she said. When she turned 3 years old, her parents rented a couple of horses for a “pony party” in their backyard. Shortly after, the search began for a little black pony of their own.

Her parents learned of a small black horse named Belle in Canada that needed a new home because she was being picked on by others. They brought Belle to Washington, and Larson made it a tradition to ride her every week.

Now, Larson is ranked No. 1 on the 2021 leaderboard for the United States Eventing Association preliminary division, she said. She is also a senior at Cedarcrest High School in Carnation. 

During an international competition in April 2021, Larson and Izzy (her current horse) took 16th place. The pair also placed third and fourth in 2021 during two national events against Olympic-level equestrians, she said.

At her most recent event in September, Larson placed fourth at the Aspen Farms Horse Trials and USEA Area VII Championships in Yelm, Wash.

The relationship between Larson and Izzy began back in elementary school when she got more serious about competing. Her family acquired the horse about five years ago from an online advertisement. The Irish sport horse, now 9, has a goofy and trustworthy personality, she said.  

“She’s on the smaller side for what we do, but she’s quite mighty and brave,” Larson said. “She’s always been awesome at her job.”

Larson participates in eventing, which is a three-day competition often described as the “equestrian triathlon.” The pair with the lowest score receives the highest honor, the USEA website states.

The first day is called dressage, where riders and horses work closely in tandem to demonstrate a sequence of movements with rhythm and poise. Next, the cross-country category tests fitness and determination as competitors navigate obstacles and varied terrain within a fixed time. Finally, show jumping focuses on precision as pairs clear a course of fences.

As large and powerful animals, Larson said, the horses can get injured easily. That can be a major setback as an equestrian, she said. Mental illness, physicality and athletic ability all come into play when preparing for competitions. It can be dangerous if either teammate isn’t fully ready to go, she added.

Larson’s competition season begins in early April 2022 at Galway Downs in Temecula, Calif. She plans to attend another California show two weeks later in preparation for the Washington state eventing season, she said.

“My goal is to just reach the highest point that Izzy can go,” Larson said. “I'd love to see how much further we can go as a partnership. And if she can go all the way, then that would be amazing.”

Larson has traveled across the country for competitions. Above all, she said, her favorite venue to compete is the Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Mont.

“I love the atmosphere,” she said. “The facility is gorgeous. There are lakes and the town is so beautiful. Everything about that show gives off good vibes.”

In the summer, Larson trains five to six days each week with competitions every two weeks, she said. Last year, she would travel to Florida every week and California every other week. 

She said the winter acts as a well-deserved mental and physical break, with training three or four days a week.

Despite all the traveling and training, Larson has maintained a high grade-point average. When her classes were fully remote due to the pandemic, Larson said, she enjoyed the flexibility to complete her assignments in the morning and then ride in the afternoon.

Larson has her sights set on the Olympics, but first, she is researching colleges. As of now, she hopes to study physical therapy.

“[The Olympics] might be pushed back because I’m going to go to college and get a degree, but right now I’m looking forward to exceeding in the sport,” Larson said.

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