GRAND FORKS -- Dressed in her cowboy boots and sitting atop her pony, little Jezimay Watson had no time for interviews."I've got to go warm up," she insisted, taking off with her pony, Rosie, and ignoring her mother's request to stay.

Off she and Rosie went to the practice dirt to warm up and chat with other barrel racers, leaving the media in her dust.

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One has to excuse her. After all, she's only 3 years old.

Now in her second year of racing, the little girl from Walhalla, N.D., is already very much at home in the horse show scene, winning awards and earning the respect of her fellow racers.

Watching her insisting on doing things herself and itching to race as much as she can, it's hard to believe the spunky rider is barely out of her toddler years.

Jezimay has always been a natural with horses, say her parents, Cyndi Hummel and Rob Watson.

They introduced her to horses when she was 3 weeks old. By the time she was 2½, she insisted on riding by herself, Hummel said.

"She stuck like glue, just a natural rider in the saddle," said Hummel, who also barrel races.

Last week, Jezimay raced during the Greater Grand Forks Fair & Exhibition. She didn't place, but she finished the children's barrels in 31.931 seconds. The top adult racer finished in 16.263 seconds.

Jezimay also competed in children's poles, finishing with a time of 46.53 seconds. The top adult rider finished in 23.078 seconds.

"She's a pretty unique little girl," said Pam Marback of Grand Forks, a barrel racer and fair board director. "She's fearless. She's a very good horse person at a very young age."

Red River Valley Horse Show Association President Scott Diseth of Edmore, N.D., said Jezimay is one of the youngest riders he's ever seen.

Kids are typically between ages 8 and 10 when they start racing, he said.

"She's just a little sweetheart to watch, just so much fun. Very serious, but has a great time doing it," he said.

Jezimay's partner is her faithful pony, Rosie, a Pony of America breed that patiently responds to its young rider.

Jezimay's 3-year-old energy means she wants to keep Rosie going nonstop, prompting frequent warnings from her mother not to tire the aging pony.

"It's just been such a good, reliable horse for her," Hummel said. "The pony knows. The pony is smarter than the 3-year-old, and that's how you like it."

Before last week's races in Grand Forks, Jezimay was all business. Wearing her pink cowboy hat, a pink and purple shirt, and a pair of blue jeans, she quizzed her mother about what to expect that day.

"Am I in with big people?" she calmly asked.

No, not this race, her mother responded.

"What number am I?"

"28."

Satisfied, Jezimay was ready to get back in her little saddle again and go mingle with the other riders. Jezimay can now climb on Rosie by herself by using a stool, another step toward the independence she craves.

Asked why she likes to race, Jezimay said, "Because Rosie's my horse. Because she's a race horse. She goes fast."

Don't you get scared?

"Rosie doesn't do anything bad," Jezimay said, bewildered someone would ask such a thing.

Jezimay often competes in races designated for ages 12 and younger. As she races, she holds on tight and swishes a little rope to get her pony to go faster.

After finishing her first race of the day, she immediately asked her mother if she won a ribbon.

From May to October, traveling to shows and competing is a way of life for the family, Hummel said.

She hopes her little girl makes it to the National Finals Rodeo someday.

"We love doing this. It's good people. It's a day of family fun," Hummel said.

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The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.