I traveled to Perry, Ga., for the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships, held Oct. 26 – Nov. 1. Out of all the stout competition during the week the international competition held on the evening of Halloween was one of the most crowd pleasing classes, outside of the Open Finals. Two riders from each country represented in the week-long championship event were combined to make a team. Each team was given the opportunity to race for national honor and prize money. The class consisted of old-school barrel racing rules of adding 5 seconds for each barrel knocked over. Each rider was given one run, the times totaled and the fastest team on two runs won the race. Winner take all, pride in one’s country most valued.
Not only were the contestants proud to represent their respective countries, but the crowd was more than willing to show their enthusiasm and support. The Australians had an incredible showing as each rider was cheered and celebrated with chants and flag waving. However, by far the loudest cheers were given for the USA riders, Marne Loosenort and Chad Crider, as each rider sped into the arena.
Countries including Paraguay, Uruguay, France, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Austrailia, Brazil and Panama were all hitting the gate running trying to push their way to top honors. Similar to an Olympic competition the fans in attendance at the Georgia State Fairgrounds sure seemed to think the international barrel race held as much importance as the prestigous sports held every four years.
In the first round of the event each team made qualified runs with Loosenort leading the way for team USA with her 15.847 in the first round. As the second round began Crider had trouble on his first barrel, a broken pattern resulted in a no-time and team USA’s chances of winning dropped. Canadian riders showed a strong pairing as they breifly took the lead before they were surpased by team Brazil. The crowd roared as the fast-paced contest came down to it’s last riders.
A close race between 10 countries, the winning team taking home all the bragging rights and a trophy to prove it, were Elinor Forte and Hugo Ribeiro from Brazil. I caught up with the duo after they were presented with their trophy, surrounded by fellow Brazilians and competitors the team was exstatic about their win. Although neather spoke English and were a little taken aback by a 5-foot American girl aproaching them with a camera, they were more than willing to pose for photo and try, rather unsuccessfully, to chat with me about their runs.