From toddlers to senior adults, barrel racers come in all ages.
At the Southern States Triple Crown National Barrel Horse Association Super Show Barrel Race, riders ranged from multi-million dollar winners to those who were in their first few years of showing.
Heather Hughes, from Blythewood, S.C., ran two of her horses in the youth event, which had 344 entries, Thursday at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.
Hughes has been barrel racing for about three years, but during the course of getting to know the sport, she suffered a freak accident March 1, 2010.
Hughes was riding her horse through the barrel course, and the horse bolted. The horse did a sharp turn near the entrance gate, and Hughes ended up falling and hitting her leg against a fence, fracturing her femur.
Within six months, Hughes, now 16, was back on a horse, this time on one of her current mounts, Juliet.
I bought her right after my accident, Hughes said.
Her mother, Kim Hughes, said the horse was perfect for her daughter.
This wasnt the first broken bone Heather Hughes has had. She has broken her arm five times, twice from horses.
Her other horse, Jess, has been with her about six months. A big bay mare, her breeding hails back to Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
That sort of heritage is needed when showing in the NBHA.
Youre running with the big dogs here, Kim Hughes said.
Heather Hughes ran both of her horses in the youth classes and the open classes, which were held Thursday through Saturday.
One of the superstars of the sport is Talmadge Green, who owns a farm in Sandy Hook, Miss.
Green is the top money winner in the sport, earning more than $3 million in prize money.
He started as a professional barrel racer in 1985. He was the first barrel racer to win $1 million and has since accumulated five world championships.
Last year at this event, he finished second in the adults and fifth overall.
What keeps him fresh is training a younger generation of racers, he said.
During the Perry event, he had 12 children with him.
When the NBHA Youth World Championship will held for the first time at the Agricenter July 22-28, Green will bring with him 20 children and 40 horses.
Green said to prepare his students for the championships, he wanted them to compete in the arena at this event to get an expectation of what everything would be like.
The show has grown in the eight years with last year having a record number of entries, said show manager Paul Stanley.
Stanley expected the number this year would exceed that.
The one thing they can be proud of is that this facility is one of the top 5 in the world, Green said of competing in Perry.