International barrel riders compete in Perry

hgoodridge@macon.comJuly 21, 2013 

PERRY -- They came from 35 states and nine countries.

These youths, more than 1,000 of them, have earned the right to be among the best barrel horse racers in their respective states and countries.

Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter is playing host to the 2013 National Barrel Horse Association Youth World Championships.

The races will run through Saturday.

Barrel racing is a timed rodeo event in which the rider attempts to complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels.

Jamie Tolkkinen, 13, sat atop her 20-year-old horse, Tango, minutes before her race Sunday.

She started barrel racing when she was 3. This was her first time qualifying for the international competition.

Jamie, of Fort White, Fla., said she eats to keep herself calm.

Her mother gave her some words of encouragement.

“Just relax, Jamie,” Cheri Tolkkinen told her daughter. She said her other daughter, Harlee Watson, 18, is also competing in the event.

Though barrel racing is an expensive hobby, Tolkkinen said she gladly supports her daughters.

“It’s an awesome hobby,” she said. “It keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. They take care of the horses, exercise them, feed them, bathe them, clean the stalls.”

During her run, Jamie Tolkkinen had difficulties getting around the first barrel, and she knocked over the second one, disqualifying her time.

That won’t discourage her, though.

“This is something she’ll always do,” her mother said.

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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