Barrel racing contest in Perry brings out midstate’s best

awoolen@macon.comNovember 6, 2013 

PERRY -- A home field advantage doesn’t come into play for the locals who qualified for the National Barrel Horse Association’s World Championships.

Despite riding here numerous times, it all comes down to the horse and rider for a particular run at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.

Brittani Hancock, who was in the money for the 21 race, which is for those 21 and older, didn’t qualify for the finals in the open rounds on her horse, Peaches.

“They’re barrel horses; they’re not perfect,” said Hancock, a 23-year-old from Fort Valley.

Peaches and Hancock ran their fastest time in Reaves Arena on Thursday when they clocked 15.386 seconds.

The event was held Oct. 27-Saturday and had an estimated 1,500 horses competing.

Hancock has been riding since she was 10 due to her mother’s influence. Her mother, Justina Hancock, also does barrels and has been riding since she was a teenager.

Brittani Hancock’s best friend and sometimes barrel racing rival, Kori Patterson, also qualified for the championships on her 8-year-old horse.

They have known each other since middle school and both graduated from Peach County High School.

They are currently in school at Middle Georgia State College studying health science administration.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Patterson, who lives in Byron, said about galloping into the arena and racing around the three barrels.

The women both have horses they take out trail riding as well.

“Barrel horses have a reputation for being off the charts,” Patterson said. “But I would take a consistent horse any day.”

Colleen Cunningham, of Fort Valley, qualified for the finals on her 7-year-old palomino paint, Lita, where she finished tied for seventh in the 4D time.

Cunningham started riding three years ago when she started dating Bud Salter, who also barrel races.

Cunningham was tickled at her success in her first World Championships.

“It’s really exciting,” she said.

Macy Hughes, of Perry, sat on her horse George in the warm-up arena watching the big-screen TV.

Until about 15 minutes before she needed to go in, George stood quietly.

Then the nerves kicked in, and Hughes explained that George got a little antsy.

“He’s my old man until you get him to the shoot,” she said.

Hughes, 19, has been riding for 11 years. The 2012 Perry High School graduate hopes to be a horse veterinarian in the future.

She has been to the fairgrounds many times for barrel shows.

Ritchie Allison started a bit later in life when his son got into horses.

Allison, a 57-year-old equipment specialist for the C-5 at Robins Air Force Base, and his friend, Don Cook, of Cochran, are running a farm together and also barrel race.

Allison has been riding for 14 years while Cook has been doing barrel racing since 1987.

“It’s a good family atmosphere, and the fellowship has been phenomenal,” Allison said.

The two have formed a partnership that has taken them to Fort Stewart, Ark., where Cook rode one of Allison’s young horses.

Cook was riding Booney and ran his best time ever Friday.

The pair said they would probably be riding until they were in their 80s.

“It gets in your blood and goes on and on,” Cook said.

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