Australian dad spends big for his daughter to compete in Perry
Youths are coming from near and far to compete this week in the National Barrel Horse Association Youth World Championship in Perry.
Among the approximately 1,300 competitors are Holly Butterworth of Chauncey, Jaley Smith of Cochran and Emi Carlson of Childers, Queensland, Australia.
The contestants are battling for more than $300,000 in cash and prizes in the event held at Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.
Holly, 14, is competing with three different horses. She can ride each one as a separate entry. Although not the fastest, her favorite is Smoke.
“She just listens and I’ve had her for the longest,” Holly said as she stood with Smoke in her stall at the fairgrounds Sunday. “She is my best friend.”
Emi is 10 years old, and her dad spent a lot of money for her to compete in the Perry event.
Many racers from foreign countries pay for their horses to be kept in the U.S., or they lease horses here, due to the cost of shipping the horse. But Carlson said the bond between horse and rider is too important for him to do that. He estimated he paid $32,000 U.S. to have Emi’s horse, Hoosier, shipped from Australia. That includes the cost of a required six weeks of quarantine.
He admitted, with a laugh, that it would probably be cheaper to buy a horse here, but he didn’t think there would be enough practice time to maximize her results.
To him, it’s a worthwhile investment to give his daughter her best chance to compete.
“It’s a big achievement to come over here and mix it up with the world,” he said.
The Perry event is not the only one they have entered while in the U.S., but he said it’s the one they have been working toward. The event is considered the premiere youth barrel race in the world, participants said, and those who compete have to win other races to qualify.
In barrel racing riders see who can circle three barrels in the fastest time. The trick is to cut as close to the barrels as possible without knocking a barrel over. If a barrel falls, the rider doesn’t get a time, but they get two shots at it to post a time that will qualify them for the finals.
Jaley, 11, said she has been riding horses “since I could hardly hold my head up.”
Her father, Michael Smith, said horses are a big part of their family life.
“Me and my wife, we both ride,” he said shortly after watching Jaley race. “Every Saturday we ride and get to spend time with each other.”
The races will continue all week and the finals in all of the age groups will be held Saturday.
Sherry Fulmer, executive director of the American Barrel Horse Association, said the only larger event at the fairgrounds is the Georgia National Fair in October.
The racing starts at 8 a.m. each day and goes until at least 8:30 p.m. It is open to the public, and children six and under get in for free. Everyone else pays $10 per day. Several hundred were there watching the races Sunday.
A spirit parade, featuring horses representing each state, is also set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the fairgrounds and is free.
For more information for the fairgrounds website at www.gnfa.com.