Mario Iavarone had a rough ride with his loaned horse.
The 56-year-old, one of four Italians in the 1999 NBHA World Championships, could not bring his own horse from Italy. So his unfamiliarity on The Grand Sizzler showed as he knocked over a pair of barrels in his first Open run on Wednesday.
With a time of 14.347, Peyton Warner, of Boyd TX, leads after the first round of the Open division. Ricky Glass is in second with a 14.363, and is followed by Leslie Shugart (14.430), 1998 Open World Champion Willard Reynolds (14.540) and Brad Roorda (14.571).
"It's difficult not having time to get acquainted with the horse," Iavarone said. "Horses can sometimes have a mind of their own."
Scott Brown and Ralph and Lynn Feathers each loaned two horses to the Italian contingent, which consists of Iavarone, Yuri Branchini, Valerio Lanteri and Patrizia Maspero. The Italians were forced to leave their horses at home because of problems with customs and expensive transportation. According to Iavarone it would cost $5,000 to $7,000 just to transport the horses on the trip of more than 4,500 miles.
"It may be cheaper to buy a horse and sell it after the competition," he said.
Despite not having their own horses, the Italians have had some success. Lanteri won the Sweepstakes 3D on Monday, while Maspero finished two places out of the money in the 3D.
Iavarone said that there are some differences in the Barrel Horse racing between the two countries. On average there may be 80 riders competing in an Italian tournament compared to the more than 800 in this week's event. Also, the dirt is different. However, some things remain unchanged.
"It's the same system -- go fast," he said.
It's fitting that Italy is represented this year. The country, with nearly 75 NBHA members, is going to bid on the European Barrel Horse Championships for next year.
"We feel that they're going to lead the way," NBHA executive director and general manager Rick Sykes said.
Barrel Horse racing is not just an American sport anymore. According to Sykes, the International Barrel Horse Association was formed three years ago. Now NBHA is currently in place in countries like Italy, France, Canada and Venzuela. There has also been interest in starting Barrel Horse racing in countries such as Spain, Brazil and Japan.
"The idea is to try and get the NBHA in enough countries so we can have serious consideration for the Olympics," Sykes said.
Sykes added that Barrel Horse racing would be a good Olympic sports because there are no judges, it's a timed event and it has fan interest.
"I'll probably be a long time in the grave before it (becomes an Olympic sport)," he said. "But you have to get the ball rolling somewhere."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.
Where: Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center
Today: Senior second round (9 a.m.-2 p.m.). Open second round (3 p.m.-10:30 p.m.)
Friday: Continuation of Open second round (9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.). Senior finals (8 p.m.). Directors Race (9 p.m.)
Saturday: Dash for Cash (1 p.m.-3 p.m.) Dash for Cash finals (6:30 p.m.) Open finals (8 p.m.)
Tickets: On sale at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center or through Ticketmaster. Prices are $7.50 for daily passes and $29 for a weekly pass. Call Ticketmaster at 828-7700.