NBHA executive director Sherry Fulmer clearly is impressed with the number of entrants in this year's World Championships.
Despite the lagging economy, 678 open entrants and 290 in the senior division are expected to participate in this week's show, which begins with the Sweepstakes on Monday at James Brown Arena.
"Travel is locking people down," Fulmer said. "They're having to choose."
While U.S. competitors are facing higher travel costs, the NBHA is expanding its presence on the international level. In May, the NBHA held its first Brazilian Open, the organization's first foray into South America.
After this week's show, 14 countries, including the U.S., will compete in the World Cup of Barrel Racing in Verona, Italy.
"Western horse sports internationally are real popular right now," Fulmer said.
The NBHA is trying to find a popular event stateside. The organization this week is test-marketing a 21-and-older competition, which has drawn 70 entries, a number that could swell by the time the event begins Friday.
Fulmer said riders wanted this event because of the young riders dominating open competition. For example, three of the past four NBHA World Championships have been won by riders ages 13 and younger.
"A lot of people felt if they weighed more than 125 pounds they'd have no chance to win," Fulmer said. "We're trying to fill a void in the market.
"In fast horse events, weight does come into play with all things being equal."
The NBHA's popular Trick or Trot event will be held Friday evening. The NBHA is requesting a $5 donation, which will go to the Southeastern Burn Foundation. Doors open at 7.
Trick or Trot features riders and horses dressing up in costume. Also, youngsters can trick-or-treat the show's vendor booths.
The evening also will feature a Lightning Round competition, where 15 riders will vie for a share of a $22,000 purse in 15 minutes.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NBHA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
WHEN: Monday-Saturday, competition begins at 8 a.m.; Senior finals, 7 p.m. Thursday; Open finals, 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: James Brown Arena
Web site: www.nbha.com
PROMOTION: Trick or Trot, 7 p.m. Friday, allows youngsters to trick-or-treat indoors and features horses and riders in costumes. A $5 donation goes to the Southeastern Burn Foundation.