Children race llamas in Ecuadorian highlands

The event took place between wetlands in Llanganates National Park at altitudes nearing 15,000ft.

The tiny rider sat atop the towering steed that would carry him to victory in the annual llama races at Llanganates National Park in Ecuador.

Wellington Barrera, clad in a wool poncho, lambswool pants and a cowboy hat, was the only finisher in his under-three category, bouncing 1,640ft to victory.

Ecuador Llama Races
Milena Jami whips her llama to win the first place in the a race for children of ages seven and eight (Dolores Ochoa/AP)

Two dozen children in other age groups also competed in the annual event  on Saturday, meant to draw attention to the park’s high wetlands and the need to preserve them.

The park, roughly 80 miles east of Quito, is famed for dramatic Andean vistas and the race took place between the wetlands at altitudes nearing 15,000ft.

Ecuador Llama Races
Riders take on the course (Dolores Ochoa/AP)

A llama named Rayo McQueen carried six-year-old Eric Javier Chicaiza to a a win in his category.

His mother, Fatima Guanotuna, said the animal was a gift to the family when the boy was born, and the two have always been close.

Ecuador Llama Races
A mother embraces her child after the race (Dolores Ochoa/AP)

Nine-year-old Ibeth Santafe, three times a winner in past races, was sombre after finishing third.

But she came out a winner in a llama-training contest, showing mastery over her beast.

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