AP Photos: Kids race llamas in Ecuador's highlands

A girl waits on her llama for the start of a race at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblemati...
Milena Jami whips her llama to win the first place in the a race for children of ages seven and eight at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Satur...
Riders race their llamas at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean mountains...
A woman embraces her son during Llama races at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of t...
A mother embraces her child after he raced his llama at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblem...
A child sits on a llama before racing it in Los Llanganates, National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the...
Children arrive with their families for llama races at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblema...
A woman gets her llama off a truck at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean...
Children ride their llamas at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean mountai...
Children race llamas at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean mountains in ...

A girl waits on her llama for the start of a race at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblemati...

Milena Jami whips her llama to win the first place in the a race for children of ages seven and eight at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Satur...

Riders race their llamas at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean mountains...

A woman embraces her son during Llama races at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of t...

A mother embraces her child after he raced his llama at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblem...

A child sits on a llama before racing it in Los Llanganates, National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the...

Children arrive with their families for llama races at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblema...

A woman gets her llama off a truck at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean...

Children ride their llamas at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean mountai...

Children race llamas at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Wooly llamas, an animal emblematic of the Andean mountains in ...

LLANGANATES, Ecuador (AP) — The tiny rider sat — well, was tied — atop the towering steed that would carry him to victory in the annual llama races at Ecuador's Llanganates National Park.

Wellington Barrera, clad in a wool poncho, lambswool pants and a cowboy hat, was the only finisher in his under-3 category, bouncing 500 meters (1,640 feet) to victory.

But two dozen children in other age groups also competed Saturday in an annual event meant to draw attention to the park's high wetlands and the need to preserve them.

The park, roughly 125 kilometers (80 miles) east of Quito, is famed for dramatic Andean vistas, and the race took place between the wetlands at altitudes nearing 4,500 meters (15,000 feet).

A llama named Rayo McQueen carried 6-year-old Eric Javier Chicaiza to a a win in his category. His mother, Fátima Guanotuña, said the animal was a gift to the family when the boy was born, and the two have always been close.

Nine-year-old Ibeth Santafé, three times a winner in past races, was somber after finishing third. But she came out a winner in a llama-training contest, showing mastery over her beast.