IT HAS been a long time between drinks when it comes to Toowoomba hosting the Pony Club National Championships- but the time has finally come again and it really couldn't be better.
This year, the huge equestrian event will be held at the Toowoomba Showgrounds for the first time since 2007 and it's set to coincide with the city's biggest annual event, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.
The event's publicity officer Emma Pidgeon said about 200 riders had registered for the event, which would be held from September 17-22.
"It's run every two years in a different state and this is the first time in 10 years that Toowoomba has hosted it and it gives Queensland riders the chance to compete without having to travel very far," she said.
Ms Pidgeon said Pony Club had been a big part of her life for the past two decades or so, which included eight years on the organising committee.
She said it was an exciting times for local riders who were used to travelling vast distances to compete in the top events.
"We have 96 Queensland riders, 52 from New South Wales, 45 from Victoria, two from the Northern Territory and seven from South Australia registered," she said.
"We had Queensland riders go to Western Australia last time, so that was a big trip.
"It's not a small undertaking, that's for sure.
"Most of these riders do a lot of travelling and their horses are very experienced travellers for the most part."
She said there was a fair bit involved in getting a competition horse to its destination, including pre-planning stops and overnight locations.
Ms Pidgeon said the furthest she had travelled personally for a Pony Club event was two days, which involved driving from her Mackay home to Rockhampton, where there was a safe place to stop and let the horses rest while they had lunch, before continuing on to Gin Gin, which was a renowned place for equestrian eventers to stop for the night.
She said it never took long for word to get around about the best places to pull up for the night.
She said it was impressive that people travelled from so much further away.
"They usually have either big trucks with basically a caravan inside down to just a float and a tent," she said.
"It's a highly dedicated sport and the whole family will usually come along even though there might be only one rider and three other kids."
She said most riders who qualified for the nationals end up competing at least every other weekend, but there was plenty of scope within Pony Club for all levels of dedication and abilities.
"These riders are at the top level, but Pony Club is for everyone and some people like to just go down to the local club and have a rally.
"The other good thing about the nationals is it coincides with the Equestrian Australia Interschool Nationals, so it's nice to have the two events together so riders can make the trip once."
Spectators will be welcome the whole week.
For more information, or to enquire about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Ms Pidgeon at email@example.com.
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