MERRIWA is gearing up to host a major equine event this month.
The 2019 Pony Club NSW State Sporting, Team Penning, Campdraft, Team Sporting and Mounted Games Championships will take place at the Merriwa Showground from Saturday, April 13, to Tuesday, April 16.
The event is presented by Zone 7, which encompasses the Upper Hunter region.
It's the first of two key state titles that the zone will host this year, with the second being the State Showjumping and One Day Event Championship in July.
The April event is expected to attract 600 entries from throughout NSW, who'll represent their respective zones and clubs in the competition.
There is also a large contingent coming in from across the border in Queensland.
"Historically, Queensland has been very competitive in the disciplines on offer for the championships, keeping NSW riders on their toes," Merriwa Pony Club president Clare Martin said.
"The State Sporting Championship will kick things off on April 13, followed by the Cattle Disciplines (Team Penning and Campdrafting) on Sunday, April 14.
"April 15 will feature the Mounted Games Championships, and the Team Sporting Championship will wrap it all up on April 16.
"This is the first time the event has taken place in this combination.
"Previous years have seen sporting, campdrafting and team penning being held together, with team sporting and mounted games on a separate weekend.
"With such a favourable response from competitors, it appears to be a winning combination.
"The first Sporting and Campdraft Championships were conducted in Dunedoo in 1980, with team penning only being introduced recently in 2016, along with team sporting."
Riders will be busy practicing and preparing to venture to the championships with some competitors travelling more than eight hours from Cobargo in the south.
Those competing are aged between seven and 24 years, with the largest age group being the 13 and under-15 years and 17 and under-26 years sporting championships.
Both sections boast about 55 competitors in each category, with in excess of 200 entries in the sporting arena.
The campdraft is also proving to be popular with 46 entrants in the 17 and under-26 age group.
The Merriwa Showground will be packed out with 264 horses being housed on site for the duration.
Spectators are invited to come along and watch the competition, which starts at 8am each day.
"There'll be a number of trade stands in attendance to allow for some retail therapy," Martin said.
"The local Zone 7 will run a canteen for the duration of the event for breakfast and lunch.
"Two championship dinners will take place on Saturday and Monday, too, hosted by Zone 7 to settle into the competition in a relaxed atmosphere.
"The influx of competitors, families, volunteers, officials, and supporters will be one of the highlights of the calendar for Merriwa, along with the Festival of the Fleeces and the Merriwa Springtime Show."
The most successful riders in each age group will be presented the 2019 champion award and receive a sash, trophy, HYGAIN feed voucher, Horseland wool rug, and gift bag from Ranvet.
The top competitors in zone and state will also receive awards, with up to four of the highest point scoring riders from the same zone receiving a sash and trophy.
"Thank you to the generous sponsors of the Pony Club NSW State Championships from Horseland, HYGAIN and Ranvet," Martin added.
"Your support makes events like this possible."
For more information, visit the Pony Club NSW Facebook page or website on www.pcansw.org.au