SCORES of the country's best riders have flocked to Tamworth for the annual Nutrien Classic campdraft and performance horse sale.
Since February 1, riders from across Australia have battled it out for their share of $270,000 in prize money during the nine-day event.
However, the campdraft events make up just part of the excitement, as the performance-horse sales began on Thursday.
Tamworth livestock salesman Joel Fleming said some of the best horses in the country were set to go under the hammer in the coming days.
"I think this year is shaping up to be as good as last year's sale, if not a bit better," Mr Fleming said.
"There's about 640 horses nominated for the sales and we usually get between an eight and 10 per cent scratching rate, which has been the case this year.
"Therefore we are going to offer up between 570 and 580 horses.
"I think averages and bounce rates are going to be very similar this year to what they were last year."
Mr Fleming said the country's drought conditions had little impact on the quality of horses up for auction.
"To me, it seems like sellers are putting in more and more effort into their horses, because they are aware of what needs to be done to bring in the big prices," he said.
"I do think it's a good time to buy, because the performance-horse industry is getting more disconnected from the rural industry.
"I think that's because more people are basing their sole incomes around it and making it their sole occupation."
This year's event also saw the introduction of water buffaloes used for horses to work with ahead of the sales.
However, Mr Fleming said while the event had been successful so far, the use of water buffaloes had not gone to plan.
"I won't say it was a failure, but it was not what we expected it to be," he said.
"It was a bit of an unknown that was brought about because of the shortage of cattle and the drought.
"The buffalo were, if anything, too quiet and didn't end up working like a normal beast would, because they were too well handled.
"Luckily, Guyra's Tenterden Station supplied us with 660 cattle to work with for the sales, in place of the buffalo.
"I wouldn't rule out using buffalo again next year, but if the conditions improve, we will probably stick with cattle."
The annual Nutrien Classic will run at the AELEC until Sunday and entry is free for visitors.