The Innamincka races were at risk of ending because of a rule technicality.Supplied: Marian Martin
The sound of hooves thundering down a sandy desert track not only marked the return of the historic Innamincka bush picnic races, it also gave remote communities grappling with drought some badly-needed respite.
The century-old event is the most important social occasion for the 12 people who call Innamincka home, as well as the wider South Australian, Queensland and New South Wales pastoral community.
Photo Innamincka is a small community in South Australia's far northeast corner.Supplied: Marian Martin
But the event's future has been in doubt for the last two years.
The event was washed out in 2016, and in 2017 Thoroughbred Racing South Australia (TRSA) enforced a rule which meant anyone with a registered racing interest risked losing their license for their involvement in the unregistered race.
Photo Innamincka sports club president Clinton Stephenson and his wife Pai at the 2018 races.ABC News: Paul Culliver
Many participants in outback racing are volunteers who are involved in registered racing in some capacity.
The ruling threatened to bring the event to an end, but TRSA announced an exemption to that rule in early 2018 which allowed the races to return.Race event helps mental health of pastoralists
Photo Jason Litherland was among the many punters at the 2018 Innamincka races.ABC News: Paul Culliver
Wartaloona Station manager Justin Nunn rode the horse Primiero to victory in the 2018 Innamincka Cup.
He said the event was more important than ever for the remote communities of central Australia battling the drought.
"It's good to come and mingle with your friends. We've all got the same problems at the moment. But you get a little bit of time away from it and have a good time," Mr Nunn said.
Photo Dachshunds were among many attendees of the 2018 Innamincka races.ABC News: Paul Culliver
"It is pretty hard at the moment."
Primiero's owner Rodney Fullerton runs Mungerannie Station in South Australia's far north.
He said the event was crucial for the mental health of those living on the land.
"We come here, we get together, we have a bit of fun, race, it's good," Mr Fullerton said.
"You forget about your worries at home … you relax a bit more, have a good time before heading home and doing it all again."
Photo Rodney Fullerton and Primiero at the 2018 Innamincka Bush Picnic RacesABC News: Paul Culliver
He said the South Australian Government's recent declaration of drought for some parts of the state was not surprising.
"We haven't had any rain for a couple of years, but we're battling along."Fighting to keep a traditional bush race alive
Innamincka Sports Club treasurer Janet Brook said the event's return was significant.
"I'm relieved, excited … just really happy we've been able to put the show on again for the community," Mrs Brook said.
Photo Innamincka Sports Club treasurer Janet Brook.ABC News: Paul Culliver
She said she hoped they could continue to rebuild one of the "last remaining traditional bush picnic races in Australia".
"I don't think there's too many races left like this around the place," she said.
"It's not like some of the other bush race meetings that've got really big in recent years … it's a family event, has something for everyone.
"Unfortunately we've lost a fair bit of momentum with not running the races these last two years.
"We've got to get it back in the forefront of people's minds that we hold this meeting once a year and get it back on people's calendars."