Horseman John Howe joined an exclusive club on the weekend when he notched up 10,000 kilometres of endurance riding.
The milestone was achieved during the Mudgee Endurance Ride on Sunday.
Howe and his trusty horse Ashbend Perazzi, or Ears as the 12-year-old is known, were given an enthusiastic applause when the pair crossed the finish line.
Howe was only able to celebrate the milestone once the vet gave Ears the all clear after the 83km event.
“I got the thumbs up from the vets and it was absolutely fantastic,” Howe said.
It has been a journey 26 years in the making and one that would not have begun if it weren’t for cricket.
“I was watching the cricket one night and seeing the likes of Allan Border scoring a truckload of runs, and I knew I was never going to be carrying the drinks for Australia so I thought I could be successful at endurance riding,” he said.
“I set myself a goal of getting to 10,000 kilometres and here I am.”
Eighty-three rides later and Howe is one of about 150 people to achieve the milestone.
He joins about half-a-dozen local riders on the list.
“I would say I have had a 95 per cent success rate,” he said.
“There haven’t been too many times where I haven’t completed the course or been vetted out.
Howe has had a few horses but four stand out in his mind – Buddy, Omen, Dalveen and Ears.
He did just under 3000km with Buddy, about 3500 with Omen, another 1000 with Dalveen and 3500 with Ears.
Many of those kilometres Howe has achieved on board Ears has been at the annual Shahzada – one of the world’s toughest endurance rides.
“I’ve always had one horse at a time,” he said.
“I would say Ears has been my favourite. He is just a one of a kind horse.”
The 59-year-old said his first endurance ride was his most memorable one.
“I knew I wanted to do this,” he said.
“When you are out there, you could be anywhere. It is so special.
“When you complete a ride, it is your own personal achievement. You have beaten the odds, you have beaten the clock.
“It took me a while to do it but it was a goal of mine.
“All the miles, I would do it again... I would not change it.”
Patience and determination were the key factors for Howe.
“If you have a bad day, you just deal with it. You don’t take your bat and ball and go home. You learn from your mistakes and you get on with it,” he said.
Howe said he won’t stop riding and plans to get to the 15,000km mark in the future.