John Howe would never know the feeling of scoring a century in an Ashes Test at Lords but winning the Best Managed Horse award at the annual Shahzada ride could come close.
The Green Gully horseman was the “overall winner” of the ultimate endurance event.
He becomes the third local in five years to win the event’s top award after Garry Bennett in 2009 and Sue Todd in 2010.
Howe, who achieved his 10,000 kilometres rug at the Mudgee Endurance Ride in May, was stunned to be named the winner of Shahzada.
“I was absolutely speechless. It was a big surprise,” he said.
“I came to Shahzada hoping to get my ninth buckle because I’m 60 next year and I always want to get my 10th when I turn 60.
“I was a bit nervous. It was like being in the nervous 90s in cricket.
“I got my buckle but I never thought I would be awarded the Best Managed Horse trophy.”
Shahzada is not about completing the 400km course in the fastest possible time.
Riders must convince the vets their horses were capable of completing the arduous five-day course.
Sixty per cent of entrants safely completed the event and the top five best managed horses were signalled out for a final showdown.
Howe and his 12-year-old companion, Ashbend Perazzi or Ears as he is affectionately known, and fellow “2850 rider” Gail Fisher on Arasarta Narhalinian were two of the five selected.
The five competitors had to do a final gallop around markers to show the judges which horse was the best.
“Ears looked good all the way through it,” Howe said.
“I dropped the reins and he just galloped around. He was flying.
“And just like that, they chose me.
“They said Ears was ‘one of the great marathon and endurance horses’.”
Howe and Fisher weren’t the only local riders at Shahzada.
Wendy and Allix Jones, Alison Knihinicki and Todd also competed.
Wendy Jones and Todd finished the event and unfortunately, Allix Jones and Knihinicki were vetted out.
“The people from 2850 have done us proud,” Howe said.