FOR Andrew Nicholson, there is no better place to mark an astonishing recovery from a near life-threatening injury than with a win at the Barbury Horse Trials.

Nicholson dedicated Sunday’s victory in the Event Rider Masters series, with the backdrop of the familiar rolling hills of the Ridgeway, to his wife Wiggy, who was by his side and had to put on a brave face while her husband lay in a hospital bed.

The 54-year-old broke his neck after coming off Cillnabradden Evo during a cross country phase at Gatcombe just last August.

However, with a shattered vertebrae releasing pressure on his spinal cord and preventing him from suffering paralysis, like 98 per cent of people with similar injuries, the Marlborough-based eventer was able to get back in the saddle.

While he admits he will never be the same as he was before the fall, Nicholson has shown that he is still able to compete at the top level.

“It is great for the family and what they have been through. I had the easy bit, I was just a patient,” he said.

“Wiggy had the tough bit, the tough 24 hours before the surgery.

“She knew how bad I was and I am too thick to understand all of that.

“It just went over my head and I was very confident that I would just hop off the bed and walk away when the man did his job.

“I’m not like I used to be. I am nowhere near as strong as I used to be and my flexion is nothing like it used to be.

“I feel like I am riding better than I used to in the fact that I am not as strong so you have to be a lot more tactful and I think the horses are going better for it.”

Nicholson took the lead on Sunday morning after climbing from third place following a showjumping round where he picked up just two time penalties.

The New Zealand rider took that momentum into the cross country stage in the afternoon and came home well within the time to dislodge Highworth-based Paul Tapner off the podium and claim the £16,000 prize.

While Nicholson must now ride within his limits, the experience of his horse Nereo was enough to see the duo to their fifth consecutive success at Barbury.

“I felt I was very correct at every single fence,” he added.

“I didn’t feel at any stage that I was overstepping the line or anything.

“Riding him is like riding Avebury (past Barbury winner), you can do that because they are that experienced.

“It is to get them to that experience and win these type of things when they are inexperienced that is difficult.

“To go that fast, you have to overstep the line and that is what I don’t want to do now.

“It felt very easy. I kept feeling I could slow down but I just wanted to keep the same rhythm up.”