HARRY MEADE lines up for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials this week after making an inspirational recovery from elbow injuries so serious that one consultant said the shattered bone resembled grains of sand.
It was on August Bank Holiday Monday last year that the sporting fates dealt him a savage blow.
His mount Shannondale Santiago made an uncharacteristic error on the cross country course at the Wellington Horse Trials in Hampshire and Meade, 30, suffered a rotational fall, the sort of fall that all riders fear and that claimed the life of fellow event rider Tom Gadsby only the weekend before.
Meade stretched both arms in a split-second attempt to break his fall – “it was either my arms that were going to take the impact or my neck,” he recalled - and he knew instantly the injuries were bad.
Meade was taken straight into an emergency operation. The elbows were dislocated as well as shattered. A limb reconstruction specialist, who predominantly works with injured soldiers whose limbs have been severely damaged by explosives, was then brought in and carried out a second batch of operations.
But in December a CT scan revealed that the right elbow had shown no sign of healing. Four days later Meade was booked in to have the elbow removed and a prosthetic joint put in.
"They do around 100,000 hip replacements a year in this country and 80,000 knees – but they only do about three elbows a year, with a 50-50 chance of working,” said Meade.
"Then by complete chance, I was introduced to a doctor at Olympia Horse Show two days before the operation was due to take place.
"He had heard about the planned joint replacement and took me to one side, explaining that once they remove the elbow there is no going back, and the chances of making a good enough recovery to continue a career in eventing with a prosthetic elbow was slim."
With surgery looming, Meade cancelled the operation at the 11th hour, and he pushed on with his rehab regime in the hope that the broken bones would heal enough to ride again.
Amazingly, far from just finding his feet again, 2014 has seen the best start to any season in Meade's career.
And now he is to ride Wild Lone on his eighth attempt at the showpiece of world eventing, which just happens to take place in the neighbouring village to his home at Luckington.
"When you get a second chance, you don't take things for granted,” said Meade. “I am going to enjoy Badminton, especially having thought it was never going to happen again."
BRITISH riders have broken new ground by claiming simultaneous number one world rankings in all three Olympic equestrian disciplines.
Latest rankings lists released by the FEI show Britain leading the way in dressage (Charlotte Dujardin), eventing (William Fox-Pitt) and showjumping (Scott Brash).