A jockey who suffered horrific injuries in a shooting accident has defied the odds to make a successful return to point-to-point racing.
Charlie Dando was pheasant shooting on 24 January last year — a friend was loading for him when the gun accidentally went off.
It fired into his lower leg, causing serious blast injuries to his nerve, muscle and blood vessels in his calf. Although the bones were not broken, bits of shot were embedded.
“The ambulance was called and I was airlifted to South Mead hospital,” Charlie told H&H.
“To be honest it didn’t hurt straight away, it took about 15 to 20 minutes for the pain to set in.”
Charlie lost so much blood that his heart stopped on the operating table during the first of his three operations — something he later learnt from his mother.
Due to the damage, he needed immediate artery grafts followed by a nerve graft and a skin graft, which were performed by surgeons David Mitchell and James Henderson.
Charlie spent 10 days in hospital before he was discharged on crutches and a supportive boot.
“I had nothing else to do so I practised walking — I threw my crutches away and held on to the wall and the kitchen table,” he added.
Charlie, who is a farrier and amateur whip with the Duke of Beaufort, was keen to get back to full strength as soon as possible.
He also had four hunters and three pointers in at the time of his accident — all but one of these were roughed off while he recovered.
Charlie’s father David kept one of the point-to-pointers — Brass in Pocket — in work and the horse took its first win at Siddington under James King two months after Charlie’s accident.
“Everybody was so supportive, I have had a lot of help from friends and family,” said Charlie.
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The 26-year-old visited the Injured Jockeys Fund’s Oaksey House “most days” and thanked staff for the help they gave him in returning to fitness.
“I shod my first horse on 27 March and started hacking the quieter hunters around then,” he said.
Charlie was also asked to help with horse catching at Badminton that spring — a mounted member of the Beaufort assists with catching loose horses on cross-country day — which gave him something to aim for.
In the months that followed, he rebuilt his strength and fitness using an exercise bike, riding, doing exercises set by the team at Oaksey House and hunting twice a week with the Beaufort.
He added that the British Horseracing Authority and the Point-to-Point Authority were “very helpful” and after passing a medical examination, he was given the green light to return to race riding.
His first race back came in the South Dorset members race at Milbourne St Andrew on 4 February, where he finished third aboard the Hannah Clarke-trained Shanoule Wood.
“Hannah did a brilliant job of getting him fit,” added Charlie. “It was fantastic, such a buzz to be back racing.”
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