A man whose horse was hit by a car out hacking has had ground-breaking keyhole surgery to prevent paralysis.

Richard Clutterbuck, 57, was riding with his wife Gill on Braybrooke Road, near Market Harborough, Leicestershire, on 24 August when they were in a collision with a black 4×4.

Mr Clutterbuck’s horse Linford took the full impact and his rider was thrown clear, breaking several vertebrae and three ribs in the fall.

Her husband’s horse shielded Mrs Clutterbuck from the impact and, although her horse Poppy collapsed on top of her, she sustained only minor injuries.

Twenty-year-old ex-racehorse Linford died at the scene and Poppy, who was treated for chest injuries, is said to be recovering.

Mr Clutterbuck was airlifted to University Hospital, Coventry, where scans revealed that one vertebrae had crumbled and was in danger of damaging the spinal cord.

Consultant neurosurgeon Hussien El-Maghrabi was able to operate within 24 hours and, instead of making a large incision in Mr Clutterbuck’s back, was able to access the vertebrae via a series of keyholes.

Mr El-Maghrabi and his team used X-ray images to guide them and injected cement into the bone to secure the shattered vertebrae and pins to support the spine.

Within a week the retired law lecturer was able to walk and he is expected to make a full recovery.

One of Mr El-Maghrabi’s team, neuroradiologist Dr Nagaraja told a local newspaper: “This is very delicate surgery and the margin of error is very small. Three or four millimetres to the right and we hit the spinal column, the same distance to the left and we damage the root of the nerves.”

Mrs Clutterbuck, 61, who lives with her husband in Great Bowden and stables eight horses at nearby Great Oxendon, said : “We are both lucky to be here. If Linford had not been such a substantial horse, I am sure both Richard and I would have been killed.”