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Brave Charlotte's show jumping success
SHE almost died when she suffered severe facial injuries in a road accident six years ago.
Charlotte Leighton was rushed by Yorkshire Air Ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary, where surgeons re-built her shattered face with pioneering surgery.
Then the youngster from Tollerton, near Easingwold, set about re-building her life, and became a keen pony rider.
Now she has marked her 17th birthday by achieving success at a national showjumping championships, winning the senior intermediate championship at the UK Riders & Chasers National finals.
Riding her palomino horse, Crunchie, she fought off competition from all over the country in the finals, held at the UK Arena, Gratham, last weekend.
It was a good day for the Leighton family, with her sister Serena, 13, riding a grey called Jake, taking second place in the junior classes. Charlotte, a former Easingwold School pupil who now attends York College, said she had completed the contest in the fastest time, 27 seconds, and without knocking over a fence.
She said that the following day she went on to win a showjumping competition at Flaxton, near York. She said she had taken up pony riding a year after the accident.
“I always hated horses and never wanted to ride,” she said. “But then after the accident my sister went for a riding lesson and I saw her and asked if I could have a try.”
She came to love riding, despite regularly falling off her horse. “You just have to get back on it again,” she said, adding that she now dreamed of riding for Great Britain at a future Olympic Games.
After the accident, in which her injuries included a shattered eye socket, three jaw fractures and a fractured skull, surgeons moulded special plates to the shape of her face, to hold the facial and jaw bones in place until they mended.
They used a special compound which would eventually disintegrate harmlessly, and Charlotte said yesterday the plates will have completely dissolved by the time she is 18.