HE WAS just three days into a two-week endurance ride when he broke his back in five places.

But 62-year-old Iain Hayter was unaware of how serious his injuries were and unwittingly risked paralysis by climbing back into the saddle and completing the 1,000-kilometre challenge.

Iain, who has won the annual New Forest point-to-point three times, was the oldest competitor in this year’s Mongol Derby.

The gruelling event involved 37 riders from 14 countries who rode semi-wild horses along a route based on a relay postal system created under Genghis Khan in 1224.

Iain, of Sway, said he was given a slow animal for one leg of the race and swapped it for a faster one.

“It dropped its left shoulder and then went into a full gallop,” he said. “I was thrown off and that’s when I broke five vertebrae.”

However, medics thought his back was only bruised and Iain decided to press on with the challenge.

“It was very painful but I’m not one to give in,” he said.

“My doctor doesn’t know how I managed to complete the ride. He said that if I’d fallen off again I could have spent the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

“I’m waiting for tests and possibly an operation.”

The veteran rider has broken almost every bone in his body over the years, including his neck when his horse crashed into a tree.

Despite his latest injuries he said he wanted to take part in another Mongol Derby, describing it as “an absolutely amazing experience”.

But he and his fellow competitors had to cope with plenty of hardships, plus temperatures of up to 37C.

He said: “At night we were sleeping rough under the stars or in yurts and there were insects crawling all over us, but there was no bathing or washing.

“There was a beetle in my riding hat for two days and in the end I had to smoke it out by putting it next to the camp fire.

“Arriving back at the hotel at the end of it I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated a bath, room service and a mini bar quite so much.”

Iain raised £1,000 for charity, with some of the cash going to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.