A YOUNG horse rider who has cleared a massive pain barrier and landed in the most prestigious show ring in the country said today: "It's like a dream."

Nicola Slater, 15, of Old Langho, near Blackburn, has beaten the best -- after weeks of agony in hospital -- to qualify for the Horse of the Year Show at Wembley Arena next month.

The Clitheroe Grammar School pupil will ride her horse Irish Freestyler in the Newcomers Championship at this year's show on October 6, when top sports personalities Sue Barker and Jenny Pitman will be in the crowd.

She will take on just 23 other competitors out of thousands who tried to qualify.

Yet just four months ago Nicola was on the operating table as surgeons fought to repair the traumatic nerve damage she had suffered in her shoulder when a horse bolted and fell on top of her.

Nicola, of Bradyll Court, Brockhall Village, said: "I'm very excited.

"I was very determined to get there... it's like a dream."

Mum Lynn explained that modest Nicola still could not use her shoulder properly but had developed other muscles to compensate so that she could ride at the top level.

"The accident happened last September while Nicola was at a riding school in Blackpool," said Lynn.

"She was holding a friend's pony when it suddenly set off down the car park. She was worried it would run into the road so she hung on and she ended up underneath it, with a badly broken arm.

"Nicola now has no feeling down the outside of her foot, and at the same time we've been told it could be two years before the shoulder is back to normal." said Lynn.

"But Nicola just accepted it and was very determined.

"She said she still wanted a pony and we bought Irish Freestyler from down in Leicestershire just after the horse had come over from Ireland. Seven weeks after the operation she was riding again"

Soon Nicola was completing clear rounds again, and she told Lynn and dad Dudley that she wanted to enter a big show.

"We didn't have any expectations of her doing anything at all. But she just did it," said Lynn.

Nicola came third out of 97 entries at the show in Bedfordshire -- and the first three qualified for the Horse of the Year Show with three clear rounds each.

A spokesman for St James's Hospital in Leeds, where Nicola will return for treatment, said: "We are delighted that she is enjoying so much success.

"She's obviously a brave little girl to overcome the injuries she has."

Mrs Slater is appealing for sponsorship, her number is 01254 245230.