Equestrian rider Andrew Nicholson has walked unaided for the first time after the neck injury and subsequent surgery he received following a fall from his mount Cillnabradden Evo at the Festival of British Eventing last weekend.

A statement on behalf of his family was released this morning.

"Andrew is indebted to Mr Jeremy Reynolds, consultant spinal surgeon, and the rest of his surgical team at the John Radcliffe Hospital, for their incredible skill in his treatment. He would also like to thank the nurses in the trauma unit for the fantastic care he has received.

"He is looking forward to returning home to continue his recovery and would like to thank everyone for their messages of support and goodwill, which have been much appreciated."

Earlier in the week the operation had been described as having gone "well and his condition is stable. Andrew is comfortable and has full range of movement".

Nicholson fell after the last fence on the cross-country course, where he was in the lead.

The 54-year-old is pursuing selection for a New Zealand record eighth Olympic Games.

That campaign will be recalibrated as his recovery progresses, but his chances of participating in the Burghley Horse Trials, due to start September 3, seem remote. He is a five-time winner, including the last three.

Presently Nicholson has issues to negotiate with Equestrian Sports New Zealand which saw him opt out of the high performance squad. However, his hopes of being selected received a boost this month with his nomination to ESNZ's 'long list' of potential athletes submitted to the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

He is a winner of eight four-star titles, three Olympic Games team medals and three World Games' medals since first coming to base himself in England during 1980.