A FORMER squaddie has gone from living rough to landing a prized place on a prestigious jockey apprenticeship.
The homeless to horseback move is a life-changing switch for Timo Condie, whose army dreams were shattered by injury.
And the 19-year-old from Inverkeithing, who sets off on his new life today, says love and a veterans’ charity are responsible for turning his fortunes around.
“Joining the army was all I’d ever wanted to do,” said Timo. “I was set to join the Black Watch in Fort George and was doing my training at Catterick in 2014.
“I was there for 10 months and I was close to finishing when I had an accident on exercise and broke three ribs and twisted my cartilage.
“I knew I’d done something bad but I tried to keep going for weeks and that made it worse.
“It reached a head when I tried to get out of bed one morning and couldn’t even sit up straight.”
Timo sought medical help and was sent home on sick leave but the injury took its toll and he knew he was going to have to write off his dream.
His woes were compounded when he found it hard to find an alternative career. And, although they are now reconciled, he wasn’t close to his family at the time so had nowhere to stay either.
“I struggled a lot,” admits Timo. “I felt completely out of place.
“I travelled all over from Belfast to Liverpool to Essex and was sofa-surfing for days when I could. I was really independent and didn’t want to go home, so finally I was living rough.
“My mum and dad had no idea although I was back in Inverkeithing. I was sleeping in closes and in the woods.
“I had a sleeping bag and a travelling shelter I’d put up. It was for about nine months and it got pretty bad with taking drugs to try to find the happiness I was missing.”
Salvation came after Timo came into contact with Scottish Veterans Residences, SVR, which supports homeless ex-service men and women.
He was initially at their Edinburgh facility but it was after moving to their Rosendael home in Broughty Ferry that the chance to become a jockey came up.
“One of the activities was to the Saddle Up ranch that helps the veterans and I thought it’d be a waste really as I didn’t even like horses,” said Timo.
“But right away I found being with them just worked for me. I got the chance to ride one in January and took to it right away. I’m just 5ft 7in, 60kg and quite athletic.”
Timo’s girlfriend Charlie Dobson is training to be a jockey and with her encouragement he applied to Newmarket, known as the home of racing.
He impressed so much on a visit he was accepted on the spot for 12 weeks’ training and then an 18-month apprenticeship, the only candidate to get the offer.
Timo sets off on his new life this afternoon and he’s single-minded about his future prospects.
“Every time I get on a horse I get better,” he adds. “I just feel at home – and I want to be better than Charlie. You’ll see me racing at Cheltenham one day.”
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