Stunning, a European team gold medal winner, British open champion and Blenheim winner with William Fox-Pitt, has been put down, aged 26.

The news was reported by the @foxpitteventing twitter account this morning: “Sad day on Monday with Stunning being put down. He will be missed by us all, none more so then Jackie Potts, but he had a good innings.”

When Jayne and George Apter’s chestnut retired from eventing in 2004 they gave him to to William’s long-standing head girl Jackie, who enjoyed hunting him with the Portman.

“Jackie retired him from hunting this winter and it wouldn’t have been fair to have let him become bored in the field,” said William. “It was a hard decision because he had come through the winter well, but between us and the Apters we decided it was probably the best thing for him. He was getting old and we wanted to let him go before anything actually happened to him.”

Stunning was a European team gold medallist with William at Pau in 2001, when he finished sixth individually.

The ex-racehorse, by Ring The Bell, first enjoyed eventing success with Mark Todd, winning Achselschwang CCI*** in 1998 before William took over the ride in 1999.

Although Stunning was fourth at Rolex Kentucky in 2002, he never proved a consistent performer at four-star level.

Instead, he excelled at three-star and advanced, winning Blenheim CCI*** (2000), the British open at Gatcombe (2003), Thirlestane CIC*** (2003 and 2004), Chatsworth CIC*** (2003), Lulworth CIC*** (2004) and advanced classes at Cornbury, Brockenhurst (2000) and Aston-le-Walls (2002 and 2003).

“He was quite quirky and his ups and downs were well documented, but he was a very special horse and I owe him a lot,” said William.

“He got me back on the British team and really gave me a leg up in the early 2000s when I was short of horsepower. I had retired Chaka and Cosmopolitan and was wondering what was going to happen next, so he gave me a massive boost at a time when I most needed it. He came to me at a crucial time in my career.

“We were lucky to have him in his retirement – he was a fantastic hunter, schoolmaster and companion. He was racing at two and eventing at 19, which is good going – we could do with a few more like him.”