William Fox-Pitt’s much-loved event horse Moon Man has been put down at the age of 17.

Moon Man, or Bob as he was affectionately known at home, died during colic surgery on Tuesday (16 December)

William told H&H: “Moon Man had been out hunting on Monday (15 December) and we found him at about 11pm with the onset of colic. He went into surgery on Tuesday morning.

“There was nothing vets could do to help him. He had a lipoma [a fatty tumor that causes intestinal strangulation] which compromised a large — 34ft long — section of his gut. We were told it was a timebomb waiting to go off.

“We are all left feeling very sad, and very empty. Undoubtedly he was the horse of a lifetime for me — and for all of us. Jacky [head girl for William] has looked after him since he came to us as a 5-year-old.

“He’s a horse who’s been there and done everything. He was a very special horse to have about — anyone could ride him, my 2 little boys even sat on him. He was happy hunting, hacking, jumping — anything.

“He even won the pairs class at Bramham this year so was still enjoying his retirement.

“It is a great shame not to have had him longer, he was still on top form and enjoying life.

Moon Man was twice British Open Champion (2000,05). He was famously found in a Sligo trekking centre by horse dealer Vere Phillips, who spotted his star quality.

And he was even ridden by Madonna when William was teaching her to ride.