Birthday Night, who completed six four-stars with three different riders, was put down yesterday (Thursday 19 March) at the age of 20 after breaking a leg in the field.

His owner-breeder Jane Walter said: “He never had a bad day and everyone who had him adored him. He was a real character and a wonderful cross-country horse, although he didn’t like dressage much.”

Jane bought Birthday Night’s dam, Lady Nightshade (by Newski), from Edna and Jack Callaway in Cornwall — the Callaways were clients of her husband, the late horse vet Bill Walters. The mare returned to them when she retired and Birthday Night (“Barney”) was among the foals she produced.

Jane said she had “no idea” Barney would make a four-star horse when he was a youngster. He was broken in as a two-year-old and hunted with the Beaufort as initially he was destined for a career in point-to-pointing. But his path changed after Jane asked Jennifer Baines (née Alner, daughter of trainer Robert Alner) if she would try him to see if he would make an eventer.

Jennifer produced the son of Moot Point up to novice level before William Fox-Pitt took over in 2003. William competed Barney for four seasons, taking him up through the ranks to four-star level. His best results with William included 10th at Kreuth CCI2* (2003), third at Windsor CCI2* (2004) and 11th at Luhmuhlen (2006).

During this time the horse also finished second at Kreuth CCI3* in 2005 with Mary King, who was competing Barney as a catch ride because William Fox-Pitt was suspended after being knocked out in a fall at Gatcombe.

Birthday Night spent 2007 and 2008 with Harry Meade (pictured), completing two Badmintons and finishing 20th at Burghley in 2008.

He spent his final three seasons with Georgie Spence, jumping clear across country twice at Badminton, taking his tally of completions there to four. The pair also finished fourth in a CIC3* at Burnham Market in 2009 and seventh in the CIC2* at Somerley Park the same year.

Barney didn’t compete again after Badminton 2011 and spent his retirement hunting with the Portman with Holly Barnes.

“He was a wonderful hunter. He had a great day on Wednesday [18 March], then went out in the field on Thursday and broke his leg,” said a devastated Jane.