A horse that used to belong to the Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox has suffered horrific burns after being set on fire in his stable in Little Lever, Bolton.

Gus, a 26-year-old bay gelding, was ridden by Sara as a schoolgirl, but she gave him to a family friend, Laura Harris, 13 years ago after giving up riding.

It is believed that someone deliberately set fire to Gus’s stable on Cedar Avenue in Little Lever sometime between 5.30am and 5.40am on Saturday 8 March.

Laura’s mother Kath and her husband Geoffrey McWilliams, were woken in the early hours of the morning by the sound of their dogs barking which then alerted them to the stable fire.

Using buckets of water, the couple managed to extinguish the fire before Kath contacted the Fire Service and Greater Manchester Police.

Gus has suffered extensive burns to his head and, at this stage, it is still not known whether he will have to be put down. If Gus survives, the family have been warned he may lose an eye.

Kath, who runs the yard where Gus and six other horses are kept, told the Daily Mail: “Laura is heartbroken.”

Mr McWilliams said: “Sara’s dad Len was absolutely shocked when he came to see the horse. How could anybody do this to such a beautiful creature?”

According to a report in the Bolton Evening News, Sara’s father is desperately trying to contact his daughter who is on holiday.

“Sara will be very upset about what happened. She loved Gus and really cared for him,” he says.”This incident is terrible and so sick.”

Officers in Bolton are appealing for information following this arson attack. A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said: “We believe that this fire was deliberately started with the use of accelerants. It is incomprehensible why anyone would want to cause so much pain and suffering to an animal.

“To assist our investigation we are asking for anyone who may have seen a person within the area at the time of the fire or who may have any further information to please contact us on 0161 872 5050 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Following the incident, an 18-year-old youth was arrested and subsequently released on police bail pending forensic tests