Four-star New Zealand event horse Orient Express has died after sustaining an injury during a competition at the weekend (Saturday 16 May).

The 16-year-old gelding — owned by the Johnstone family — was injured during the cross-country in the CCI3* class during New Zealand’s National Three-Day-Event at Taupo.

He was ridden by Clarke Johnstone, who was not injured during the incident. No further details of the injury have been released.

Orient Express, also known as “Blue” was a popular Kiwi thoroughbred who had partnered Clarke to many international successes.

The pair competed at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 as part of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand team.

They also won the 2011 FEI World Cup Eventing Series with wins at both the New Zealand and Australian rounds of the series.

In 2011 the horse was the highest placed member of the gold medal winning NZ team at the Asia Pacific Olympic Qualifier at Blenheim.

Bev Shandley, president of the ground jury at the Taupo event, said: “We are saddened by the loss of this fine equine athlete, and we offer our sympathies to the Johnstone family.”

The horse had been retired in 2013 but was making a comeback, having taken part in his first competition in two and half years in November.

Clarke was based in the UK for two years before retuning to New Zealand due to injury. He is now based in Hamilton.

Blue was bought by Clarke’s parents as a six-year-old, six months after retiring from the racetrack.

“He has three super paces, is a lovely big scopey jumper and has a huge gallop so has the ingredients required to make a great event horse,” reads Orient Express’ profile on Clarke’s website.

“In addition to this Blue is the most generous horse with a lovely trainable mind.”