Dressage rider and judge Paul Hayler’s promising grand prix horse Flolando has died of a heart attack.

The horse died suddenly at the family’s Essex base, just days after Christmas (Monday 29 December).

The 13-year-old gelding made his debut at the top level last year — and Paul had high hopes of an international future for the handsome 18hh bay, who he had owned and trained since he was four.

“We’d worked him normally early in the morning, but by 1pm he was distressed in the stable,” Paul told H&H.

Within 30 minutes he was dead on the floor. He ruptured a blood vessel and the heart was flooded with blood.

“Thank god I wasn’t on him or at a show — but thank god I was I there. It’s a huge shock to lose such a lovely horse.”

By Floretto out of the Holstein mare Alancia, Flolando was a demo horse at Adelinde Cornelissen’s Hickstead clinic in 2013 and was a Premier League class and regional championship winner.

“It took quite a few years to get him organised — in the early days he used to bolt,” said Paul, who bought the horse in Germany.

“He’d just started his grand prix career and I think he was going to be a smart senior horse.

“He was one of those who was just lovely — such a nice person. He always wanted to say hello to you and was never in a bad mood and never grumpy. He was a delight to own and it’s a real shock to lose him.”

Flolando last competed on 28 November at Bury Farm, where he finished ninth in the FEI inter II.

He last won in October at Step Aside Dressage, scoring 62.55% in a pick your own FEI class.