John Whitaker’s former puissance horse Steps Helsinki has been put down at the age of 27.

The black Trakehner gelding was with John for six years before being sold on and he spent the last 10 years of his life in Kent, jumping lower level BS classes at first before retiring fully aged 23.

His owner made the decision to put him down as “putting him through another winter wouldn’t have been fair”.

“We wanted him to go out on a good note, and not suffer,” she said.

“He had a lovely life; he was a real character who wouldn’t jump a stick for some people but would win all day with others.

“I’m devastated; I’d been thinking I had to do it but I spent the whole day crying yesterday [11 July]. He was a lovely horse.”

John acquired the Russian-bred stallion through Norwegian rider Geir Gulliksen and together they secured some great results in puissance classes around the world.

They also finished third in the King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead in 2002 and took fourth in the grand prix at the World Cup final in Las Vegas in 2003. But they are perhaps best remembered for this fantastic image of him and John miraculously clearing the big red wall in ’s-Hertogenbosch with no reins when Steps Helsinki spooked at a sponsor’s sign on take-off.

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“He had lots of good placings and was a very useful horse to have on the string, a great all-rounder,” John told H&H. “He was a stallion when I bought him, but we had him gelded — he had these great big balls that just clattered around all the time and got in the way when he jumped, so we got rid of them!”

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