US international eventer RF Smoke On The Water was put down yesterday (1 May) after becoming cast in his stable just days after taking 5th place at his first CCI4*.

The 9-year-old had just embarked on his summer holiday after finishing on his dressage score at Rolex Kentucky, which surely would have put him in the running for the FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games this summer.

His rider Marilyn Little posted the news on her Facebook page.

“During a late-morning habitual roll in his stall before he went out for the day, Smoke became cast against the wall and was struggling,” she said.

Although staff were “immediately in his stall to assist Smoke in righting himself”, he sustained a fatal injury.

He was transported to an equine hospital, where he was diagnosed with “undefined traumatic injury to his central nervous system, possibly due to damage to the cervical or lumbar spine”.

Marilyn described the Manders’ talented grey as “an incredible horse that touched so many with his heart and life-loving outlook”.

“For me, Smoke was the most elegant of partners, a loyal team-mate and a truly wonderful friend,” she said. “For others, he was a magnetic presence that you sensed was sure of himself in every way; his charismatic persona, can-do attitude, super-sized talent, prankster character and acute awareness of his own stunningly good looks couldn’t help but make you smile.”

She said he “squeezed every ounce of fun out of every day” and called him “the mightiest champion with wings on his feet”.

Tributes poured in on social media after Marilyn made the announcement at 10pm last night.

Fellow US rider Sinead Halpin, who finished 4th at Kentucky, tweeted: “So gutted for Marilyn and America…Smoke was the real deal… All class. So very very tragic.”

Sussex-based US eventer Liz Halliday wrote: “So so sad to hear of the loss of the Marilyn Little’s RF Smoke On The Water. What an incredible little horse with a big heart.

The US Eventing Association said that it “sent its sincere condolences to Marilyn and all that knew Smoke”.