Lancashire mounted police have paid tribute to “cheeky and loveable” police horse Kirkham, who has been put to sleep after suffering with a debilitating joint condition.

The 16.2hh Irish Draught was a familiar sight at football matches and concerts in the county and even featured on YouTube after footage was captured of him eating an ice cream in Blackpool.

Police Constable Maureen Green, who had partnered Kirkham since he joined the division as a four-year-old in 2015, said she was “gutted” to lose her partner aged just six.

“He had a genetic joint disease in his stifles. We didn’t discover it till he was in for a year and went lame,” she explained.

“He had an operation to clear out the cartilage and ligament damage and afterwards the vets checked him every month. They said it was unlikely he would last for ever and when they checked him recently they said he didn’t look good — the better leg had degenerated and he was in too much pain to go on.

“He couldn’t do any school work any more but I had hoped he’d be able to continue doing our job. It’s a shame, he was so young and such a lovely horse to ride.”

The dark bay gelding “loved people” and was a particular favourite with children who liked to pet his “particularly silky” coat.

“They would come up and stroke him all the time, we were like the Pied Piper!” Maureen said.

Initially named Al Capone, and called “Al” in the stable, the gelding was given the official police name of Kirkham in keeping with the tradition of naming the force’s horses after Lancashire towns. Kirkham was also named in honour of the division’s vet Alistair Kirkham who was retiring.

Maureen partnered the gelding from the start of his training and said he was always straightforward but could be a bit worried by big HGVs.

“He particularly didn’t like skip lorries,” she said. “He was brilliant with noise though and would work in Blackpool town centre without a blink — and there is a lot going on there. I hoped he’d make a band horse but sadly it wasn’t to be.”

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