After 18 years in the force Vernon, one of the Metropolitan Police Service longest-serving police horses, is retiring.

The 16.1hh black gelding, who was part of the escort for the Princess of Wales’ funeral in 1997, is to live at The Horse Trust sanctuary in the Chiltern Hills.

Vernon has a degenerative joint disease in the coffin joints of both front feet and also suffers from sidebone — a condition where cartilage builds up above the coronary band.

He will be joined by two more members of the force, Verdun and Alderman, who are both on holiday before returning to work in time for the London 2012 Olympics.

Verdun is a 17.2hh black gelding who has also worked for 18 years and was part of the escort for The Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002. The force decided that due to his age he needs a short period of rest.

Alderman, a 15.3hh brown gelding who has 14 years of service, is sound but suffers from chronic annular ligament syndrome, which can cause lameness, and therefore needs a break from service.

The Metropolitan Police mounted branch’s Danny Butler said: “Vernon, Verdun and Alderman are three very good, sold police horses — if they were in a football team, they would be some of the first names on the team sheet.

“They have notched up 50 years of experience between them, which is very impressive given that we’re lucky nowadays if our horses can work for 10 years.

“Vernon really deserves his retirement at The Horse Trust – he doesn’t owe the job a penny.”