Devon’s largest horse rescue charity is mourning the sad loss of “gentle giant” Kavaner, one of their most popular residents who was also a rare hermaphrodite.

The Shire, who moved to The Mare & Foal Sanctuary in 2006, is thought to have suffered a fatal heart attack in his field between Monday night and Tuesday morning (27-28 May).

Visitors at the Coombe Park Visitor Centre near Totnes were drawn to the 17.1hh horse’s size and affectionate nature, with many stopping to have their picture taken alongside him.

He became the charity’s most popular adoption horse, with people throughout the country contributing to his care and receiving regular updates on his progress in turn.

Kavaner: Mare & Foal Sanctuary

His groom Jennifer Abbott, who worked with Kav for five years, said his loss would be felt all over the country.

“He was such a lovely, gentle chap and we’re all heartbroken. He is going to leave a huge hole in all our lives,” she said.

“No one worked harder for the Sanctuary than Kav and he seemed to really connect with people. They would come hundreds of miles to spend just a couple of hours with him, even if it was just watching him from the side of a field.

“He was also so willing and loved his training, going on to be ridden and driven. He could often be seen pulling his little trap around Coombe Park or in the arena. It’s going to take us all a long time to get over his loss. He was a massive part of all our lives.”

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The Shire arrived at the charity as a “gangly” two-year-old, having been moved on from a theme park who couldn’t cope with his unruly and stallion-like behaviour.

Investigations revealed he was in fact a very rare hermaphrodite, with both male and female sex organs.

The Sanctuary paid for two major operations which successfully gelded him – and from then on his calm, friendly and affectionate nature came to the fore.

Kavaner: Mare & Foal Sanctuary

Senior director of equine Syra Bowden, who was the first person to ever sit on him, said: “He presented with a totally unique set of health problems and we knew we had to help him.

“And we’re so glad we were able to pay for his operations – thanks to all our supporters – because he proved to be one of the loveliest, most laid back horses we have ever had the honour of rescuing.

“Every day he worked as an ambassador for us, proving to our visitors how important our work is. The Mare & Foal Sanctuary owes him a great debt. Thanks to Kav more people than ever before are aware of the work we do.”

The charity plans to scatter Kav’s ashes at Coombe Park and provide a memorial for his supporters to pay their respects.

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