Passers-by in Islington would be forgiven for thinking they were seeing things after a horse appeared to board a bus yesterday (3 January).

Politician Simon Crowcroft, constable of St Helier in Jersey, was visiting north London when he spotted the grey police horse with his head inside the rear doors of the red double-decker outside Sainsbury’s in Upper Street.

He posted photos of the unusual sight on Twitter and they have been shared and retweeted hundreds of times.

The horse was in fact not boarding the 43, which travels between Halliwick Park and London Bridge, but was instead being held by his rider PC Dan Smith, who had hopped on to help a passenger who had been taken ill.

“#PoliceHorse Invictor showing he’s a team player steps in to help PC Dan Smith with a person collapsed on a bus in @MPSIslington,” the Metropolitan Police tweeted that evening.

Police confirmed that the passenger is well, but was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Metropolitan Police task force and armed police commander Matt Twist was among the many to share congratulations to the officer and the horse.

Definitely not something u see every day,” he said. “Great job by Dan and whole team! ([Invictor] did esp well!!).”

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The surprising sight also sparked a deluge of jokes from social media users.

“Bit of jockeying for a place on the bus there,” quipped one; while others asked if the bus would be stopping at the Nag’s Head and Haymarket.

Based in Imber Court in Thames Ditton, the Metropolitan Police’s mounted section dates back to 1750 and is made up of around 120 horses as well as 150 police officers and support staff.