Para dressage multi-medallist Natasha Baker has paid tribute to her ‘amazing’ early competition horse Lazardo, who was put down this week aged 23 following a severe bout of colic.

The Holstein gelding ‘Ludo’ was long-listed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics with Natasha before going lame with a front suspensory injury shortly before the final selection trial. He returned to work, but was retired in late 2009 with another suspensory injury.

“We always joked that Ludo thought he had to be the disabled one,” Natasha told H&H. “He’d grab hold of my walking stick and wave it around.

“He was probably off work with injuries more than he was in work, but ironically he loved to work – his face lit up every time you tacked him up.

“He was trained to grand prix so he had all the tricks, which I loved playing with. He was so sensitive that I only had to shift my weight slightly and he’d do a change,” added Natasha, who has severe weakness and loss of sensation in her legs after contracting Transverse Myelitis aged one.

“He was a proper show-off and loved an audience,” continued Natasha. “We used to call him the Jude Law of the horse world. Because he was cut late he had all the presence of a stallion too, and so much charisma.

“Everyone loved him, especially my dad – Ludo was like the son he never had.”

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Grade III rider Natasha won triple gold at the Rio Paralympics with the Polish warmblood Cabral, who sadly died from a virus earlier this year, shortly after being retired from para competition.

She made her competitive debut in October with the six-year-old Furstenball gelding Pilegardens Fireball (Freddie), whom she is aiming for the 2019 European championships and Tokyo 2020, but is currently on the hunt for a World Equestrian Games ride for 2018.

“It’s hard to find the perfect para horse – they have to have the wow factor and presence, and a phenomenal walk, but also be sane and sensible,” said Natasha, who made her commentating debut during her season away from top competition, including at the European championships in Gothenburg.

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