At 18.2hh Scott the shire horse is somewhat larger than the average pommel horse — 73cm (or 2.37ft) to be precise — but that didn’t faze Olympic gymnast Louis Smith when he performed his bronze medal-winning moves using the horse for award-winning Daily Mail photographer Andy Hooper.

Mr Hooper told H&H: “I’d taken about half a dozen shots of Louis on the pommel horse before and wanted something a bit different, that hadn’t been seen or attempted before — it was nice to take the sport back to its roots. When I first put the idea to Louis he wasn’t sure at all but he got really excited by it and loved the experience. He needed a step ladder to get on and was quite nervous but it worked out really well.”

Scott is one of 12 horses at family business Waldburg Shires, based at Sacrewell Farm, within the Shire Horse Centre, near Peterborough.

Owner Elspeth Ross told H&H: “It took over an hour to shoot, and Louis was on Scott for about 45 minutes.

“Scott was very well behaved — everyone was amazed by the way he stood so still. He’s lovely natured and very patient.”

The oldest description of a pommel horse comes in the fourth century Overview of the Roman Army by Renatus Vegetius, who wrote of soldiers training on wooden horses.

Scott took part in the Lord Mayor’s Parade in the City of London last November, drawing the 2.75 tonne, 17th-century Lord Mayor’s coach.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (8 January, ’09)