Rock Model, the horse who launched Italian eventer Vittoria Panizzon’s career, has died, aged 19.

The 15.3hh son of Rock King, bred by Sarah Bullen, suffered a heart attack while enjoying a canter out hacking alongside Vittoria’s other advanced rides Borough Pennyz and Merlots Magic at her Gloucestershire base. He died in Vittoria’s arms.

Belton Horse Trials 2008Rock Model’s career highlights include individual silver at the 2003 young rider Europeans, leading the Italians to team bronze in front of a home crowd at the senior Europeans in Pratoni in 2007 and finishing 16th at the 2008 Olympics (pictured top).

He was also particularly successful at Belton (above), winning there twice and enjoying several top placings. He accrued 1019 British Eventing points during his career.

“Goodbye to a very best friend… He has taken me round the world competing in Hong Kong, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Italy, France and GB,” wrote Vittoria on Facebook.

Oasby Horse Trials 2013He has entertained me since I was 17 and he was 6. He was 19 this year and still finished 3rd at Belton 2013 and 2nd to Woody [Merlots Magic] at Oasby in his last run last year [right]. Who says 15.3hh is small?!

It was the most perfect way for him to go, he had a heart murmur for many years but absolutely loathed holidays and thrived on showing off to big crowds. He is the only horse I know that can throw a stick and jump anything, including electric fencing and wire, and do fast pirouettes!”

Vittoria concluded her post by sending big hugs to everyone who loved “Bug”, adding: “We miss him already, always the yard favourite.”