“Heartbroken” Zara Tindall has said goodbye to her star campaigner Toytown, who has died aged 24.

The distinctive chestnut gelding with his signature white spots took Zara from young riders to the top of the senior stage.

In a statement released this morning (28 June) Zara said: “I’m heartbroken to say that yesterday morning I had to say goodbye to my greatest friend and horse of a lifetime, Toytown. He was the most incredible athlete with the biggest heart, European and World champion back to back!

“He made my career and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for the amazing times we had together — he was a huge part of my family, an amazing animal and a true champion.

“I will miss you for ever.”

The combination collected their first championship medal at the 2002 young rider eventing Europeans, where they picked up individual silver.

The following year they won the under-25s at Bramham and finished second at their first CCI4* attempt at Burghley Horse Trials.

The pair were longlisted for the 2004 Athens Olympics, but injury ruled the talented gelding out for the rest of the year.

They then went on to post some of Britain’s best results at senior championships in recent years.

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In 2005 they took individual and team gold at the Europeans at Blenheim, following this up with an individual gold and team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen.

The combination helped the British team win team gold at the 2007 Europeans in Italy.

They were selected for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but injury struck again in the run-up to the Games.

Zara’s husband, former England rugby player Mike Tindall, paid tribute to Toytown on Twitter last night (27 June).

The ever-popular Toytown retired from competition aged 18 in an emotional ceremony at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe in 2011.

“Toytown is my horse of a lifetime and he has given me more than I could ever have dreamed of,” Zara said at the time.

“It seemed fitting to give him a proper retirement ceremony at home, at Gatcombe Park.”

Since then he has paraded at Blenheim to mark the event’s 25th anniversary and carried the Olympic torch in 2012.

Last year, Toytown was ridden by Zara during the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations at Windsor Horse Show.

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