The 11-year-old suffered seizures which made him blind in his right eye and “a danger to himself and his handlers”, reported Mark’s sponsor New Zealand Bloodstock.
Mark said: “It was a very hard decision to make but the wellbeing of the horse is what we have to consider foremost.
“It’s also sad for New Zealand eventing to lose a horse of his calibre. ‘Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the best of him.”
‘Not many horses could do what he did’
Mary Darby, chairman of the New Zealand selectors, alerted Mark about Gandalf when the double Olympic champion announced a comeback to eventing in January 2008, eight years after his retirement at the Sydney Games.
The grey, by Pintado Desperado and out of the thoroughbred Princess Of Power, had been produced from a yearling to three-star level by Angela Lloyd.
Mark paid tribute to Gandalf when Lucinda Green rode the horse for a feature for H&H in last year’s eventing special (26 March 2008):
“Gandalf was the only horse in New Zealand who fitted the bill, in that he was qualified — I wasn’t — and for sale. It was him or nothing and fortunately, I liked him…
“The point about Gandalf is that not many horses could do what he did. He had to travel backwards and forwards between North and South Islands in New Zealand, from Puhinui to home, over to England, then to France for Saumur and to Hong Kong and back, all in six months.
“What started as a fun project became, at times, an alarming reality, as Gandalf kept stepping up to the plate… there were times when I didn’t know if I could seriously return to the big time, but he gave me the confidence to go from nought to 17th at the Olympics.”