The Horse Trust has been left with a “George-shaped hole in our hearts” after its oldest resident died aged 43.
A spokesman for the charity said staff were “heartbroken” to announce the passing of Shetland pony “Uncle George”. The gelding spent 17 years at the Horse Trust, having arrived in 2004 from Battersea Park Children’s Zoo with donkey Briar.
“George became an institution over the years and became known as Uncle George in 2012 when six-week-old Teddy arrived with us having been abandoned on a roadside. Once Teddy had recovered from his ordeal, George was chosen as the perfect godfather to the little foal as his nature was extremely gentle yet he would still keep the youngster in line when necessary,” said the spokesman.
“He did an amazing job helping us to care for the youngster, and no doubt shaped him into the superstar pony we see today.”
George became the charity’s “spokespony for common sense” on social media.
“George would quite often give everyone on Facebook a jolly good talking to, be it about tinsel in stables, to rug or not to rug or how to help stop the spread of infectious disease,” said the spokesman.
“He became famous in the horse world for his sage advice, whilst closer to home he has always been a firm favourite with visitors.”
The spokesman said reaching the age of 43 was “no mean feat” and meant the gelding needed support with some clinical issues.
“He had PPID [Cushing’s], arthritis, cataracts and most recently appeared to have developed irritable bowel syndrome,” she said.
“These issues were lovingly managed by the team to ensure George was happy, and even when his sight deteriorated, he was kept in his little paddock where he knew where every bump and fence was; so much so he was happily running around in until the end. George was always happy to be apart from other ponies and kept an eye on goings on from his paddock.”
George’s health deteriorated after he collapsed in the stable a few weeks ago.
“The cause was slightly unclear at the time, he got up and was munching away (or rather slurping as a lack of teeth meant ‘soup’ was the order of the day) very happily shortly afterwards,” said the spokesman.
“When he was examined, he was showing signs that suggested the problem might possibly be in his neck or brain, so the decision was made to watch him extremely closely and to act should this reoccur.”
The spokesman said George collapsed again a couple of weeks later and appeared to have a seizure. Although he recovered and got up, it was agreed the episodes could become longer and more frequent with a poor chance of recovery.
“It was time. A goodbye we had all been dreading for so long. For so many years we were worried that with his advancing years he may not winter well and then he would utterly confound us with his determination,” said the spokesman.
One of the gelding’s ‘claim to fame’ is being ridden by Charlotte Dujardin when she visited the police stables
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
The charity’s chief executive Jeanette Allen said there were “simply not enough words” to describe George.
“He was an absolute legend, a tiny sweetheart, a national educator, an incredible foster dad and even though a solitary soul with ponies, adored people,” she said.
“The gentlest, funniest, loveliest pony of all. To have him to the astounding age of 43 makes us not just immeasurably sad but also incredibly lucky and honoured. He was an utterly unique pony and we will always have a George-shaped hole in our hearts. He had a truly amazing life and contributed so much to the welfare of other ponies along the way. We are so grateful that he was able to live out his 17 years of retirement with us at the Horse Trust.”
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.