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Farewell to police horse with a ‘personality as big as his size’

Tributes have been paid to a retired police horse with “a personality as big as his size”, who has been put down aged 25.

Pilot, a 17hh part-bred Clydesdale, retired to the Horse Trust in November 2015 after seven years’ service at Northumbria Police. During his career he carried out all forms of policing duties including football matches, concerts and Remembrance Day parades.

A Horse Trust spokesman said the gelding was known to be one of the fastest of Northumbria Police’s horses.

“His favourite beach at Druridge Bay was the hotspot for all the races. Not only did Pilot win every time, but it was said his rider would always have a lack of brakes and struggle to pull him up after,” he said.

“It was clear to see that Pilot was a valuable member of the Northumbria team and they were sad to see him retire after so many memorable years.”

Pilot’s former long-term rider PC Tony Preece added the gelding carried out his daily duties with ease and efficiency, describing him as a “noble and polite gentleman”.

Credit: Corrina Atkinson

On retiring to the charity, Pilot was reunited with former equine colleagues Phlint and Pongo, who retired from the force in 2014.

“The beautiful bay immediately became a favourite with the team with his dashing good looks and cheeky personality,” said the spokesman. “Not only was Pilot tall but he was a chunky chap too, a stunning mix of Irish draught and Clydesdale meant that he was the type you would not want to stand in front of when he came galloping down for breakfast in the mornings!

“A horse with a personality as big as his size, everyone had a soft spot for Pilot. He loved his human friends as much as his horsey herd and loved nothing more than rummaging through the grooms’ pockets and dozing flat out in the sun with his pals.

“He was also a sucker for a good cuddle, if you could get your arms around his neck that is. Pilot was a huge part of our family and there will never be another to replace him.”

The gelding was put down on 28 August following health issues.

“Unfortunately Pilot suffered with a large hoof abscess last year and it took a long time to heal, with the hoof never fully recovering,” said the spokesman.

“He recently suffered a recurrent hoof infection that was affecting the bone. Treatment would have been prolonged and very painful. Even then, we weren’t sure if he would ever make a full recovery. We felt at this stage the kindest option was to say our final goodbyes to him, so he could live out eternity pain free.”

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The spokesman said there are “no words” to describe how much the charity will miss him.

“It is not the same here and it never will be, but how lucky we all were to know and care for such a gent. It has been our utmost privilege to serve Pilot in retirement over the last five years – and what an amazing time it’s been,” he said.

Horse Trust chief executive Jeanette Allen added Pilot was “the definition of a gentle giant”.

“I remember greeting him when he first arrived on a misty November day in 2015. We instantly had a connection and he became a fond favourite of all of our team. He was a superstar police horse and has left a huge hole in our hearts,” she said.

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