Sadly, it was announced this week that Zara Tindall’s championship-winning horse, Toytown, had to be put down for medical reasons at age 24.

Toytown, a unique-looking chestnut with white spots covering his body, was first discovered by Tindall’s father, Captain Mark Phillips. Though the gelding’s breeding history was unknown at the time, Toytown eventually proved his worth ten times over, winning both individual gold and team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany.

In a statement published in The TelegraphZara said the following:

“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.”

Zara and the gelding competed together in their first major event at the Young Rider Europeans in 2002, earning individual silver. The following year, they took second place at Burghley during their first attempt at the grueling track. The pair went on to achieve individual and team gold at the European Eventing Championships at Blenheim in 2005, and then team gold at the European Eventing Championships at Pratoni del Vivaro in Rome. Together, they achieved some of Great Britain’s best results at the championship level in recent years.

Tindall recalls being the individual gold and team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen as one of her greatest achievements. At the time, she was only the third rider to hold both the World and European titles at the same time, forver putting her next to some of the all-time greats of eventing.

Early in their career, Tindall had struggled with Toytown in the show jumping phase. Once, while sitting in first at the two-star Windsor CCI in 2001, they obtained 25 faults in show jumping, dropping them out of contention. Five years later, at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, however, it was a different story. After a successful dressage test left them well-placed on the leader board and a clean and quick ride on cross-country shored up their position, Tindall put history behind her, steering Toytown through an impressive show jumping round, and clinching the victory.

Not only did this solidify their position on the British senior national team, but also proved once and for all to Tindall’s father, Captain Mark Phillips, that Toytown’s unknown breeding wouldn’t stop him from becoming the horse of a lifetime.

“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,” Tindall said. “I will miss [him] forever.”

You can watch a short bit of footage from Toytown’s and Zara Tindall’s incredible rides at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen in 2006 below:

Photo credits: Shannon Brinkman for NF Style; @MarkTindall13 via Twitter.com.