The Horse Trust’s oldest resident, Uncle George, has been put to sleep at the age of 43.

The much-loved Shetland was taken in by the charity in 2004, when he arrived with a donkey called Briar. George had previously spent many years living at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo.

He became known as ‘Uncle George’ in 2012 when six-week-old Teddy, who had been abandoned on a roadside, arrived at The Horse Trust. George became Teddy’s ‘godfather’ .

“Unfortunately, George suddenly collapsed a couple of weeks ago in the stable. The cause was slightly unclear and he got himself up and was munching away — or rather slurping, as a lack of teeth meant soup was the order of the day — happily shortly afterwards,” said a statement.

“When he was examined, signs suggested the problem might possibly be in his neck or brain, so at that point the decision was made to watch him extremely closely.

“Sadly, a couple of weeks later, George collapsed in his paddock and appeared to have a seizure. He recovered and got back up, although was disorientated (not helped by his poor vision).

Photo supplied by The Horse Trust

“It was then almost certain that these episodes would become longer and more frequent, with a poorer recovery. It was time. A goodbye we had all been dreading for so long.

“So many years we were worried that with his advancing years he may not winter well and then he would confound us with his determination.”

Living to such an impressive age meant George lived with several clinical issues, including Cushing’s, arthritis, cataracts and he recently developed irritable bowel syndrome.

“All of these issues were lovingly managed by the team here to ensure George was happy. Even when his sight deteriorated, he was left in his little paddock where he knew where every bump and fence was. He was happily running around in there right until the end,” said the statement.

George in the office! Photo: The Horse Trust

Jeanette Allen, CEO of The Horse Trust, said: “There are simply not enough words to describe George. He was a total tiny sweetheart, a national educator, an incredible foster dad and even though a solitary soul with ponies, adored people. The gentlest, funniest, loveliest pony of all.

“To have him live to the astounding age of 43 makes us not just immeasurably sad, but also incredibly lucky and honoured. He was unique and we will always have a George-shaped hole in our hearts.”