Zara Phillip's world champion eventing horse Toytown has died at the age of 24. The Queen's grandaughter announced the sad news in a statement (via The Telegraph) saying, "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."

"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," Mia Tindall's mother added. "I will miss you forever."

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VER GALERÍA Zara's husband, Mike, paid tribute to his wife's horse on Twitter

A spokesperson for Zara, 36, said that Toytown was put down due to medical reasons. On Tuesday, Mike Tindall paid tribute to his wife's late chestnut gelding tweeting, "Sad to say goodbye to the big man today, been a massive part of our lives giving us so many highs!#champ #RIPtoytown."

Zara and Toytown's partnership lasted for almost two decades. In that time, the pair won individual gold and team silver in the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Germany. The British royal also won three European Eventing Championship titles on Toytown; one individual gold in 2005 and two team golds. The pair unfortunately missed out on both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games because of injury, and on the final day of the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe House in 2011, Toytown was officially retired. He briefly came out of retirement for the 2012 Olympic Games when Zara carried the Olympic torch as part of the flame's relay across the country.

VER GALERÍA Zara and Toytown pictured with the Olympic torch ahead of London 2012 Photo: Getty Images

Speaking at the time of his retirement, Zara – who affectionately referred to Toytown as 'Noddy' or 'Ginger' – said: "I think it will be difficult. It's the end of an era. He was the horse of a lifetime for me. We grew up together, we went through the levels together, and it all just seemed to go our way. His movement, his character, it all combined to make the compete horse. And cross-country, he was just a machine."

I don't think I am ever going to find another horse quite like him, but hopefully others that will be good enough to go to the same level as he did." Toytown lived a happy retirement on the grounds of Princess Anne's Gatcombe Estate, where Zara and Mike live with their three-year-old daughter Mia.

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