Police in Toronto are mourning the loss of a gentle giant from the mounted unit, who was euthanized after breaking his leg on duty.
Staff praised 16-year-old Royal Sun for his service to the Canadian city.
Royal Sun was on patrol in the entertainment district around 2am last Sunday when he tore a ligament, causing his weight to displace and severely fracturing his leg.
He was put down in an equine hospital soon after, because of the devastating nature of the injury.
“It’s a very sad day for us,” Staff Inspector William Wardle, the mounted unit commander, said of Royal Sun’s loss.
“We look at the horses as members of our unit and it is our responsibility to care for them, so it’s difficult to lose them.”
Royal Sun had become one of the most popular horses in the unit over his 12-year service because of his reliability and gentle manner, Wardle said.
He said the mounted unit officers, responding officers, the radio dispatcher and veterinarian staff quickly mobilized in a bid to try to save the horse.
“The speed at which he was given first-aid, loaded on the trailer and delivered for potential lifesaving medical treatment is a tribute to our members’ professionalism,” he said.
“He was one of the most reliable horses and used extensively,” Wardle said of the horse used in training and on the road to lead the others.
Constable Patrick Penney was the first officer to ride Royal Sun fulltime after his training.
“He was a big strong horse. He had a massive chest on him and a huge, muscular neck – he was just an awesome presence when you saw him on the road,” Penney said.
“As big and intimidating as he could be, he was also the most gentle creature.”
Penney broke his leg while atop Royal Sun, after colliding with another horse in 2009. He said Royal had sensed his pain.
“He stopped what we were doing, moved to the gate and pushed it open and stood quietly outside the ring,” said Penney.
Volunteer rider Charles Shaw said Royal Sun was one of his favourite horses to ride as well as show off to those on tours of the facility.
“He would do anything you asked of him,” said Shaw, who used to help exercise the horse as a volunteer with the unit.
“He was very comfortable around people and anyone could pet him.”
Royal Sun was named after the Royal Winter Fair and the media sponsor Toronto Sun, which donated the horse in 2000.
A private memorial service is being planned for the horse.