Staff and volunteers at a Sheffield heritage centre are today mourning the loss of one of their best-loved colleagues.
Big Lad, the Clydesdale shire horse based at Manor Lodge, was this week put to sleep after contracting the crippling condition laminitis.
Despite a fundraising campaign and the vet's best efforts to treat him, the horse was in such pain that the difficult decision to put him down was made.
A spokesman for Green Estate, which runs the lodge, said Big Lad had become a 'major Sheffield personality' since he arrived in 2006.
"Green Estate welcomed Big Lad as a significant team member and he immediately was put to work meeting the public in the local Manor neighbourhood as well as across the city," the spokesman said.
"Visitors took him straight to their hearts and his placid, gentle and calm character meant that many children and vulnerable adults were not only able to meet him, but work with him too.
"Children were always fascinated to encounter such a fantastic animal up close and were thrilled to watch him demonstrate traditional working horse activities. Our older visitors found he brought back fond memories of when working horses were a more common sight around the city.
"Watching him bring a smile to the faces of all visitors was evidence of how such a lovely horse gave huge pleasure, as well as doing an important job in helping to improve local school grounds, woodlands and parks by logging, harrowing and preparing the land so school children could sow seeds."
Big Lad's illness caused a lot of concern at Manor Lodge and across Sheffield. Supporters donated £545 to an online fundraising campaign to pay for his treatment, but sadly his condition worsened.
The spokesman said: "It became obvious when he first became poorly that he was not just well known but well loved by so many people.
"We received many generous donations from those wanting to help him and we can only thank everyone for their support. One supporter sums it up for us all – ‘he will always have a special place in our hearts’.
"We will never be able to replace such an important character and he leaves a difficult gap to fill. Our two donkeys, Lily and Rosie will need time to get used to him no longer being their companion.
"We want to ensure Big Lad’s legacy lives on and, once the time is right, we will work hard to find a new friend for them and our visitors, and a new member of our Green Estate team who can offer the same inspiration to all who have benefited from Big Lad’s hard work and his gentle nature, and loved him so well."
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