The 43-year-old rode the retired police horse for more than a year at her home in Chipping Norton before it was given to a police officer in Norfolk.

The incident, which is already being referred to by the hash tag “horsegate” on Twitter, looks set to underline the inappropriate closeness of the Met Police and News International’s relationship.

The Met’s police horses are routinely retired with The Horse Trust charity, however, it is claimed that anybody can offer their services if they have adequate land and facilities.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: “When a police horse reaches the end of its working life, Mounted Branch officers find it a suitable retirement home. 

“Whilst responsibility for feeding the animal and paying vet bills passes to the person entrusted with its care, the horse remains the property of the Metropolitan Police Service.

“Retired police horses are not sold on and can be returned to the care of the MPS at any time. In 2008 a retired horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was re-housed with a police officer in 2010.”

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