THOUSANDS of north Cotswolds racegoers will have their last chance to bid farewell to a much-loved local horse on Easter Monday.

Mr Bean, who in December 2005 was viciously attacked with a Stanley knife, will bow out at the popular North Cotswolds Hunt point-to-point on March 24.

It will be the last public appearance for the 21-year-old horse which, with Todenham-based owner Barbara Keane, has helped raise thousands of pounds for animal welfare and other charities.

One of his most celebrated events was when he raced against a bicycle in Blockley in aid of the memorial fund for village boy Luke Jeffrey, who died aged 15 in a swimming tragedy at Moreton Fire Service College in 2006.

"He's 21 and getting on a bit and this will be his last charity event," said Barbara, a former head girl at the North Cotswolds Hunt stables.

"He's not frail and he looks very well but he's suffered from horse warts all his life and it's increasingly difficult to keep them under control," she added.

During the Paxford point-to-point Mr Bean will be ridden on to the course and past the winning post while punters are asked to dig deep for animal welfare charity Blue Cross.

Barbara also hopes to get across the message that older horses can still be fun and that owners should not send them off to the "knacker's yard" simply because their animals are getting on a bit.

"I want them to think before they put them in a box and send them to France, where they going to suffer horrific cruelty," said Barbara.

She had first-hand experience of man's cruelty to animals when Mr Bean was attacked while in a field in Moreton Morrell.

"He was slashed right round his back legs. They were saying put him down. He was whinnying and was in a real mess but all of a sudden the sun came out, he looked up, and the vet said it's not his time to die today," said Barbara, who spent a year nursing her horse back to full health.

"His temperament never changed. He's still as kind and sweet as ever. He's such a lovely horse," she added.