A stallion with a hole in his heart, being cared for by The Donkey Sanctuary, has finally been welcomed into a new group of donkeys since he could no longer be kept with his friend.

Will was welcomed into our care with a mare called Coco when the charity came to the aid of their owner who was struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

They had plenty of room to graze and exercise, but their ‘shelter’ had no cover, lacked appropriate bedding and was thick with mud.

There is a ‘no breeding’ policy at the sanctuary, meaning donkey stallions require castrating before being introduced to the wider herd. But during his medical assessments, our veterinary team discovered a notable heart murmur.

An ultrasound scan at our donkey hospital revealed the full extent of Will’s problem – a small hole between the large ventricles of his heart. It was too risky to castrate him, his heart might not have coped with the operation; he would instead have to leave his female friend who had stood by his side through thick and thin.

Coco and Will
Coco and Will
Will undergoing an ultrasound

Decades of understanding donkey behaviour has taught us that donkeys form incredibly strong bonds, and to tear two friends apart with no consideration would not only be upsetting for the donkeys but quite possibly result in them becoming highly stressed to the point of illness.

However, Will would have to join a herd of males, leaving Coco to befriend a new group of females.

The gradual separation took months of patience from our dedicated team of farm staff. Separating them bit by bit, so they could still see each other and introducing new friends to interact with.

Eventually Will was moved into a group of boys and has settled in really well – maintaining his unique nature and quirkiness which earned him the affectionate nickname of ‘the carthorse of the donkey world’. Coco joined two young mares of the same age called Chocolate and Ivy.

Farm supervisor Kimberley Green says: “Coco is definitely a mare full of character and guards the straw with her life. We had concerns initially that Coco may be in foal but thanks to our vet Abi, I can confirm we are not expecting to hear the pitter-patter of tiny hooves.

“We monitored them both very carefully as the gradual separation took place and neither of them showed any sign of distress, which was great news.

“I’ve never seen Will anything other than relaxed, he is such a loveable donkey who is now enjoying life with his new herd.”

The rescued pair’s relationship may have come to an end, but thanks to your support they will both be given a happy, peaceful life at The Donkey Sanctuary, where our expert veterinary team can closely monitor Will, the broken-hearted stallion.

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