Rescued: October 1, 2010
As soon as we laid eyes on Bronson, we knew he had been terribly beaten.
We had received a phone call from the Guardia Civil (the local Spanish police) asking for our help with an injured horse they’d found near Almoradi. Upon arrival, we found a beautiful pure Spanish stallion, aged around nine, lying in a field beside the main road.
As we got closer, we saw that Bronson had a serious head injury. Blood oozed from a deep wound above his left eye, evidence that he had been deliberately and terribly beaten with something sharp and heavy.
When we tried to approach, Bronson desperately tried to stand up and escape, clearly terrified that he would be struck again. He still had a head collar and broken lead rope on, suggesting he had broken free from his captors and had managed to stagger to the road, where he could be seen by passing traffic. This probably saved his life.
Back at the Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre, x-rays revealed a fracture running from above his eye, across to his ear and all the way down to his jaw. Shockingly, we found fragments of metal in the wound, meaning someone had likely tried to kill this horse with a hammer.
Bronson spent a week in intensive care, double tied so that he wouldn't fall over and dislodge the drips that were keeping him alive during those difficult first days. We also had to secure his head held high due to the huge risk of brain haemorrhage if his head was allowed to drop.
We tended to his terrible injury twice a day and often more small bone fragments would surface and need to be cleaned away.
While Bronson’s head wound did slowly heal over, his eye, inner ear and the part of his brain that controls the left side of his body was permanently damaged. It was as if he had suffered a stroke and lost the use of half his body.
Bronson has since learned to walk again and is able to eat, drink and negotiate his way around quite happily. But his balance is permanently affected and his vision is impaired, which is why Bronson always has his head cocked slightly off centre.
He still falls over sometimes when he gets over-excited, yet Bronson is one of the kindest, happiest horses you could meet.
As a stallion, Bronson was most likely only brought out to service mares and was otherwise locked in a stable 24 hours a day, seven days a week before his rescue. It is unlikely he was ever allowed natural contact with other horses.
So it was with some trepidation that, after he was sterilised, we released Bronson from the safety of our rescue centre stable yard and out into a small paddock.
His nerves quickly changed to wonderment and excitement at this amazing new experience. With hardly a wobble he walked to his paddock calling out to all his friends, who in turn all called back to him.
With our breath held, we released him and watched in amazement as Bronson – the horse who had fought his way back from death's door – galloped and bucked all the way around his field. Watching him, you wouldn't have known that he had any balance problems at all.
Remembering the horrific state Bronson was in when he was rescued, we felt as though we were witnessing a miracle. The feeling of joy we felt at his happiness that day will stay with us forever.
Bronson continues to live outside permanently, which is what he prefers, in a larger paddock with Harry Trotter, who he saw being born in the paddock next to him. Harry and Bronson are now best friends and completely inseparable.
A word from our vet, Dorothea.
The horse's skull is made of individual bone pieces that form a bony case that protects the brain and chief sense organs. Trauma to any of these bones can result in a fracture, compromising the delicate structures they enclose, which can cause a variety of clinical signs depending on the structure that has been damaged.
Usually, there are signs of neurological impairment, like loss of consciousness, blindness, disorientation or even seizures. Sometimes, immediate death is the result.
In Bronson's case, he sustained a trauma to his head, which fractured the temporal bone. This bone encloses an organ called vestibular system; the vestibular system is where the sense of the balance and the sense of spatial orientation are located.
The vestibular system sends signals primarily to the neural structures that control eye movements, and to the muscles that keep a creature upright. The clinical signs of a dysfunctional vestibular system are called vestibular syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by head tilt, nystagmus (abnormal eye movements), circling, strabismus (abnormal eye position) and ataxia (abnormal movement pattern).
Bronson had both vestibular syndrome and serious and life-threatening problems from the trauma that also affected his brain. The extent of this neurological damage only became apparent after his life was no longer in danger. He will have vestibular syndrome for the rest of his life.
– Dorothea Dudli von Dewitz, equine veterinarian
As a non-profit foundation staffed almost entirely by volunteers, we rely on your donations to continue our work to save horses like Bronson, and to cover their ongoing feeding and care costs. Find out how you can help here.