Rescuers mistook an overbred horse for a cow due to its huge udders in a heartbreaking animal welfare case.
Minstral was found in a field in Braintree, Essex, with a giant hernia on her stomach and black and white patches on her muzzle.
The skin markings are caused by vitiligo, a condition where the skin loses its pigment cells, thought to be a direct result of chronic over-breeding.
Rescuers initially believed they were saving a cow as Minstral’s herniated belly was so swollen.
The horse also had to have one of her eyes removed because of infection where an abnormality led to it rupturing .
Since Minstral’s rescue, she is now thriving at the ripe old age of 28 after finding a new home at nearby Remus Horse Sanctuary.
Sue Burton, who owns the sanctuary, said: “I first approached her from behind.
“I thought she was a cow because the hernia looked like a great big udder, which was the result of overbreeding.
“From the front I honestly thought that somebody had painted her, she had complete white circles around her eyes and this lovely patterned muzzle.”
Vets predicted Minstral would not live but the horse battled through.
The Welsh cob thoroughbred mix is also the first horse with vitiligo that Sue had ever encountered.
While Minstral needs suncream to help protect her from sunburn, it does not affect her in any other way.
Workers at the sanctuary say she has been “such a joy to look after” and is “such a character” as she settles down in her new home.
After a full day of playing in the fields with other horses, workers caught Minstral in a heartwarming moment as she excitedly prepared to eat her dinner of water and hay.
The team say she is so tolerant and that nothing fazes her, from injections to having her feet done.