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Sarcoid surgery

Superstar Donkey Has Life Saving Ear Surgery

17th March 2023

One of our most popular donkeys is recovering well after undergoing surgery to remove a cluster of cancerous lumps on her ear.

Matilda, who is a nine-year-old, skewbald (brown and white) donkey has been in the charity’s care for several years and has become a firm favourite.

She had her operation here at our charity earlier this month under the expert care of Bransby Horses’ veterinary advisor Jeremy Kemp-Symonds.

Dr Kemp-Symonds is one of the UK’s leading experts in sarcoid (a form of skin cancer) surgery and is confident Matilda will make a full recovery.

After working at the world-renowned Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, Dr Kemp-Symonds now concentrates entirely on the treatment of horses, ponies and donkeys with skin tumours and works with many veterinary practices and equine charities, including Bransby Horses.

He said: “The surgery took just over an hour and was successful. Laboratory tests have since confirmed that the cluster of nodules were sarcoids and Matilda is being closely monitored as she recovers with pain relief, antibiotics and a topical gel to reduce the risk of the tumour re-occurring. I’ve been monitoring her recovery and am glad to report that the surgical site looks very good and Matilda is back to her usual bright and perky self.”

Matilda had her surgery under just sedation and local anaesthesia at Bransby Horses, which meant her bonded partner and best friend Annabelle the donkey was able to accompany her safely for moral support during the surgery.

Matilda is one of Bransby Horses’ Sponsorship Stars, which means supporters donate £3 a month to receive regular updates, which helps to pay for her upkeep.

What are sarcoids?

A sarcoid is a type of skin tumour (cancer) found in horses, ponies and donkeys (equines).

Sarcoids grow as lumps on an equine’s skin. When they first appear, they may be very small or hidden beneath the hair. This can make them difficult to spot initially, so they may seem to appear suddenly.

Sarcoids may spread to other areas of an equine’s skin and can be locally ‘aggressive’. This means they tend to invade and spread into the tissue surrounding them. However, unlike some cancers, they do not spread to the internal organs.

Sarcoids cause problems when they grow close to the eye or in areas where head collars, saddlery or harnesses sit.

Matilda Facts

She was born in 2013

She is: 10.3 hands high (equine’s height are measured by the number of human hands high)

Matilda lives on the Bransby Horses Visitor Centre Yard where members of the public can meet her. However, she is currently not on public view until she has recovered fully from her surgery.

Matilda is the mother of her herd, often taking care of the other donkeys. She has been here since 2015 and particularly enjoys her summers out in the field. She is often seen trotting around and playing with the other donkeys. Matilda loves her food, waiting in line for her breakfast every morning. She loves attention from people too.

To sponsor Matlida from £3 a month visit