A young colt found abandoned and terrified on an industrial estate has transformed the life of teenager Ben Furse, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy.

Grey moorland gelding Rupert was just six months old when he was callously dumped along with 14 other colts who had failed to sell at a local market.

He was rescued by the Mare and Foal Sanctuary based in the South West. He was in such a poor condition, with an eye infection rendering him nearly completely blind, it was touch and go for the first few weeks.

Meanwhile, nine-year-old Ben was coping with more than 30 seizures a day caused by a rare form of epilepsy called Lennox Gastaux Syndrome.

His mum Caroline had always owned horses and knew first-hand the amazing effect they can have on children struggling with conditions like autism, epilepsy and Asperger's syndrome.

And she spotted something in rescue pony Rupert, who had recovered well and become a real favourite at the charity's Yelverton yard.

Caroline said: "Ben didn't know I was bringing Rupert home. It was the best surprise. Rupert nuzzled Ben and they bonded immediately."

Rupert was a green youngster at the time but experienced horsewoman Caroline continued his training and, even in the early days, it was as if Rupert understood he needed to be careful around Ben.

"Ben has learning difficulties which makes him unable to walk or talk. Riding Rupert made such a difference to Ben’s daily life. His seizures dramatically reduced and it helped to strengthen his muscles so his balance and posture improved," she said.

"I take Ben to visit Rupert every day after school. On the rare occasion I don't have Ben with me, Rupert often won’t let me catch him!

"Rupert really takes care of Ben. They are so happy when they're together. I don’t know what we would do without him."

When Ben outgrew Rupert Caroline knew she had to do something to maintain their close bond and a harness and trap were the perfect answer.

So, she organised a fundraising drive to have one specially designed so Ben's wheelchair would fit straight on.

Caroline added: "As Ben began to outgrow Rupert I knew I had to do something. I decided to break Rupert to harness so that he and Ben could still go on adventures together. Rupert took to it like a duck to water, it was as if he knew he had to do this for Ben."

To find out more about the work of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary across the South West, which relies entirely on donations and legacy gifts, and to see the horses and ponies currently available for rehoming, visit the charity's website at www.mareandfoal.org or call 01626 355969.