Forget shaggy dog stories - have you heard the one about the horse and the boy who both have one kidney?
When nine-year-old James Holmes, of Lostock Hall, near Preston, went to visit horse rehabilitation centre Penny Farm, he immediately struck up a bond with a horse called Frankie and fell in love with her.
It was only when chatting to staff at the centre that his family discovered the amazing coincidence that both James and Frankie only had one kidney after having them removed earlier in their lives.
Mum Angela Holmes, who is married to Roger and also has daughter Jessica, 16, said: “We went to Penny Farm for a treasure hunt and James was a bit unsure of the other horses there, but he seemed naturally drawn to Frankie and spent a lot of time making friends with her over the stable door.
“We later went to the visitor centre and chatted to staff who told us that Frankie had undergone surgery to have a kidney removed.
“We were shocked at the coincidence as James had a kidney removed too when he was just a few months old.”
James was born with both kidneys, but when he was a week old, it was discovered that his right ureter and kidney had not formed properly.
He was put on medication to control his blood pressure until he was strong enough to have the kidney removed when he was nine-months-old at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital,
Frankie, a one year-old 15hh skewbald Thoroughbred cross, was born at World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Blackpool in May 2011 after her mother was rescued as part of a large welfare case.
Although Frankie was a content foal, her early life was also to suffer a setback when it was discovered she was unable to pass water efficiently.
David Catlow, the main vet who looks after horses at the centre, said: “I discovered that Frankie was not urinating properly and suspected a malformation, so I sent her to Liverpool Veterinary Hospital for further investigation.
“There they discovered that Frankie’s kidney and bladder were not properly connected so there were two choices - either to reconstruct the urethra - the tube connecting the kidney and the bladder - or to remove the kidney completely.
“The latter decision was made as it is entirely possible for a horse to live a normal and healthy life with one kidney and there was less risk of complication.
“It is an extremely rare condition in horses but with the skill and expertise of the vets at Leahurst, Frankie can now look forward to a long and happy future.”
Frankie returned to Penny Farm to recover from the surgery and it was there that James met her.
Angela said: “Of the 60 plus horses being looked after at the centre at the time, we thought it was a huge coincidence that these two had formed a bond.
“He is also delighted by other coincidences that have since emerged, such as the fact that both Frankie and James’ nan, Patricia Poulton share the same birthday and that Penny Farm opened on 15th June 2001 - the same day Roger and I got married.”
Vet Mr Catlow added: “It is a remarkable story. One can’t help but feel that their similar experiences and special bond is something more than coincidence.”
• To find out more about rehoming a horse from World Horse Welfare, visit: www.worldhorsewelfare.org/rehoming/index.asp.