Lord of the Rings actor Viggo Mortensen has a veterinarian’s bill after emergency surgery saved Brego, his mount in the film trilogy, the horse’s minder said.

A small bowel tear almost did what the films’ villains Saruman, Sauron and the black riders could not – kill the trusty steed of Mortensen’s heroic character, Aragorn.

The actor bought the Dutch stallion after filming and lives in semi retirement in New Zealand on the North Island property of Ray Lenaghan, the horse’s minder.

Lenaghan, himself a veterinarian, noticed Brego was in trouble two weeks ago. The horse was rushed to Massey University’s equine hospital.

“It was very clear from the moment he arrived he was in a critical state,” said equine surgery expert Frederik Pauwels.

“We anaesthetised him, made a mid-line incision into his belly,” and found that “part of his bowel was stuck,” Pauwels said.

He said Brego would have suffered a “pretty nasty death” without surgery, but has come through well.