A horse stud owner says he was left stunned after discovering that one of his mares had defied extraordinary odds to give birth to live twin foals.
Labelled “exceptional” by the state’s most experienced equine vet, twin fillies delivered by a mare at Spurrs Stud at Wagin in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt are still alive almost two weeks after being born.
The chances of twin foals being born alive are considered one in 10,000.
But the odds of both animals surviving past their first two weeks are deemed much higher still, with most pregnancies ending in the death of at least one of the infants and often imperilling the mother.
Spurrs Stud owner Kevin Spurr said the birth came as a complete surprise after he had opted not to have the mare, Pearl, assessed during her pregnancy.
“My first thought was ‘don’t tell me another mare has had a foal and run away and left that’,” he said.
A bit after that I realised she’d had twins. I was a little bit stunned, actually, I didn’t know what to think.
Twin foals ‘extremely rare’
Katanning Regional Veterinary Hospital owner John Maxwell has been practising as an equine vet for more than 50 years and said he had never seen the successful delivery of twin foals that go on to survive.
Dr Maxwell said even in the unlikely event that twin foals were conceived, it was customary to destroy one of the foetuses or abort the pregnancy because of the extreme mortality risks involved.
“I’m surprised, very surprised,” Dr Maxwell said.
I have had a breeder in Wagin that I’ve [aborted] twice because the chances of both surviving were considered almost zero. So this is an exceptional occurrence.
After finding the mare and her twins — now named Snip and Drop — in a field, Mr Spurr said it was a race against time to get the tiny foals to a vet.
Even then, he said the pair had to be brought home sooner than he would have liked because of the high costs of veterinary care.
Foals require care
Adding to the difficulties, mother Pearl is missing an eye — the legacy of an accident when she was a yearling.
It means Mr Spurr and his farmhand Nicole Kumpfmueller have had to provide round-the-clock care to ensure Pearl does not accidentally tread on the foals.
Among their tasks has been helping to feed the twins every two hours at night.
“We get out here and they’re already waiting and know the routine,” Ms Kumpfmueller said.
“And you have to give them antibiotics twice a day.
“Every now and then we give them an extra milk bucket as well to make sure they have enough milk because we currently don’t know how much she can produce for them.
“You can’t really go anywhere at the moment because every two hours someone has to be here to do it.
“I think it’s worth it. If you look at them, they’re just too cute not to get up.”
Backing the miracle of life
The road to adulthood for the foals is a long one as they are not out of the woods yet.
Mr Spurr said even if they can make it, the chances of either going on to become a successful racehorse are low.
But he said the twins have been bred from good stock — the stallion that sired them won almost $200,000 during a career on the track — and they could still develop into good breeders themselves.
Regardless, he said the decision to keep the twins was born of hope rather than cold commercial realities.
He is backing the miracle of life to triumph against the odds.
“Really, when you see something fighting for its life there’s a tendency to want to help,” he said.
“In the back of my mind was the commercial aspect.
“But when I saw them fighting … I wanted to give them that chance.”