‘I remember screaming down the phone to the vet ‘I have three legs’’ — how surprise twins gave a mare owner a ‘terrifying’ ordeal

When Dutch showjumper and breeder Anne-Liza Makkinga’s foaling alarm went off one day in May, she was unaware her mare Cacharelle’s birth would quickly turned into a “terrifying” ordeal — thankfully with a very happy ending.

Her former grand prix horse had had a twin foal aborted during a previous pregnancy, but a scan this time around had revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Anne-Liza’s first inkling that there was something amiss only came when the mare began pushing.

“I tried to feel if the placenta was open and when I took my hands away there was so much blood,” Anne-Liza tells Horse & Hound. “I called the vet straight away because my first thought was that she had damaged her insides. I had him on loudspeaker and I was holding the placenta with two feet in it and pulling while she pushed. Then suddenly another placenta came out and I was absolutely terrified because I thought at first it was her insides.

“I realised it must be a second placenta, then I saw another leg — I remember screaming down the phone to the vet ‘I have three legs!’ And he said ‘But that’s impossible!’”

The vet arrived within five minutes and in the meantime Anne-Liza’s neighbour, also a breeder, arrived to help. His first reaction was that the third leg must be the foal’s hindleg before it became apparent there was more than one foal.

“He helped me to pull the two legs which had come out first and within about 30 seconds, with just one push, the foal came out,” says Anne-Liza. “The other foal by then was half-out and came out shortly afterwards.

“I was apologising to ‘Cach’ while it was happening as I thought I was going to lose all three of them — I was thinking ‘What situation have I put you in?’”

The first foal was up quickly but Anne-Liza had to clear the second foal’s nostrils so she could breathe, but then the filly lifted her head and stood soon after her older sister.

“My neighbour’s reaction was ‘They’re both still alive, how can that be possible?’ then the vet arrived and was very surprised to see them both, apologising for not having seen it in the scan,” she recalls. “But they must have just been very close behind each other in the womb at the time.”

Amazingly, both foals have been suckling from their mother without any problems.

“The bigger first foal was drinking within half an hour. We milked the mare straight away so bottle-fed the little one every hour through the night,” says Anne-Liza. “Then we tried her on some powdered milk in the morning but she said ‘No way!’ so we were a bit worried. When she saw me coming with the bottle she stood up and went straight to her mum and drunk from her instead.”

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Nearly a month on, both filly foals are doing really well and the reaction to having three healthy horses at the end of it all has been overwhelming.

“The only difference between the foals is the size,” says Anne-Liza of the daughters of Conthargos. “If you look at the bigger foal, you wouldn’t say she’s a twin, but the little one is definitely on the small side and her legs are thinner — but she’s grown a lot.

“The little one is such a character – very cute. But that’s probably our luck, because if she didn’t have that strength of character, she may not have been quite so lucky.”

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