A Devon stud has been shocked by the arrival of rare identical twin foals.
The matching buckskin, blanket-spot colts have defied the odds and are reported to be happy and healthy at three weeks old.
“The vet couldn’t really believe it,” said Gassons Farm Stud proprietor Tania Mackee. “They are quite a curiosity to everybody.
“We kept the news quiet for a while as I was half expecting them not to make it. Twins are every breeder’s nightmare and you have a certain feeling you’ve failed that they weren’t spotted at the time of conception — one would have been pinched if they were.
“It’s nothing short of miraculous they have survived,” she added.
The unusual pair formed from one zygote which split to form two embryos, and weren’t picked up on pregnancy scans.
Twin pregnancies can cause serious complications for both mare and foals as the placenta struggles to nourish both foetuses in horses. About 80% abort in late pregnancy and if carried to term, foaling complications are common.
Twins usually occur when a mare ovulates from two follicles, leading to two fertilised eggs (fraternal twins) — making identical twins like these especially rare.
Their delivery was all the more dramatic as it presented as a dangerous “red bag”; the premature detachment of the placenta which means the foal is not being sustained by its mother’s circulation.
“That was the scarier part,” said Tania. “I was doing what I’d normally do and ‘directing’ and I said ‘quick, split that open’ as soon as it presented. Then I saw three hooves and two noses!
“It took a bit of untangling but fortunately the smaller one came out first or he’d probably not have made it — the other one was more or less normal size.”
The vet was called the next morning to check them and although the smaller one needed assistance standing for the first few hours, he was happy to feed from the start.
“When they were checked there was nothing of any concern,” she added. “I still was expecting that they might not make it, though the vet said once we were past 10-14 days we should be OK.”
Fortunately their 17-year-old dam Liosin Lux, who is by Olympic Lux, has been experienced enough to cope with the arrival of two foals. She is also the dam of the stud’s senior stallion Paddy Of Liosin.
The twins, who are by the stud’s perlino leopard spot stallion GFS Fire and Ice, have been named GFS Shockwave and GFS Masta Blasta.
The three-week-old colts have initially been kept in, in an extra large stable, with short spells outside to allow the smaller foal’s (Masta Blasta) bones and joints to mature.
“He’s not developed quite as much as the larger one, he’s like a little spider!” said Tania. “He’s very bold though, it he gets half a chance he’s off. He follows the dogs around and will wander off with anyone.
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“He’s grown enormously so far,” Tania added. “He must have doubled in size since he was born. He’s still about a third smaller, not just in height but in everything. He’s like the larger foal’s mini me.”
While most of the youngstock are sold as foals, Tania may retain these two this year.
“I’m not sure what we’ll do about them yet,” she said. “They need a bit more time and keeping an eye on for a while.”
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