Twin Tennessee Walking Horse foals born 3/27/2010

Solid black filly and chestnut sabino colt

M-One Jazz x Jazz's Precious

On March 27, 2010 we witnessed one of the greatest miracles involved with breeding horses - a live twin birth. Here is the story of how the twins came into our lives.

We bought our best mare, Jazz's Precious, from her breeder in November 2009. Precious is one of only two living full sisters to the 2007 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse, Master of Jazz. We had been searching not-so-actively for our next truly outstanding broodmare, and when we came across her we just knew we had to have her. Precious quickly became our favorite mare, due to her rare pedigree, Thoroughbred-like good looks, and sweet, loving personality. She was 7 months bred to M-One Jazz at the time we purchased her, who is a full brother to World Grand Champion N.Y.P.D. M-One Jazz is also owned by Precious's breeder, so she was pasture bred with an estimated "due date" of sometime around March 25th. 

Things progressed very normally - Precious's belly was big enough so as to leave no doubts in our minds that she was indeed in foal, but she was certainly not the biggest mare in the paddock. The only time we noticed she was bigger than "normal" was just before the twins were born, when the babies dropped into position. Precious's stomach developed a well-defined V-shape that indicates the foal is ready to be born. However, from the front and hind views, she was not slab-sided at all (as we expect mares to be when their babies have "dropped") but was wide as a house.

Come March 26, Precious began displaying signs of stage I labor - she developed milk in her udders, her vulva was very relaxed, and of course, her stomach had developed the prominent V-shape. We expected her to foal that evening, but the next morning she only looked more agitated. She didn't finish her breakfast that morning and was clearly looking for a spot to drop down in the paddock when we turned her out, so we brought her back in to her stall. She was dripping colostrum and having visible contractions by noon. Finally, she broke her water and got down to foal around 6 pm on March 27.

My mom called me over as I got back from taking one of our 2 year olds out for a ride. I quickly ran over - Precious is our favorite mare and I wanted to be on hand in case something went wrong (of course I never suspected that it would!). Mom expressed concern that something may be wrong, and went into the stall to investigate. Something looked "off," but I distinguished a pair of little black feet, one in front of the other, and a black nose shortly back, so I hesitantly reported that everything looked okay...then all of a sudden it did not. 2 little white feet were now visible just near the black nose. Mom immediately called the vet while I rushed out to call my sister, Margaret, in from giving one of our project horses a workout. We had prepared for this by studying thoroughly the section on dystocias in the wonderful book called Blessed are the Broodmares. I knew we would only get this done if she was there to help me. 

Margaret immediately galloped in and handed her horse to Virginia, our handy little sister. I could see the distress on her face and was sure she could see it on mine. We rushed back to the barn together, adrenaline pumping.

Precious had gotten nowhere while I was gone, a bad sign. I couldn't remember reading about how to position a foal with all four feet coming at once, I was drawing a complete blank (come to find out from our vet, it is impossible for a foal to be presented with a  four feet coming out at once! No wonder I drew a blank!). Luckily our dad was on hand to help Margaret and I, as he was so much calmer (not to mention stronger) than we were. Following the clear instructions of what we'd studied, we began the laborious task of trying to get the mare to her feet. Precious downright refused to get to her feet despite being whacked with everything from a halter to a 2x4 board (that certainly sounds brutal, but when precious seconds count, "a few welts is better than a dead mare," to quote the author of Blessed are the Broodmares). Finally, in our desperation, my sister and I went to her hind end to see whether we could reposition the "foal" (notice singular, not plural) with Precious down. 

At that time I saw the second nose, and was dumbfounded, I was thoroughly expecting that we’d be pulling out two dead babies. Partly in shock, yet partly in relief (due to the fact that suddenly, now that it was no longer all four feet being presented, I knew how to solve the problem), I stated to my sister over and over, “Oh my God – it’s twins!!” – As if she couldn’t see for herself. We assessed the situation and quickly came up with a game plan. Between contractions, I gently pushed the 2nd foal (the colt) back into Precious's huge belly while my sister, also gently, pulled the little filly into the world, both of us working with the mare's contractions as we’d been taught. After little boy was back inside momma we got the filly out rapidly. The filly seemed very unresponsive and we thought we'd lost her, but Margaret found that she had a faint heartbeat still. Margaret rubbed her dry with a towel and lifted her head up, clearing fluid out of her nose. At this point Precious had stopped contracting, but with a few gentle tugs of the foal’s legs she got back to business. Out came the colt, kicking his legs, clearly alive, and lo and behold we had 2 LIVE foals! Also remarkably, both foals were approximately the same size. Margaret kept rubbing the filly vigorously with a towel to get her blood flowing, and her heartbeat, which was alarmingly slow at the moment of her birth, returned to normal. I lifted the colt up off of the filly's umbilical cord to keep from restricting the precious blood flow. Dad kept Precious on the ground so she wouldn't break the cord prematurely, and that was when the vet arrived.

The first thing the vet wanted to know was whether the foals were both alive. He told us that just 1 in 10,000 twin pregnancies result in two live foals. Since it was apparent both foals were alive and kicking, he set to work on milking vital colostrum from Precious, who was by then up on her feet and trying to satiate her ravenous appetite with a flake of alfalfa hay. The vet fed both foals via stomach tube as Virginia and dad spread a ton of new bedding down in the stall. After examining the placentas (which he found interesting as only one placenta was ruptured - so the second foal slipped from his placenta into the filly's to be delivered through the same hole!), he instructed mom thoroughly on what the foals would need and left us to care for them. 

What a relief when both babies were able to stand, with just a little help by having someone hold their tails for balance. They had great suck reflexes right from the get go, so had no trouble nursing. Both foals were given enemas but had no problem pooping, which was also remarkable. Margaret and I slept in Precious's stall that night (and mom and I slept there on many subsequent nights - Virginia helped too), keeping the babies warm by covering them with blankets when they laid down and helping them to stand and nurse when they decided they were hungry. We had several close calls with both Precious and the weaker foal (the colt). However, each time Precious’s pain began to get out of hand we promptly administered pain relievers (banamine the first time, then rompin each subsequent time when banamine wouldn’t touch the pain) which settled her, and as for the colt, we simply continued to assist him with standing, nursing, and keeping warm. Precious had trouble eating and passing urine/manure for the first week, undoubtedly due to her sore stomach. Just to make sure we got her back on track as quickly as possible, we treated Precious daily with ulcer medication and administered a power pack of dewormer.

Today Precious is back to her old self, in perfect health, and happily mothering her two babies. She is quite protective and insists on both foals being near her at all times. We named the filly Artemis and the colt Apollo, after the Greek twin gods. Both Artemis and Apollo are smaller than the other foals, but are growing like weeds and exhibit normal foal behavior, complete with an abundance of curiosity and spunk. Since their birth we have been supplementing them with milk replacer to ensure that they receive all the nutrition they need.

So there it is - the amazing story of how we came to witness this once-in-a-lifetime miracle. Mares are not designed to have twins, as a mare's system just cannot usually support a twin pregnancy. The vast majority of mares who conceive twins abort, or else deliver one or both stillborn foals, or die with their foals during delivery, as certainly would have been the case with Precious had we all not acted so promptly! I think I can speak for my whole family when I say that we all feel so proud and beyond blessed to have two live, healthy foals and a thriving momma (who will be bred back to The Skywatch for a 2011 foal) out of a dreaded, equine twinning. Precious and her new babies were that one in ten thousand statistic - how awesome is that?

 

Written by: Sara LaFlamme (the web master)


Twin Facts:
  • 90% of mares carrying twins abort them before 150 days of gestation
  • Of twins carried to the end of gestation, only 1 in 10,000 deliver two live foals
  • Of the 1 in 10,000 twins born alive, only 20% survive past the first 2 weeks.


Here are photos of our amazing little foals and their wonderful mother!
(Photos with borders may be clicked for a full-size view)



March 28, 2010:



March 29, 2010:
















April 1, 2010:







April 5, 2010:









April 12, 2010:






April 15, 2010:







April 18, 2010:









April 25, 2010:















April 2010 - the twins are now "triplets"; they have adopted orphan filly Mae Ling into their "family."


Apollo and Mae Ling:






Artemis and Mae Ling:


Apollo and Mae Ling:





May 9, 2010:






May 15, 2010:
Artemis and Mae Ling.









June 6, 2010:















June 16, 2010:









June 28, 2010:










Apollo at his new home, July 24, 2010:






August 20, 2010 - We are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of our beautiful boy Apollo. He became very sick on Tuesday, August 17, and had to be put down on the morning of August 20, 2010. Although he lived to be not quite 5 months old, this wonderful little colt deeply affected the lives of all who knew him - and many who didn't. He will be greatly missed. 


A Tribute to Apollo - College Application Letter - Written by Margaret E. LaFlamme

"Although I was too far away to make out the words, I knew exactly what my sister Sara was trying to tell me when I heard her barely audible cry pierce the brisk March air. Her voice reached my ears, and I froze. A strange partial paralysis seized my body. I had been waiting for days for such a cry to alert me of the news I had been expecting for weeks. I knew what that cry meant, yet, somehow, I couldn’t remember for a moment. The knowledge lingered at the back of my mind, intangible, just out of reach. My head tilted as my mind fumbled for an instant in a dreamlike haze to grasp the elusive thought. Suddenly, the knowledge hit me – Precious, our beloved Tennessee Walking Horse mare, was going into labor to deliver the foal that was now two days overdue.

            Just as the smile of joy and realization reached my face, I heard my sister’s voice again, penetrating, this time with a sharp note of panic in it; something was wrong. I reached the barn before I even realized I had been running. Loud groans of agony echoed in the stall where Precious lay next to Sara, who stood looking at her in helpless bewilderment. I knew something was seriously wrong as soon as I looked in the stall and saw not the normal two legs and a nose, but instead four legs and a nose, emerging from Precious. As we watched, uncertain of what to do, Precious pushed again, and we saw one of the rarest sights a horseperson will ever see: a second tiny nose had appeared next to the first. We were witnessing a twin birth, one of the most uncommon scenarios in the horse world.

            Sara and I immediately sprang into action. Working in rhythm with Precious’s contractions while our mother called our veterinarian, Sara pushed the second nose back in as I pulled the first foal out, quickly but gently. Within a few minutes, two healthy foals, a black filly and a chestnut colt, lay resting on the stall floor. The vet arrived and informed us that only one in 10,000 twin births in horses results in the survival of the mother and both foals. We knew then that we had witnessed a miracle, and we named our divinely blessed foals Artemis and Apollo, after the Greek twin gods. It soon became apparent, however, that Apollo, the weaker twin, would need some assistance if he were to survive.

            Sara and I slept in Precious’s stall that night. Every half an hour, we had to help him stand up and nurse since he was too weak to do it himself. For the next week, the whole family worked tirelessly to build Apollo’s strength and help him learn to take care of himself. We monitored him constantly and almost never left the barn. Finally, after a week of sleepless nights and struggling to stay awake at school, I came home to find Apollo able to stand up on his own; he no longer needed our help.

             For the next four months, I watched Apollo grow and play with Artemis and the other foals. Watching him frolicking, bucking, grazing, and napping brought a special feeling to my heart that no other horse brought – a sense of love and wonder and fulfillment that could only come from the knowledge that I had helped to provide him the chance to live the life he was so thoroughly enjoying. I developed a deep and exceptional bond with Apollo, who never seemed to forget the favor we had done him. He was always loving toward people, companionable, and endearing. Naturally, it was not long before such an irresistibly charismatic colt attracted the attention of someone else who hoped to own him. A young man named Taylor, who was, coincidentally, a twin himself, offered to buy Apollo when he was weaned; after meeting him, we knew he would be a loving owner who would provide Apollo with a wonderful home, so we agreed to the deal.

            Like everyone who met Apollo, Taylor fell in love with him. He sent us many emails with photos of the two of them together and told us how well Apollo was doing. Taylor’s affection for Apollo was obvious, and Apollo seemed equally devoted to his new owner. Unfortunately, their time together was extremely brief. After just a month, we received news from Taylor that Apollo had become very sick and had to be put down.

            The news of Apollo’s sudden death hit my heart like a sledgehammer – swift, hard, and merciless, in one shattering blow. As I wept for Apollo, for Taylor, for myself, and for the injustice of it all, the knowledge of Apollo’s severed life resonated in my head, amplifying the agony I felt. The burden of grief and regret deepened as I wondered why this had happened, and a barrage of questions was triggered in my head. I racked my brain for something, anything, to prove to myself that Apollo’s life hadn’t been in vain.

            Initially, I couldn’t find a way to justify Apollo’s death. I focused on forgetting the experience, tucking the memory away into the farthest corner of my mind. I soon realized, though, that remembering was inevitable; I couldn’t simply force myself to forget. The very next time I walked into the barn, I sensed Apollo in everything around me. I saw his eyes when I looked at Artemis’s face, heard his nicker as I walked past his stall, and felt him following me like a shadow as he had always done when I walked across the pasture. The vivid flashbacks made me realize that even though Apollo was gone, he had lived and, in doing so, he had touched everything around him.

            Apollo’s life taught me that some sacrifices, no matter how great, are worth making. I never doubted that the time, energy, and love that I put into Apollo were worth it to give him the chance to live, even for such a brief time. His life was happy, and he had brought happiness to the lives of others that no other could have brought. I also learned to cherish those you love because you truly never know when you may lose them; life can be extremely short. I know now not to take any life for granted. The experience reinforced the fact that life is unpredictable, which was demonstrated first in Apollo’s unexpected birth, then confirmed in his abrupt death. Apollo’s death influenced me as much as his life did. It showed me that it is better to remember what I had than to forget what I’ve lost.

Miracles happen all around us every day. Some may see this tale of Apollo as a tragedy, a life cut short and the broken hearts it brought to the people in it. But I have learned to see the time Apollo had in this world as a miracle, a gift which brought joy and love to those who were blessed enough to know Apollo. If I were given a chance to change what had happened, to take Apollo out of the picture completely as if he had never existed so that I could avoid the heartbreak of losing him, I would turn down the offer. Apollo’s being was worth everything it cost, monetarily, physically, and emotionally. I know now that all good things come to an end, but it is important to emphasize in our memories the good thing that we had, not its end. Apollo taught me to pay attention to the miracles that precede tragedy, for tragedies come from the end or loss of wonderful things. And for the kind of miracle that Apollo was, any tragedy is worth enduring."











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