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2001/07/10

Twins At Pine Mountain Lipizzans Twin foals that both survive occur in only one of a million foalings. If you factor in the rarity of Lipizzans (less than 2,000 in the world) we had a true miracle on the farm this spring. EDESANYA (EDDIE) is a 20-year-old Lipizzan mare who has a history of twinning. Once before, she carried twins full term, but one was born dead and the other had to be tube fed to survive. Several years later, eddie aborted twins in the 9th month of gestation which is what happens to 90% of twin pregnancies. But this year was different. Eddie began to worry me last October when she was already as large as most mares get when full term. Eddie still had four months before her due date. All through the winter, I expected her to abort twins, but she just got bigger and bigger. By the time her due date rolled around, I was nearly panicked. My vet kept telling me it wasn't twins or she would have lost them by now. Eddie's belly was so huge by this time that I began to pray that she had twins. If that was just one baby in there it was going to be so large that I would be likely to lose both mare and foal. As Eddie's due date passed and the days rolled by, I became more certain that she had twins and that she was waiting for them to mature more before she foaled. Because a mare's uterus is made for only one baby, twins often do not receive enough nourishment and are functionally premature even if they are full term. Eddie, bless her heart, was doing what I thought she was, she was waiting for her babies to become mature enough to survive. Finally, nearly two weeks past her due date and after nearly a week of me checking her every hour, 24 hours a day, Eddie went into labor. A mare's labor is violent and rapid. When Eddie had pushed for several minutes and no foal appeared, I knew she was in trouble. I got her on her feet and called the vet, who at best, was 45 minutes away. I walked her to keep her on her feet and to prevent her straining. After 20 minutes and long before the vet arrived, she went down and would not get up. This time though, when she pushed, she made progress. Initially, I think both foals were trying to come out together. Walking Eddie let the larger foal slide back down in her belly, while the smaller foal stayed in the birth canal. As soon as I felt the first foal's feet, I sighed with relief. Those feet were so small that I knew we had twins instead of one huge foal. With a couple of good pushes, out he popped and immediately began wiggling and moving. I had been prepared for a week foal that would be barely alive, instead I got a healthy, feisty little colt who wanted supper NOW! Of course, supper was out of the question right then, because his mom was busy having another foal. By this time, Eddie was so tired that as soon as I could be certain that the second foal was in the correct position for birth, I helped Eddie by pulling. This foal was much larger, actually normal size, and like her brother, was healthy and hungry. After I got both foals dried off, I milked Eddie and bottlefed both babies. I knew that Eddie was exhausted and I also wanted that first rich milk in their bellies as soon as possible. About this time, the vet finally arrived and I got to say a very satisfying "I told you so". The little cold was very tiny, weighing only 35 pounds, while his sister weighed 90 pounds. His legs were crooked and flimsy-looking and at first, he could not get up by himself. With help, he could stand and nurse and by the time he was three hours old, he could get up by himself and find his way to mom. The filly had no problems, she was a perfectly normal foal from the beginning and was up and nursing within an hour. I decided to name the babies after cartoon characters since the little cold was so comical in appearance. LIL' ABNER had a domed forehead, as if someone had put a cereal bowl on his head. He also had a dent in the front of his face at eye level. He had short, velvety hair totally unlike his sister, DAISY MAY who had a thick, long coat. To stand, Abner had to rest one hock against the other. In front, he sometimes stood bowlegged and sometimes knock-kneed. He really looked weird when one front leg would bow to the outside and the other would bend inward. Like many foals, his ligaments were weak and he nearly walked on his ankles for the first two days. Abner was so small when he was born, that he could not only walk under his mom's belly, he could walk under his sister's too. His withers were level with her elbows. Abner is tough, though, and in three weeks he has doubled in weight as has sister, Daisy May. Eddie is doing well and after a few weeks, seems to not be quite so bewildered at having two babies to care for. She is a good mom and seems to be producing enough milk for both babies. Only time will tell if Abner will grow up to be a full-sized horse or if he will always be the tough little guy he is now. One thing is certain, he has no idea that he is not the biggest, bravest, most macho guy around. It's Abner who piaffes as if practicing for the place he is sure is waiting for him at the Spanish Riding School. And it's Abner's canter pirouettes that rival those of a Grand Prix horse. My only problem is trying to figure out how such a little body can carry around such a big heart. This story has been contributed by Cathy Funk of Pine Mountain Lipizzans. Pine Mountain is located near Lamar, Ark., about 100 miles west of Little Rock. Pine Mountain is one of the largest Lipizzan breeding farms in the country, with 10 brood mares, 2 stallions, and about 30 Lipizzans in residence at all times. Pine Mountain Lipizzans has sold horses to buyers all over the country and even in Europe. For more information on Pine Mountain Lipizzans call Cathy at 501-885-3778.

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