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Two For One


ByLeigh Ballard

Successful live birth of twin foals is exceedingly rare. Some resources say that the odds of successfully foaling live twins is 1 in every 10,000 births. And for those live twins to survive is about a 1 in 15,000 chance! But that was the surprising thing that happened in May at Joe and Tricia Wright’s JW Ranch in Slayden, MS.

Party’s Playgirl is the twins’ proud mother. And proud papa is JW Ranch’s stallion Alittle Street Smart. Both are cutting horses. Smarty is on a layoff due to a soft tissue injury at the NCHA World show and Playgirl is now retired from the NCHA show pen to the breeding barn. The two were paired last year and produced a nice baby, so owners Mike and Janie Akin bred the mare again to the JW Ranch stallion.

They sent the mare back to the Wright’s in the spring to foal. In May, as her due date approached, all the normal foaling preparations were in place. The mare was housed in a foaling stall by night and grazed in a paddock by day. Tony Swedlund, the barn manager, knew her foaling history, her daily habits. All was proceeding as normal in this, her fifth, pregnancy. She passed her due date, but she didn’t look abnormally large like some mares do. Then she was three weeks past her due date, and although she looked heavy in foal, she didn’t look like she was going to explode.

On the morning of May 23, 2014 Tony put the mare in her paddock as usual. He went on about his business, but out of habit kept a practiced eye on the mare. For just a little while he worked out of sight of the mare, even mentioning to Tricia he should probably go check on her. Tricia fussed at him saying that mare isn’t going to foal right now! He went on about moving horses in pastures, and then when he looked over toward the mare’s paddock he saw a little foal halfway sitting up. “Well good, finally!” he thought. He hurried over to the paddock, and much to his amazement there were two! And they were both breathing! He called Tricia on the cell phone, but she thought he was joking.

Tony has foaled out over 500 foals, and this was the first set of twins he’s encountered. Looking back at the day, he remembers specifically the mare was not dripping milk or showing any signs of impending delivery. But, maybe, she looked just a little dipped in the hips? Maybe that was why he kept looking over at her.

The twins’ first days were good. The foals ran around bucking, seeming completely normal. Both are colts, and the larger one soon showed his “larger” personality. “He’s feisty,” Tricia says. “We call him Trouble. We ought to call him Mr. P.I. B. for pain in butt!” she laughs. “He jumps, runs, kicks, bites – you name it. He’s full of it! The little one we call Rudy. His brother knocks him down and spins him around, and he just gets back up. He’s got so much ‘try to’ and ‘want to’. We named him after the Notre Dame football story about the boy Rudy.”

Over the course of the second and third days Rudy’s little legs started showing some signs of underdevelopment. They were spreading farther and farther apart and looked like they were collapsing. The veterinarians were called in, consultations were made with Dr. Monty McInturf at Tennessee Equine Hospital, and the decision was made to splint little Rudy’s splayed legs until the bones in his knees could develop more. After some time in splints, he will have a corrective surgery at Cousa Valley Equine in Alabama. His prognosis is very good, and he is expected to grow and catch up and be fully sound.

“In one way he has a real head start,” Tricia points out. “He’s learning to use his back end, and he’s developing very good balance.” Walking with the stiff splints, Rudy makes his way around and can even get himself up the short step into the barn. He certainly does have a lot of “want to.”

In the meantime, Party’s Playgirl is eating for three. She eats 12 pounds of grain, 3 pounds of alfalfa cubes and about ¾ of a bale of hay. And she and the boys are turned out for grazing every day. Tony estimates she drinks 35 gallons of water a day. It’s a lot of work raising boys! But she remains calm and unflappable – unless Trouble chomps down a little hard while he’s nursing. Then she gets after him!

Ranch life is getting somewhat back to normal after this amazing birth. The twin foals are basking in their fame as the winners of the NCHA’s 2014 cutest foals contest and their winning photo will be seen by cutters everywhere as “Future NCHA Champions.” Alittle Street Smart is back to exercising and preparing to return to the show pen. Tony and the Wrights have their hands full keeping up with the boy’s care. And the Akins are looking to the future for the ‘one (two) in a many thousands’ baby cutting horses.

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