Horse twins are relatively rare and those that survive for even a day or two struggle with a precarious existence during their early days. In late September, twins were foaled at Kate Honour’s Rotorua property in New Zealand. The tiny pair, named Poppet and Fudge, have thus far beaten all the early difficulties of being horse twins. Source story dated Oct. 21, 2015 has only now been released by horsetalk.co.nz which tells their story in detail, accompanied by a charming photographic record of the babies’ progress. The birth of these foals began an exhausting test of stamina for their caretakers since the foals required around-the-clock concern and attention. They have now reached the three-week milestone, and both babies are getting stronger daily and are eating unassisted.
The twins’ dam, 18-year-old thoroughbred Betty, has foaled six live, healthy foals before these two, and no one knew ahead of time that she was carrying twins. When Betty foaled the twins, Poppet weighed just 12kg and required bottle feeding for 19 days, and Fudge weighed 16kg and gave up the bottle after only four days. Fortunately Betty was an excellent milk producer and allowed being milked to bottle feed her babies.
The realization that Betty was foaling twins came as a surprise to Honour. Fudge, the larger twin, was born first, and soon after, Betty expelled two placentas. Honour’s heart understandably sank as she faced the reality that Betty was foaling twins. Poppet was born with human assistance and began breathing almost immediately. Both babies were small and thin.
Honour understood that horse twins meant work, worries and 24/7 care. The key to their survival was going to be vigilance and constant, intense nursing. Honour slept in the stable, monitoring the twins every 20 to 30 minutes around the clock. Looking back to the intense moments, Honour believes it was the concentrated care that saved Poppet’s life. She was “a close-run.”
Both foals struggled to stand. But their willingness to take the bottle combined with good suckling response played a major role in their survival. Betty was amazing throughout her twins’ ordeal, allowed milking and Honour’s almost constant presence. The foals were estimated to be developed to “the equivalent of a single foal being six weeks premature. They presented at birth with dimpled heads, wrinkled coats, floppy ears, blue-tinged eyes and weak pasterns on bandy legs. They gave every indication that they were weak and their lives hung in the balance.
Honour relates the hardships, close calls and determined care that kept the babies going. Poppet in particular encountered one danger to her life after the other, from sepsis to diarrhea to high temperature. Through everything, Honour stuck to her intensive nursing. She said,
Poppet had thrown the book at us, with everything that could go wrong with a new foal going wrong. We spent a very harrowing week. . . Without Betty being as genuine as she is, our nursing skills and the fantastic support of our vets, both girls would not have made it.
The twin fillies, babies of an Irish draft stallion and thoroughbred Betty, are barely three weeks old now and are doing well. According to Honour, they spend “about 70 percent of their time sleeping, 20 percent of their time feeding, and 10 percent of their time running or mooching around.” She is pleased with the foals and their amazing progress.