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June 2012
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Elizabethtown mare gives birth to rare twins

By Carly Besser The News-Enterprise

ELIZABETHTOWN - He might as well have bought a lottery ticket.

That's what Danny Benningfield's veterinarian told him when his 4-year-old mare, Blue, gave birth to healthy twin foals June 5. With a body unequipped to carry multiples, a mare birthing twins is considered extremely rare.

"When I came out and saw two colts instead of one, I knew it was highly unusual," Benningfield said. "I didn't realize how rare it was until I did a little reading and talking to my vet. It's very exciting to be a part of this."

The odds of a horse giving birth to twins are about 1 in 10,000. The odds of both offspring surviving are astronomical, but the Tennessee Walking horse and her newborn colts are actively defying statistics.

The twins are experiencing their first days of life close to their mother, who is fiercely protective from outsiders, he said. Most of their time is spent nursing, sleeping and clumsily exploring the world around them.

"Blue is a maiden," Benningfield said. "These are her first offspring, and she has been a really good mother."

The colts hadn't been named, but Benningfield said his love for the Kentucky Wildcats might inspire their upcoming titles. He momentarily considered naming them after Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the standout twins for the University of Kentucky's basketball team.

"I think my grandkids are going to name them," he said.

The foals are in good health, with one slightly smaller than the other. Despite their stable condition now, there is a chance they may not be out of the woods.

"The only complication I can see is the mare's inability to produce that much milk," said Dr. Scott Blair, Benningfield's veterinarian. "We have a foal milk replacement on hand, so if one wants to nurse more, we can start supplementing that."

Blair, an independent large animal veterinarian from Rineyville, has been practicing for 18 years. He never has seen a mare give multiple births without complications. He said one of the twin fetuses typically is lost within day 30 of the pregnancy while the other is born healthy.

"Mares can be difficult to deal with in terms of reproduction," Blair said. "Throw in a set of twins and half of a sufficient blood supply to both fetuses and the chances get slimmer."

Blair has seen the foals since their birth and concluded they are healthy despite the circumstances.

"They're doing well and they're very vibrant," Blair said. "The larger colt has weakness in his tendons, so we put support wraps on the tendons to strengthen them out, but he will be fine and the mother is also doing well."

For now, Benningfield and Blair will watch Blue's nutrition closely to make sure she can provide enough nourishment for both offspring. Benningfield plans to raise and keep the twins on his farm on the outskirts of Elizabethtown.

"It was really amazing," Blair said. "I was truly shocked when I found out."

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