Twin foals make history at Helen Woodward Animal Center

RANCHO SANTA FE — Sunny and Angel may look like any other normal foals, but the two young horses are a rare pair. The babies are among a handful of twins in the United States to be born alive and in good health.
Housed at the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Equine Hospital, the exceptionally rare pair, along with their mother, a 9-year-old mare named Lena, overcame unbelievable odds just to be born. “The fact that both foals went full-term gives them a better chance of survival,” said their veterinarian Dr. Rodrigo Vazquez.
The new family has the animal center and much of the general public abuzz with excitement. In fact, there is a live streaming video so people can watch the foals and their mother.
“This is an opportunity for people to watch how we help animals,” said Helen Woodward spokesman John Van Zante. “I’ve seen people from Phoenix, Miami, Nebraska and Philadelphia commenting on the webcast,” he said. “There are even comments that aren’t in English.”
Lena gave birth to the twins March 28 and within hours the three horses were transported from Fallbrook to Helen Woodward. The registered Quarter Horse’s owner said she didn’t know Lena was expecting twins until they were being born. “For these two to even make it through the pregnancy is remarkable,” Van Zante said.
According to experts, the live birth of twins is exceptionally rare. “Most horse owners don’t want their mares to have twins,” Vazquez said. “It can be extremely dangerous for the mare and the foals.” Vazquez said that most twin pregnancies are interrupted around the second week of gestation to prevent a mid-term abortion. “One of the embryos is manually reduced to protect the mare and allow the other embryo to grow to full term,” he explained.
According to Van Zante, San Diego County has more horses per capita than any other place in the world with the exception of Riverside County. “They were born in the right place,” he said.
The horses are being watched around the clock by staff. “This is the first time since we opened the hospital in 1986 that Helen Woodward Animal Center has had a pair of twin foals under our care,” Van Zante said. “Even the person who assisted in their delivery said it’s the first time in her 25 years that she’s seen a horse successfully give birth to a pair of twins.”
Sunny, a 50-pound colt was given an ultrasound on April 2 to examine a lump found in his groin area. Vasquez and Equine manager Christen Henley were pleased with the results of the exam.
After the exam, his sister, Angel jumped around the stall. “This is a good sign,” Vasquez said about the foal’s behavior. “That’s what you want to see.” But, he said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the future of the horses.
Just because Sunny and Angel survived birth doesn’t mean that they’re out of danger. “Twin birth for horses is so rare that it’s hard to find accurate statistics,” Van Zante said. “Sunny and Angel may have as little as a one in 15,000 chance of surviving more than two weeks.”
Helen Woodward Animal Center has set up live, streaming video at
www.ustream.tv/channel/sunnyandangeltwinfoals.
For more information about Helen Woodward Animal Center or to make a donation, call (858) 756-4117.

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