Do equine twins have a better chance of survival than we first thought?

Credit: Magic Foundry on FLickr
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I grew up believing that mares giving birth to 2 healthy twins was incredibly rare. More often or not, at least one of the twins would die within 48 hours of being born. And that is if they survived long enough to be born alive and health. It was also not unusual for both twins to be so small and weak that they would both die.

One of the more interesting things I learnt while studying equine breeding at university, was that a lot of the time, if the vet saw twins on an early scan, they would pluck one of the embryos out. This method essentially aborts one of the embryos, giving the other embryo a greater chance of survival long term. The procedure does carry a risk of both embryos being aborted, but is used frequently in the industry with success.

However, in the past few weeks I have seen several articles about twin foals being born happy and healthy. In these cases the vet and owners were unaware the mares were carrying twins. While they are usually picked up in early scans, if they are close together and continue to grow close together, they can be missed on scans.

What is most amazing to me about these stories is how strong and healthy the foals have been. Yes one of the foals is usually a bit bigger and stronger than the other. But the smaller one seems to quickly catch up with their twin.

This got me thinking, do twin foals have a better chance at surviving than we thought? Our understanding of equine reproduction continues to improve each year. As does our management of mares and their foals. Could it be a case of while twin foals are still a bigger risk than a single foal, are we more able to help twin foals survive?

I’m not suggesting this is a fact. This is just something I have been thinking about recently and would be interested in your opinion!

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