From Bridles to Broodmare: The Issue with Twinning

In the first instalment of "From Bridles to Broodmare", we talk about how I ultimately decided to take my mare, Mates Special Lady, (Lady) and turn her into a baby maker. We also discuss what you can generally expect if you decide to breed your mare through artificial insemination. 

To read up on that, and get caught up, click here.

"Twinning" - an expression used by the younger generation when themselves and their best friends look alike and are "like, totally twinning."
"Twins" - an expression you don't want to hear your vet say when he looks at your mare's fourteen day check ultrasound.

Where we last left off, I bred Lady on June 6 and what I left out of my previous post for some great literary drama is that I bred her on a double ovulation. Time to throw some science on ya: there are two types of double ovulations. Synchronous - occurring at the same time, or asynchronous, two eggs are ovulated several days apart. Equine sperm can live inside the mare's reproductive tract for several days. If a mare is bred at the time of a first ovulation but a second ovulation occurs five or six days later, that egg will also be fertilized, thus, two "twins" can exist, but they can actually be different ages. Either way, when you see two black dots on your ultrasound screen, that means there are twin embryos. A pro-tip I learned this year in my path of broodmare-hood with Lady is that: This is where timing of your reproductive checks is very important. Much like seemingly everything else with horses, the timing can be a little tricky and overly frustrating. A routine ultrasound examination generally occurs between 14 to 16 days after the first ovulation. If your mare was asynchronous, (two seperate eggs, days apart), there is a possibility the second, younger, embryo will be missed. This is because embryos can't be seen on the ultrasound until 11 days after ovulation. The optimal time for eliminating a second embryo is 16 days after ovulation, after 16 days the embryos can potentially fuse to the uterine wall making them hard to eliminate, and in many cases results in loss of both of the embryos. 

She's really the sweetest one. Just love her.

However, we bred Lady way back in June 6 on a double ovulation, so we knew that 14 days later we were either going to have two embryos, or one embryo, with the second having absorbed and disappeared. We had two black dots on the screen, two little black dots that were buddied up worse than your naughtiest three year olds that have lived together since they were born. At day 14 this is not a major concern, my vet told me we should wait a few days before going through with "pinching one off" (i.e. a twin reduction procedure). He said that embryos move around a lot in the early stages before they've fused to the uterine wall, so it was likely that on day 16 they would be apart from each other. You want them apart from each other because on day 16 the vet goes in and "pinches" the smaller twin off, if it's close to the other embryo it may cause disruption and you could lose both your embryos. So two days later I was going to have to bring Lady back and we were going to eliminate one. Obviously I told my vet to keep the futurity champion and to eliminate the tough one that wants nothing to do with the whole concept of "training."

So astute readers,
 I'm sure you know what the these two little black dots mean.
So, why did I opt to go through with a "Twin Reduction"? More science coming your way: Well, the prospect of twins may seem cute, fluffy and optimal for photoshoots, but it's actually very dangerous. Many twin embryos spontaneously abort within the first six weeks of pregnancy. Of twins that are still present after 40 days after pregnancy, about 80% will subsequently abort, most often after the eight month of pregnancy. With late-term abortion, the mare can experience major complications. In the rare case a mare delivers one or two live foals there are increased foaling problems for the mare and greater loss of life for the foals during the first two weeks of life. Even if your twins survive and prosper, the combined birth weight of the twins equals the size of one normal, single foal, and thus twins generally never catch up to normal weight, or size. So, like I said above, we decided to pinch one off. This is a procedure where the vet moves one embryo to the tip of a horn in the uterus by manual trans-rectal manipulation. Once the embryo is separated adequately from the remaining embryo, and is at the tip of the horn, it can be "pinched" manually or with the ultrasound against the horn. This procedure has a 90-95% success-rate when performed by a skilled practitioner. 

So on the morning of day 16 I brought Lady in and gave her a shot of Banamine. Science: When pinching a twin, it can be stressful and painful for the mare if done improperly. This can cause a release of prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is what one uses to short cycle a mare and it works by lysing the corpus lute  Any time you mare suffers a trauma - leg injury, falls and hurts herself, runs through a barbed wire fence, etc. - she will naturally release prostaglandin. So here is my second major pro-tip I learned as a first time breeder, any time a pregnant mares suffers a traumatic injury, grab for the supplemental progesterone and prostaglandin inhibitors (aka Banamine.) But, here is where I'm going to gently remind you, don't believe everything you read on the internet. This worked for me, and quite obviously for this whole journey I was working hand-in-hand with some of the best reproductive vets you can find. So make sure you don't start shooting your pregnant mare with Banamine, or any other drug, just because you read about it on my blog. K, thanks.

Then we hauled to the clinic where we put Lady in the stocks and my vet gave her a decent dose of sedation. Again, to keep her calm and not feeling a ton of pain. My vet told me that in the photo above those two little black dots are the size of grapes, he slowly manipulated the grapes away from each other until he was able to isolate the smaller grape in the horn. Then, using the ultrasound, he pressed the smaller grape against the horn until it popped. You could see it pop and fluid disperse and just like that we went from twinning, to riding solo. Then we gave Lady a two week shot of Regumate to inhibit her body from coming into heat and crossed our fingers that in fourteen days baby solo would still be there.

Then we turned Lady out into our lush, beautiful, huge broodmare pasture. This is a pasture where we have turned out countless broodmares, babies, yearlings and retired geldings the last two years. No one has ever gotten hurt. I wasn't worried - Lady can get turned out with ANYONE. Famous last words. I was camping over Canada Day long weekend when I got the call Lady ripped her damn hip open and needed stitches. We don't know how she did it, perhaps she ran into an errant stick? It's ridiculous, but either way, she was hauled into the clinic and they stitched her up fantastically. Her skin was very tight around her hip area, so as you can see in the photo they stitched the wound itself and then held the skin together as well. It looked pretty nasty, but has healed wonderfully.  The injury required a few days of Banamine, as well as an antibiotic. It also required two weeks of stall rest and hand-walking on the lawn. Of course I am a supreme worry-wart, so there was the nagging fear that the stress of the injury may have caused an abortion in her delicate little solo embryo. I have never second guessed how lucky I am to have a mare like Lady because she is very, very quiet. It was +30C every day the weeks she was on stall rest and she was quiet and happy to be in her stall, whether she was alone in the barn or not. When she went on her hand walks she quietly grazed while I dropped her lead shank and worked on my writing. The vet that stitched her said the same thing, that they weren't supremely worried about stress causing her complications because she was so un-phased and un-stressed about her hip. As she is about legitimately everything, she's such a good girl.

Lady enjoying her walks on the lawn with her brother, Cash.

So, a week after the hip incident, we went in to check again to see if baby solo had stuck around and there it was, big and beautiful and there was even a heartbeat! She was given another shot of Regumate just to be safe, but they said that from here on out it should be smooth sailing. So, all appendages crossed, if everything goes to plan and everything sticks to where it's suppose too, Lady is due between May 3 and May 18. Obviously I am psychotic levels of excited, and I keep catching myself calling the baby "he" and so I have a sneaking suspicion that I have a gelding on the way. I'm not really a mare or gelding person, as long as the baby is healthy I'm happy since it's her first. I already have a registered name, and barn name, picked out if it's a boy... but don't worry I have lists on my phone if that one doesn't fit.

Now Lady is happily turned out with my other retiree, Jingle. She seems quite happy these days, and he is stupidly happy to have her back after two years of being a part. I have yet to break it to him that the baby isn't his, nor will it be paint. He's going to be so disappointed. So there ya have it - the first two chapter's of from Bridles to Broodmares has come and gone. We have a pregnant mare, and now we wait!

A solo embryo!


  1. That is quite a procedure! I have never ultrasounded my mares so I guess I am lucky that in all these years I have only had one set of twins- they lived less than 48 hours. I live in an area that means hauling quite a ways to get to a good vet.

    1. Totally - I'm five minutes from Moore South, so it's quite convenient, i'm lucky. I didn't reference it in the post because I couldn't find any scientific data to back up my thoughts but we were also obviously using drugs to regulate her and bring her into heat, so I'm sure that had something to do with the double ovulation.

  2. Exciting!! I had my mares both ultrasounded and luckily just one embryo with each. We are due later than lady but in 3 years I will hopefully have a futurity colt as well :)


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