When the mare you rescued suddenly has twins, you’ll probably have a little bit of both. We love this heartwarming story of how a first-time horse owner in Oregon rescued not one, but three horses… by accident.
Photography courtesy of Olivia Schely, owner of Yah Yah Photography, and Matt Stautberg.
As first-time horse owners, we didn’t realize the adventure we were in for when we rescued our Tennessee Walking horse Sephira in October 2014. We were thrilled to give this beautiful mare a good home and a family who loves her in Sherwood, Oregon.
Previously, she had been living with more than 10 other Tennessee Walkers and was in desperate need of care. She was severely underweight and we spent the winter supplementing her diet with hay, alfalfa and extra grain. By spring of this year, Sephira was finally putting on weight ─ a little too much weight.
We called our amazing vet Cierra Dedeker, owner of Peak Performance Equine, out for an examination and made a surprising discovery: Sephira was 11 months pregnant and was due any day.
When we adopted Sephira we were not aware she had been turned out with a stud. With this news, we knew we needed immediate help and called in Michelle Michelsen, owner of Bald Peak Foaling and Rehabilitation Center to help us with the delivery.
But there was another surprise in store. On May 6, Sephira gave birth to twins: a filly and colt. After much discussion with our daughters, we decided to name them Annabel and Oliver.
The chance of a mare successfully delivering twins is about one in 10,000, and even more unusual for them both to survive. The birth was traumatic, with both foals emerging from the birth canal at the same time. Annabel wasn’t breathing when she was born and required resuscitation. Both foals and Sephira survived the delivery thanks to the help of Michelle Michelsen and Cierra Dedeker.
The first few days were intense as the foals fought for survival. For the first week, Michelle slept by their side in the barn monitoring their needs. Sephira wasn’t able to produce enough milk for the two of them, and supplementing with goat’s milk was necessary in the first few critical weeks. We are overwhelmed with the enormous support we have received from our friends, family, and neighbors in our community, and have set up a GoFundMe page to assist with expenses related to the foals’ care.
Since then, we have been supplementing with Mare’s Match foal milk replacer every two hours to keep these little equine miracles thriving. But at the end of foaling season, foal milk replacement was in short supply. When our local retailers were completely out of stock of Mare’s Match, I called the manufacturer, Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Projects Company, and they went above and beyond to work with their distributor and local supplier to make sure our foals had what they needed.
They still need 24-hour care to supplement their feeding, but we’re making progress thanks to Michelle at Bald Peak Foaling Center. We also want to give a special shout out to Land O Lakes Animal Milk Products for featuring Annabel and Oliver on their Mare’s Match Miracles FaceBook page.
There were many concerns early on in the twins’ development that our vet Dr. Cierra Dedeker monitored closely. At two weeks old she took x-rays of their joints and did physical exams, paying particular attention to monitoring their growth. With their nutritional intake comprised mostly of supplement, it was important to monitor growth and weight gain. We are especially grateful to Michelle and her daughter Kailee Michelsen for supplementing the twins every two hours.
They were growing well, however, only at about 75- 80% of what we would like. Sephira, the mare, is no longer producing enough to significantly contribute to each foal’s diet. With their first incisors beginning to come through, we are transitioning to a more comprehensive diet.
Another concern at this point is their conformation. Angular limb deformities are common in foals–and especially in twins, where there is not a lot of room in utero for them to develop properly. Ossification, or bony development of the carpal and tarsal bones, is a concern for both foals. We are monitoring Annabel’s carpi joints, which is equivalent to the human wrist anatomically, but is more commonly referred to as a horse’s “knee.” And in Oliver we are monitoring his hock joints in the hind end, similar to the human ankles.
Sephira’s recovery has been remarkable. Her weight, coat, stamina, and spirit have been amazing. While she’s not able to produce enough milk for the foals, she’s an attentive mother who takes great care of her little foals. The first day we put them out in the pasture, I’m sure her heart was racing a mile a minute as she watched each foal gallop off in different directions. But over the next few weeks, she learned to relax as her babes explored and grazed.
This picture was taken just two months after Sephira gave birth to the twins.
What I love most about this experience is watching my daughters, Grace (8) and Sofie (5), with Annabel and Oliver. The girls are in love with these mini miracles. It is a learning journey for all of us, and the girls have enjoyed being part of each milestone for the foals: their first farrier appointment, vet visits, first bath, daily feeding, halter training lessons and grooming.
I hope when my daughters grow up they remember getting dirty, riding horses backwards, falling off and getting back on, learning to listen to their equine companions, barn days and sharing an unbreakable bond with their horses. It warms my heart to see how these foals have already taught my daughters trust, confidence, patience, being present in the moment, responsibility, and love.
It’s that moment when daydreams of little girls become a touchable reality. It’s magical to watch. Each day brings a new challenge and opportunity for learning. One day I plan to write a series of children’s books about Annabel and Oliver’s grand adventures.
The foals are so gentle with my daughters when they are practicing their groundwork. It’s cute to watch them learn to listen to the horses’ needs and respond. When Grace and Sofie are not at the Bald Peak Foaling and Rehabilitation Center with the twins, they are drawing, sketching and painting pictures of Annabel and Oliver. Here’s a painting 5- year-old Sofie did of Annabel.
Now that the twins are stronger and bigger, we have had fun capturing their antics on video. I could sit for hours watching them buck, kick and gallop around the pasture. I borrowed a friend’s GoPro Hero3 camera, thinking it would be an awesome idea to film the twins from their perspective. I think I just produced the most boring GoPro video in the history of GoPro videos. My first and second attempt at filming my filly and colt was an epic fail. I probably would have gotten more action shots if I filmed the barn cat. They were not even enticed with the Jolly Ball. I’m thinking about asking a local film school to take on the Annabel and Oliver GoPro film as a class project. My cinematic genius is a bit limited.
Now that the twins are nearly three months, it’s time to move them from the foaling center and find a permanent home. I believe that life brings us opportunities and challenges, and it’s up to us to navigate through it all to find our purpose. We have been blessed with these amazing horses and have found that our passion and purpose are aligned.
I always tell my girls to follow their hearts, trust their instincts, and pursue their passions; because the things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.