Originally created 05/24/00

Twin beat odds by surviving birth



WATKINSVILLE, Ga. - Given the slim odds that their mare Skippa Supreme would give birth to surviving twins, Jim Walker and his wife, Suzanne, might as well have won the lottery.

Mr. Walker has been breeding pleasure horses to sell at his Oliver Bridge Road horse farm in Oconee County for the past 30 years, and he's never had a horse give birth to surviving twins. On one occasion more than 10 years ago, one of Mr. Walker's mares had twins, but one died immediately after birth.

But on Monday afternoon, beneath a sunshiny blue sky on the Walkers' 22-acre horse pasture, twin foals named Suzanne and Diane trotted around after their mother, healthy and full of life.

"It's really astronomical that the mother conceived and they both lived," Mr. Walker said while guiding the mother and her newborn foals toward a small pond on the rolling pasture. "We knew she was going to give birth, but we had no idea she was going to have twins."

The twins are a cross between Skippa Supreme, a reddish-brown quarter horse, and a spotted brown-and-white paint horse named Nicky Skip-a-Spot. Mr. Walker said 90 percent of such cross breedings yield the paint horses, which carry the dominant gene.

But in this case he got one of each: Diane, a quarter horse like her mother, and Suzanne, a paint horse like her father. The foals were named after Mrs. Walker and her sister, who also are twins.

"They're abnormally friendly and loving," Mr. Walker said while petting one of the foals.

Khris Crowe, a veterinarian in Bishop, said she has been working professionally with horses for the past 18 years and has witnessed only one case of surviving foal twins, when she visited a horse farm in Arizona.

Dr. Crowe said that about one of every 1,500 horse births results in twins. Of that small percentage, less than 5 percent result in both foals surviving, she said.

"Every birth is very exciting, but this was just an absolute adrenalin rush," she said. "It's very exciting that they both made it. Jim called me last week, and after I arrived I was delighted to see that they both were standing. Rarely will both be standing. Usually, one will be a lot smaller and weaker."

Given the slim chance of both fillies surviving, stressful times ensued after Dr. Crowe was called out to the Walkers' horse farm May 16, immediately after the births occurred.

Dr. Crowe explained that Diane received an adequate enough supply of mother's milk, which is crucial to fighting off harmful germs that might enter her system. Suzanne, however, did not get enough milk and was susceptible to such life-threatening germs.

The veterinarian then performed a plasma transfusion, which filled Suzanne's immune system full of lifesaving antibodies.

"Now, she's fantastic," Dr. Crowe said. "But if she hadn't gotten that plasma she probably would not have survived the first week."

Dr. Crowe also attributes the foals' survival to the skills of Mr. Walker, whom she describes as "a very good caretaker."

The twins' birth has been big news in the Oconee County farming community. Mr. Walker said that shortly after the births occurred, cars were lined up along Oliver Bridge Road filled with curious spectators who wanted to see the twins.

Mr. Walker said that although he generally breeds his horses for selling, these two won't be for sale if his wife has anything to say about it.

"It'd be very hard to sell these. My wife has a lot of affection for them," he said. "And we have grandchildren and friends that like to ride, so it's going to be nice to have a few extra ones around that people can enjoy."