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Equine Embryo Transfer Twins – Double Trouble or Twice as Nice?

Human siblings in the same show pen? Amazing. Equine siblings in the same show pen? Astounding. Twin births are very rare and often dangerous for our loving companions; however, with embryo-transfer technologies, equine twins are now more common than ever.

Horse owners and breeders, Laina Banks and Cathy Corrigan Frank share their expertise on foaling twins. See what they have to say about having one bloodline shared between two horses.

Third generation horse show exhibitor and owner of the AQHA/APHA stallion, Living Large, Cathy Corrigan Frank has had not one, but multiple sets of twins and is now expecting a set of triplets. Frank bred two of the industry’s most outstanding horses, Huntin For Money and RL Best Of Sudden, which produced two more exceptional equines.

The now four-year-old twins, Olive Ah Sudden and Sudden Leigh are showing at some of the country’s top horse shows and are both in training with McDowell Quarter Horses in Franktown, Colorado.

Cathy says the horses are similar in their slow mindedness and their size. However, their unique markings and beautiful coat colors are very different from one another.

In discussing another difference between carrying twins versus just one foal, Cathy says, “It’s no different than a single birth because the biological mom isn’t carrying. When we were going to breed this mare, she ovulated two embryos, so we put those embryos in two surrogates so they could both be carried to term.”

Frank says multiple births weren’t the plan for this mare; it was just how she ovulated. The same thing has happened with her other sets of twins and triplets.

Ken and Laina Banks of Banks Ranch in Schulenburg, Texas, have been involved in AQHA and the horse show industry for many years and are recognized as AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders.

They proudly breed and raise American Quarter Horses that specialize in many events, including western pleasure, all-around classes, reined cow horse events, and ranch riding. The Banks have owned and bred some of AQHA’s top mares to some of the industry’s best stallions.

Laina Banks says, “Using Embryo Transfer Programs allows us to produce offspring from our best horses without the need to end their show careers early. We also have some older mares that are unable to carry due to age and or health issues, so this is a great program for them as well.”

Laina continues, “In the past, we have been fortunate on some occasions to have a mare produce more than one embryo during a breeding session. Although not typical and certainly not something you can breed for, it is an amazing gift when it does happen. It is always very exciting as it gives us the potential to have two or more foals from that particular breeding and cross.”

Last year, along with Bruce Vickery and Anthony Montes, Ken and Laina decided to breed their beloved show horse and AQHA Multiple World and Congress Champion, Strawberri Wine. The Banks wanted an American Quarter Horse stallion that would complement her pedigree and natural talent. After much research, they chose two outstanding studs, The Lopin Machine from Masterson Farms LLC and Heart Stoppin from Voge Quarter Horses.

In the first round of breeding with Strawberri Wine (Berri) and The Lopin Machine, Berri produced two embryos that the recipient mares later accepted and carried to term. In January, the Banks welcomed a beautiful red roan filly, and just a few days later, out of another surrogate mare, the filly’s sweet sorrel brother arrived.

Laina explains that “Every foal has its special attributes. Although these foals are full siblings, from the same embryo flush, and are similar in many ways, they also have several different characteristics. Through our many years of breeding, we have come to understand that no matter how closely bred, many things come into play. No two individuals are ever the same at birth, and we have found that through a horse’s growth and development, so many things impact who they become.”

Banks goes on to say, “We believe that the surrogate mare plays a pivotal role in the mental development of a foal. We typically see personality characteristics from their paternal sire and dam, but they seem to learn behaviors from the carrier mare. We are very fortunate to work with Dr. Noble at Noble Equine in Oklahoma for our recipient mare program. He is great with embryos and has wonderful mares. This time has been no exception. Strawberri’s foals have exceptional surrogate mothers that are teaching them to be kind, loving, and gentle foals.”

Whether you have twins, triplets or just one foal, there’s no denying the excitement of having a young horse. With this great joy, comes great responsibility to care for your expecting mare and her soon-to-be superstar. Now, with breeding experts, the most amazing genetics available and remarkable advancements in breeding technology, this is easier than ever. It is safe to say that the future of breeding show horses is bright.

About the Author – Oklahoma State Equestrian Commit, Lauren Pursley is a devoted youth equestrian showing in the all-around events with her horse Lovin Some Lazy Lola. Lauren is the current Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association Vice President and a member of Team USA 2020 for the Youth World Cup.  In addition to competing in AQHA shows, Lauren competes in Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) horse shows and is participating in the 2020 AQHA Ranching Heritage Bred Young Horse Development Program. Lauren enjoys working with horses, writing about horses, and equine photography.