Jack and Jill went up the hill… or into the show ring, as it happened Sept. 25 at Dressage At Devon (Pa.). Jubilee Jill and Jolly Jack were the talk of the town after the twin foals competed in the KWPN-NA 2 & Under breed division at the prestigious show, accompanied by their dam, Torieta. They made history as the firstever twins to show at Devon, given that multiple births are a rarity in the horse world.
It came as a surprise to David Searle, the equine manager at Iron Spring Farm (Coatesville, Pa.), when the foal he bred for his 12-year-old daughter Christine turned out to be, in fact, two foals. The Dutch Warmblood pair (Florianus II—Torieta, Lux), were born on April 19 at Iron Spring with the help of their breeding manager Andrea Bonkamp and Unionville Equine Associates (Oxford, Pa.) veterinarian Jill Ackland.
Jill was first, followed moments later by her brother.
“When Jill was born first, we thought we had one foal,” said David. “The mare got up and she went back down, and we went, ‘Oh, she might be cramping,’ but Andrea went, “I can see more legs!’ So that’s when we knew that we had another foal in there.
“We had gone through the usual procedure of getting all the ultrasounds done, and Jack was hiding in there, so we weren’t expecting twins,” he continued. “It was a complete surprise!”
Toward the end of Torieta’s pregnancy, people began commenting on her size, joking that she was carrying twins or triplets because her belly was getting so low it was almost dragging on the ground—but they never expected it to be true.
“Twins are very rare,” said David. “Normally, one gets aborted or the mare has trouble trying to give birth to two twins. Usually the mares [give birth] very early and then [the babies] are very immature, but we were lucky enough to have such a good mare in Torieta—she carried them to full term, and she was a week overdue. So Jack, the smaller one, got to cook a little bit longer!
“Because [Torieta] was so overdue, we thought maybe the foal would be in dystocia, but what Mother Nature and [Torieta] knew that we didn’t know was that she was taking so long because she had two foals in there. That extra time gave the foals a really good fighting chance when they were born.”
The babies were a healthy weight at birth, although Jack was a bit smaller and had to be held in order to nurse for the first 24 hours.
But a whole new set of concerns plagued David once the foals were safely delivered.
"One fear is that the mare won’t accept both of them, and another is that she won’t have enough milk for both of them,” he said. “But she accepted both of them as hers, and they decided to pick sides [for nursing]. Jack decided that the left side was his and the right side was Jill’s.”
A Family Affair
Since that surprising Easter weekend, David and his wife, Patrice, son Stephan and Christine have been working with both foals to get them conditioned and show-ready. The family joined David at Dressage At Devon to cheer on Jack and Jill.
“My whole family was there! My two children took the day off of school, and we really made it a family affair, so we all just got to enjoy the experience,” said David. “We’d been handling [the foals] a lot in getting prepared for Devon. I think they enjoyed being out; they were very quiet and we had a very nice time."
In their first outing, Jack impressed the judges with his calm demeanor.
“The judges really liked Jack, and Jill was little bit more undeveloped, but we’ll be back next year, and we have faith in her,” said David. “It’s been a lot of hard work having twins, especially bringing them in from the field with both of them and their mom, but I’ve just been blessed that the mare has done everything and more for her babies. I also couldn’t have done it without the foals being so well behaved.”
David, who is well-practiced in breeding horses, and Patrice decided last spring to breed a custom-fit horse for Christine: a reliable, calm and versatile partner that she could bring along herself.
“Having gone through the process of breeding and working [at Iron Spring], I have a little bit more opportunity,” said David. “We chose Florianus II because he’s been a successful horse and he has a very laid back temperament, so he’s a good fit for our breeding program for my daughter since I wanted a nice, quiet horse.
“My wife was looking for a really nice, well-bred mare, and Torieta had a very good jumping career, so we thought that she could produce a jumper possibly as well, in case my daughter decided that she wanted to do the jumping rather than the dressage,” he continued. “So now not only do we have a choice of a girl or a boy, but my daughter also has the option to become a jumper or do the dressage because we have a combination, and she can go in really any direction.”
Christine, who’s thrilled with the idea of having two foals, meets her father at the babies’ home at Fox Brook Farm, about 5 miles down the road from David’s work, every day after school to take care of her new charges.
“Right now we’re just concentrated on taking it day by day,” said David. “The plan for right now is to just let my daughter enjoy them and then we’ll break them and see how it goes from there. We’re just happy ours is a success story!”
Don't miss any of the Chronicle's online coverage of Dressage At Devon—check in at the dedicated Dressage At Devon page all weekend for coverage of the Grand Prix freestyle, Grand Prix Special and more!
Also look for in-depth coverage of both the breed and performance divisions the Oct. 13 issue of the print magazine The Chronicle of the Horse.