Most people in involved in the horse industry know how rare it is for Thoroughbred twins to be carried to full term, successfully delivered, and survive. It’s even more unusual when both of those twins end up thriving in their respective careers. But such is the case for Coco’s Legacy and Coco’s Heritage, respectively nicknamed “Bella” and “Boomer,” who are now living life to the fullest in spite of their challenging beginning.
I hope you are inspired by their tale!
When breeders Jan and James McGuire realized their mare Let’sracebuckeroos was preparing to deliver a second foal, red flags were raised.
“I’ve been told there’s an 80% chance of losing all three (mare and both foals) when you have twins,” said McGuire, who owns Hawks Meadow Farm near St. Augustine, Fla. with her husband. “The fact they both turned out conformationally sound and balanced, is an oddity.”
Let’sracebuckaroo, who McGuire had nicknamed “Coco,” was prone to carrying two babies at once. She had aborted twins in her prior pregnancy after six months, and McGuire had the mare checked by a veterinarian multiple times to make sure she was only carrying one foal. Somehow, the second baby was overlooked.
“Lo and behold, three weeks after her due date, she lay down and delivered the filly (Bella), who was about 53 pounds,” remembered McGuire. “Mom got up and starting licking (the filly), and then she went over and lay down again and we saw a foot. That’s when we knew we were going to have twins.”
McGuire immediately called her veterinarian, but to her dismay, he was off duty that day and the person filling in for him didn’t arrive on the scene until five hours later.
Coco tending to her newborn twin foals, Boomer and Bella
When Boomer was delivered, McGuire was concerned with his low birth weight of 43 pounds.
“His front tendons were locked together, so his knees were like triangles,” she said. “Every time the filly nursed, we would milk the mare and feed the colt to get the colostrum out. It was about four and half hours later that the mother started going into distress. When she tried to deliver the placenta from the colt, she ripped her uterine artery.”
Coco died as a result of the foaling complications, and while McGuire was devastated to lose the mare, she took comfort in the fact that despite the odds against Bella and Boomer, they were survivors.
Neighbors Cheryl and Nicole Radovich help care for the newborn twins while the McGuires tend to the mare
McGuire took the son and daughter of Mass Media to the University of Florida soon after they were born so they could receive special care. While Bella was in good health, Boomer had his joint situation evaluated and underwent a physical therapy regime. After several days of treatment, the resilient Boomer became fully mobile.
Boomer and Bella, engaging in playtime at two weeks old
The McGuires, who started in the Thoroughbred industry in 2001, still own the now 4-year-old twins. Bella, who is small in stature like her dam at 15’1 hands, finished sixth in her debut at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races Jan. 17. She is being trained by Ronney Brown.
“She’s a nice little horse, she’s just a little on the smaller side,” said Brown of the filly, who is recovering from a minor injury, but should be able to return to racing next month. “She’s got good bone, a good mind, and a lot of heart. Hopefully we’ll get her to the winner’s circle this spring.”
The McGuires plan to either breed or re-train Bella as a riding horse for their neices and nephews once she’s concluded her racing career.
Bella and Boomer were both sent to Shade Tree Farm in Ocala for early training. While the filly showed potential as a racehorse, it was quickly decided that the gelding would be better suited for a different career.
“Unfortunately, because he's only 14’1 hands, he had the heart; he just did not have the stamina (for racing),” said McGuire of Boomer. Although he never made it to the starting gate, McGuire noted Boomer is more balanced and has better conformation than his sister.
Boomer at the training track
“They were both smart horses…they just weren’t the biggest horses,” said Bert Pilcher, who worked with the twins at Shade Tree. “(Boomer) showed a little bit of speed, he trained well, was smart, and a really good looking horse. He was a really balanced 14’1 Thoroughbred. If you could increase him everywhere and make him 16 hands, he would have been a heck of a racehorse.
“The filly wasn’t quite as pretty, but she’s attractive enough and a little bigger," he added. "Both of them tried. The only limitation they had was their size. They would go out and train and broke well…you could tell they wanted to be racehorses.”
Plicher predicted that during his 20 years in the industry, he had witnessed about 25 abortions of twins. The one other set of twins he worked with never raced, but one sibling went on to be a hunter/jumper while the other became a successful broodmare.
“When (Bella and Boomer) first came (to Shade Tree), I was fairly negative,” Pilcher said. “Jan is the one that really went the whole distance with them. They were little bitty horses, and to have success with them, I thought she would have to spend a lot of money. But she’s happy she did and she really loves them. You never know--they may pay her back.”
Boomer and Bella, two weeks old
Boomer is currently stabled at DJ’s Horse Handling near Port Orange, Fla., where he will be re-trained as a hunter pony, hunter/jumper, or dressage horse. McGuire has received positive reports about the gelding's progress.
“We’re finding out what career he’ll go into,” said McGuire, who described Boomer as "agile and sweet. He’s just a dream; he’s always been the more forward of the two, wanting to be in your face, playing with you. I guess that comes from being a bucket baby for four and a half months while we raised them after we lost the mare.”
“I think he’s going to be a phenomenal youth horse,” said Dana Jo Fitch, Boomer’s trainer at DJ’s Horse Handling. “He’s got a big stride for being small. It’s very lofty—like a hunter. We haven’t taken him over any jumps yet, but I have no doubt he’ll like it. He’s very inquisitive and personable.
"He’s just extremely friendly and really loves to work,” she continued. “He’s got a really good head on his shoulders. With all the traits he has as a Thoroughbred coupled with a really good brain and quiet demeanor, he’s going to excel in whatever. He’s extremely handy and is really built well. He’s got a nice rear end and just loves to do something different.”
In addition to keeping up with Boomer's progress, the McGuires have their hands full with their five-member broodmare band and three horses in training.
“We love the farm work, working with the mares, doing the research, and checking out the matings,” said McGuire, who works as a project manager for Wells Fargo by by day. Her husband, James, is a retired paramedic firefighter.
“Our passion is the farm,” she continued. “We do everything ourselves; we don’t have any help. We deliver them, raise them, take them to be re-bred, take them back home, spoil them in the pastures, and raise the babies.”
“Jan is the nicest person—she’s a rare find in the horse business," said Pilcher of McGuire. "She loves the horses and she’s got some nice stock too. She has a Grand Slam mare, a Notebook mare, and some real good yearlings. She’s the kind of person we need in the business. She doesn’t cut corners and she really does her research. She’s a quick study—she’s way ahead of her years in the business.”
Added Fitch: “The great thing about Jan is she recognizes where (Thoroughbreds) should go. If they’re not cut out for the racetrack, she’s really interested in making sure they have a great life and love what they’re doing. The twins are super lucky they were born into her hands.”