A mare in Somervell County gave birth to a surprise Friday morning.
Ricky Smith said he knew Bella, a former race horse he rescued a little more than three years ago, was carrying a large bundle. But, he was surprised when he discovered Bella had given birth to a pair - a colt and filly.
"About January or February, I noticed she was getting really big," Smith said. "But Bella is a big mare, so I didn't think too much about it."
About a month ago, Bella's girth led Smith to put her in a pen, certain she would deliver at any time.
"She looked like she was ready," he said, adding she had been paired with a stud twice. "Horses go (through pregnancy) for about 11 months and could go 12, but it obviously didn't take the first time. She eventually got tired of being shut in, and I moved her up front where we could keep a close eye on her."
Then, on Friday morning, Smith said he was mowing his property when he went to check on Bella and another expectant mare.
"That's when I saw a little one standing beside a round bale," Smith said. "The other mare was licking on the colt, but I could tell it wasn't hers."
That's when he spotted Bella about 150 feet away, where she had just given birth to the filly.
Smith said he was raised on a West Texas cattle ranch, near Garden City, and has been around horses all of his life. He said while the birth of twin foals is obviously possible, he had never witnessed such a miracle before.
But for Bella, the double delivery is just another blessing in her enchanted life.
Smith said in her heyday, the thoroughbred won well over half a million dollars on the racetrack. But, when her gait slowed, her owners lost interest in Bella.
"A friend of mine who already had a lot of horses called me one day and asked if I had room for a good mare," Smith explained. "He had heard the mare had come in last in her last four or five races. The owners said someone needed to get her or she would be turned out at noon."
Smith didn't think twice. He rescued Bella and brought her to his Somervell County home, and while Bella ran her last race years ago, she remains a prized part of the family.
"She is a good horse," Smith said. "The grandkids ride her."
And just hours after giving birth, she showed her motherly instinct was as strong as her once award-winning gait.
"We were moving the babies up under the shed since it looks like it could rain, and Bella showed her protective side," Smith said.
Meanwhile, the Smiths are equally protective over their growing family. With the colt struggling to stand and the young filly a little short to reach for her mother's milk, Smith said they would use a bottle to deliver the vital colostrum that would strengthen the newborns' immune systems.
"We will watch them close and help them get strong enough to manage on their own," he said.