Wonder horse and the surrogate mares who will have her foals

Last updated at 00:27 03 January 2008

A champion showjumping horse will soon be the proud mother of two foals - without having to go through pregnancy or labour.

Headley Britannia is too valuable to her owners to spend 11 months pregnant and her offspring are being carried by two surrogate mares instead.

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The 14-year-old won both the Badminton and Burghley Horse Trials last year, earning £120,000 in 18 months for her owner and rider, Lucinda Fredericks.

As well as being time-consuming, a pregnancy would leave Headley Britannia - Brit for short - badly out of shape.

So Mrs Fredericks, 42, turned to IVF and had Brit inseminated with the sperm of a pedigree stallion from France.

The eggs - fertilised three months apart - were then taken from Brit and implanted into the two surrogate mares.

"We are really excited about this. It will be fascinating to see how the offspring turn out," Mrs Fredericks said yesterday. "This will really change everything for us, in terms of breeding the horses, as we can produce our own winners here.

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"It can be difficult to find the perfect sire, and for Brit we wanted one which was tall, as she is small, and a thoroughbred which is also fast-moving.

"The actual transfer can be hit and miss, but it worked perfectly and the two foals will be born next spring - while both their parents will be competing at the Olympics."

She and her husband Clayton, 40, a world cup winner in eventing, keep 30 horses at their 35-acre farm near Devizes, Wiltshire.

The embryo transfer process - which has around a 30 per cent success rate - typically costs £3,500. Mrs Fredericks said the procedure had been painless for all three mares.

The two foals, which will each be worth around £30,000, will spend six months with the surrogate mothers before being raised as eventers.

Scottish-born Mrs Fredericks, who competes for Australia, her husband's homeland, hopes to breed a future champion for her four-year-old daughter, Ellie.

"She is already a talented rider and mad about horses," she said. "Now this is possible, we can carry on breeding champions."