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American Association of Equine Practitioners
American Association of Equine Practitioners

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Published by: S. Bala Dahiya on Jul 20, 2014
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Reproduction: General Articles

• Using New Reproductive Technologies In Your Breeding Program
• Find Reproductive Problems
• Reproductive Problems in the Draft orse

Using New Reproductive Technologies In Your Breeding
b !ichelle ! "eBlanc# $%!
!dvanced reproductive technologies such as cooled semen" fro#en semen" embr$o
transfer and gamete inter fallopian tube transfer %&IFT' have given horse owners choices and
freedom( )ares can be bred at home with semen collected from stallions that live an$where in
North !merica" *urope or !ustralasia( +tallions can compete during the breeding season while
mares are bred with previousl$ fro#en semen( *mbr$os can be collected from performance mares
between competitions( The genetics of valuable infertile mares can be maintained through &IFT"
a procedure that involves the aspiration of eggs from ovarian follicles from the donor mare( The
eggs are then placed in a fertile recipient mare,s oviduct after which she is inseminated with
semen( But" as with all freedoms" these technologies come with a price( To be successful" a
higher level of veterinar$ e-pertise is needed" mares need to be e-amined more often" pregnanc$
rates are lower and the costs are higher( *.uine semen does not tolerate cooling" free#ing and
the manipulation needed for processing as well as other species( +o" more mone$ will be spent to
obtain somewhat lower pregnanc$ rates then that seen with natural breeding or breeding with
fresh semen b$ artificial insemination( The following article discusses the logistics of using cooled
semen" fro#en semen and embr$o transfer in order to provide a better understanding of each
The Ins and /uts of Breeding )ares 0ith 1ooled +emen
To breed mares successfull$ with cooled semen all parties involved" mare owner" stallion
manager and veterinarians" need to cooperate when coordinating the semen shipments with the
timing of the mare,s ovulation( Before shipping semen" the attending veterinarian or a
representative for the veterinarian should clarif$ several points with the stallion manager(
2 The cost of stallion collection
2 The cost of preparing the semen for shipment" the number of collections provided gratis %if an$'"
the cost of shipping semen tan3s b$ air" and when and how the semen tan3s must be returned
2 The da$s of the wee3 the stallion is collected
2 Times during the breeding season when the stallion will not be available
2 The number of da$s notice that the stallion manager needs before the semen shipment
2 The latest time one can call to obtain semen %for e-ample4one must call b$ 5am to receive
semen b$ the ne-t da$'
2 The longevit$ of the semen 6 does it live in the tan3 for 78" 89 or :; hours
2 First4c$cle conception rate of the stallion
2 The method of air transport used %same4da$ air or overnight shipment'
2 Number of times the mare can be bred if she does not conceive %is the contract limited to 7" 8 or
: $ears'
2 The breed registr$ re.uirements" and the number and timing of post4insemination clinical
%pregnanc$' e-aminations must be established
First c$cle conception rates tend to be slightl$ lower with shipped semen than with natural
breeding or when using artificial insemination with a stallion housed at the same facilit$ as the
mare( !lso" breeding management is more intensive and veterinar$ costs are higher( )ares need
to be e-amined dail$ when in heat and bred within 89 hours of ovulation( +tabling a mare at a
facilit$" such as a veterinar$ clinic or farm where the veterinarian visits dail$" saves mone$ on
veterinar$ travel fees( Furthermore" these facilities have a stallion to tease the mare to determine
when she is in heat" thereb$" limiting the number of times that she will need to be e-amined(
Pregnanc$ rates are highest when mares are bred within the 89 hours before ovulation using
semen of high fertilit$( The .ualit$ of the semen is of paramount importance< stallions of low
fertilit$ usuall$ have much lower conception rates than those with high inherent fertilit$( In
addition" the handling of the semen is critical= failure to prepare it correctl$" as well as poor
subse.uent handling at the mare end" can ma3e the process ver$ disappointing( Timing of the
breeding with the ovulation can be difficult especiall$ if the stallion is collected onl$ : times a
wee3( /vulation can be induced with drugs such as h1& or /vuplant" however the window from
in>ection of the drug to ovulation varies( )ares ma$ ovulate as .uic3l$ as 89 hours" as late as 9?
hours after administration of h1& or the$ ma$ not respond at all( The window from in>ection of
/vuplant to ovulation is tighter than that of h1& with most mares ovulating between 98 and 9?
hours" however" it costs about 8(@ times more than h1&( In either case it is e-tremel$ helpful if
$ou 3now the specific idios$ncrasies of $our mare,s estrous c$cle" especiall$ the number of da$s
she is in heat and the si#e of the follicle that she ovulates(
There are standards that the semen needs to meet to be considered of ade.uate .ualit$( ! dose
of semen should contain a minimum of @AA million progressivel$ motile sperm with at least :AB
of the sperm being progressivel$ motile( *ach time the mare is bred with cooled semen" it should
be e-amined carefull$ after it has been warmed for a minimum of : minutes( If it is of poor .ualit$
the stallion manager or veterinarian for the stallion should be notified(
!fter insemination" the reproductive tract of the mare should be e-amined dail$ until she ovulates(
If she does not ovulate within 89 hours she should be bred a second time(
Trials and Tribulations of Breeding 0ith Fro#en +emen
Breeding mares with fro#enCthawed semen often results in a significantl$ lower first4c$cle
pregnanc$ rate than that attained with either fresh semen or fresh cooled semen( Pregnanc$
rates of A to DAB Cestrous c$cle have been reported with an average pregnanc$ rateCc$cle of :@
to 9AB( The highest conception rates are achieved using a full dose of fro#en semen from
stallions of 3nown fertilit$ in $oung mares of 3nown fertilit$( )ares are e-amined ever$ ; to ?
hours" given either h1& or /vuplant and inseminated during the period from 78 hours before
ovulation until ; hours after ovulation(
Breeding with fro#en semen can be confusing for the horse owner because there are no
standards concerning si#e of the straw semen" thawing rate and temperature" number of
strawsCdose" and how the semen is sold" i(e( b$ the dose or b$ the straw( If a half milliliter straw is
used" a dose consists of 9 to ? straws( owever" semen ma$ be sold b$ the straw and not b$ the
dose( ! mare owner ma$ attempt to breed the mare with less than what is considered a complete
dose of semen( This often times leads to the mare owner being disappointed and the veterinarian
frustrated as the mare does not conceive( Points that must be clarified before a mare is attempted
to be bred with fro#en semen are as follows<
2 0hat is the first c$cle conception rate of the stallion when breeding with the fro#en semen
2 0hat is the cost of semen
2 0hat constitutes a dose4 number of straws
2 0hat is the si#e of the straws
2 0ill there be directions with the semen on how to thaw the straws
2 Does $our veterinarian have nitrogen tan3s to store the semen
2 0hat is the rental fee for the dr$ shipper and how long can it be rented
2 ow fre.uentl$ can $our veterinarian e-amine the mare
2 0hat paperwor3 will be included and what does the breed registr$ re.uire
)ares can be managed in a variet$ of wa$s during estrus depending on the facilities" semen
.ualit$ and availabilit$ of the veterinarian( /ne management method is to e-amine the
reproductive tract ever$ 89 hours during estrus until the dominant follicle reaches :A to :@ mm in
diameter %:@ mm for a warmblood mare= :A mm for an !rabian" )organ or Paso Fino mare'(
*ither h1& or /vuplant is given at that time( The reproductive tract is then e-amined b$
ultrasonograph$ at 89" :A" and :; hours after hormone treatment( If" at an$ of these times" the
mare has ovulated" she should be inseminated immediatel$( If the follicle is still present :; hours
after hormone treatment" the mare should be inseminated at that time( Twelve hours after
insemination" the reproductive tract should be re4e-amined( If the mare has not ovulated" she
should continue to be e-amined until ovulation" at which time she is inseminated again( This
regime reduces the period of intensive monitoring and" with a ma-imum of two inseminations" it
should be effective for most mares( The s$stem ma$ be modified to accommodate an individual
mare,s estrous c$cle and the rate of follicle development(
If onl$ one dose of semen is available or the owner wishes to use onl$ one dose of semen per
c$cle" the management must be more intensive( In this scenario the mare must be e-amined
ever$ ; to ? hours beginning 89 hours after she is given hormone treatment until she has
ovulated( /nce ovulation is detected" the mare is bred immediatel$( Pregnanc$ rates ma$ be
lower and the costs higher when onl$ one dose is used for a c$cle(
+ome mares ma$ develop a prolonged inflammator$ reaction to the semen because there is no
seminal plasma in the fro#en semen %if the seminal plasma is included" motilit$ of sperm is poor
semen post thaw'( Therefore" man$ veterinarians routinel$ perform a uterine lavage twelve hours
after breeding in an attempt to clear an$ remaining inflammator$ b$4products induced from the
breeding( If a mare develops a prolonged inflammator$ reaction after she is bred twice with fro#en
semen from the same stallion and she does not conceive" it is advised that she be bred with
either fresh semen or fresh cooled semen as both contain seminal plasma(
There is no clear cut recommendations on what is the recommended dose( Doses var$ from
stallion to stallion" on the method of free#ing the semen" on the countr$ of origin and on the
individual free#ing the semen( Doses range from 7AA to @AA million progressivel$ motile sperm
with a dose of 8AA to 8@A million being the average( )ost investigators suggest that there be a
minimum of 8@B progressivel$ motile sperm after thawing and warming to :D1 for at least :
minutes( )otilit$ of the semen after thawing is not alwa$s correlated with pregnanc$ rates and
reliance on it as an indicator of fertilit$ must be cautioned(
The Eo$s of *mbr$o Transfer
*mbr$o transfer has become a relativel$ commonplace procedure in the e.uine industr$"
especiall$ with the establishment of larger recipient herds throughout the countr$( +uccess rates
var$ depending on the fertilit$ of the stallion and mare and on the s$nchroni#ation of the recipient
mare( )an$ individuals in the business feel that the .ualit$ of the recipient mare and how she is
managed is the most important factor in achieving high pregnanc$ rates( )ean pregnanc$
ratesCc$cle if both the mare and stallion are fertile are @A4;AB( Rates drop precipitousl$ from
there if either horse is subfertile or if the recipient .ualit$ is poor( The average cost of a foal
produced from an embr$o transfer if both the stallion and mare are fertile" will range from F@@AA 4
FD@AA( Therefore" if a mare owner is to brea3 even" the foal needs to be worth a minimum of
F7A"AAA to F78"AAA as a weanling(
There are a number of large well managed recipient herds through the countr$( The mare owner
needs to discuss options with their veterinarian and then contact the recipient facilit$ that the$
wish to wor3 with in the future( ! contract will be sent detailing the specific costs" what will be
covered such as number of attempts" when the pregnant recipient needs to be pic3ed up" if the
recipient can be returned and the price that will be paid to the mare owner for returning the
recipient( +ome facilities include : embr$o flush attempts in their fee after which time the mare
owner pa$s for each attempt( /nce a contract is signed a holding fee" usuall$ F7@AA" needs to be
paid( The remainder of the fee is paid %F8@AA4F:@AA' when the mare is declared pregnant(
The techni.ue is relativel$ simple" however" one must strictl$ adhere to management guidelines(
The donor is bred using proper veterinarian management( !fter breeding the mare" she should be
palpated ever$ 78 hours until ovulation" to accuratel$ determine the time of ovulation( If the mare
owner prefers to use their own recipient mares" three mares need to have their estrous c$cle
followed for ever$ transfer attempt( The three mares are needed because there is wide variation
in the length of estrus" in the rate of follicular development and in the timing of ovulation after
either h1& or /vuplant is given( It is preferred that the recipient ovulates 78 to 9? hours after the
donor( *mbr$os are collected from the mare b$ uterine lavage using speciali#ed fluids eight da$s
after the mare has ovulated( The fluids are collected from the mare through tubing that is
attached to a special cup containing a filter( The holes in the filter are ver$ small and will not allow
passage of the embr$o through it( The fluids that remain in the cup are searched using a
dissecting microscope( /nce an embr$o is identified" it is aged and graded for .ualit$ and stage
of development( It is then removed from the wash fluids" placed in a dish containing transfer
media and washed a number of times( The recipient is then brought up" and readied for the
transfer( The ma>orit$ of embr$os are now placed into the recipient b$ a non4surgical techni.ue(
The embr$o is put into an embr$o insemination gun which the operator carefull$ inserts into the
cervi- and then discharges the embr$o into the uterus(
Reproductive technologies have given horse owners and veterinarians man$ options( These
techni.ues have improved and widened genetic pools( Using them is e-citing for all involved(
owever" methodologies must be strictl$ adhered to and owners must do their homewor3 before
the$ begin if the$ are to be successful(
posted< 7C8:C8AA:( Gast updated< 7C8:C8AA:(

&ind Reproductive Problems
b !ichelle "eBlanc# $%!# $ipl' A(T
)ost of us associated with breeding mares and stallions canHt wait for the season to end
and donHt want to thin3 of barren mares and stallions until ne-t $ear( owever" the most opportune
time to identif$ causes of infertilit$ might be missed if $ou wait before performing a breeding
soundness e-am(
The most common mare reproductive problems are<
I )ares that do not c$cle properl$ or at all(
I )ares that conceive and lose their pregnancies after 9@ da$s(
I )ares that either donHt conceive or lose their pregnancies before 9A da$s(
Different tests are conducted for each of the three problems(
If $our mare isnHt c$cling properl$" the hormonal signals from the brain are not getting to the
ovaries" indicating that the mare has an endocrine problem( In addition to a rectal and
ultrasonographic e-amination of the reproductive tract" blood needs to be drawn to measure
hormones( If the cause of the endocrine problem is a tumor" it can be surgicall$ removed( )ost
mares will c$cle bac3 within si- to eight months( /ther causes" such as 1ushingHs disease
%h$peractivit$ of the adrenal corte- caused b$ a pituitar$ tumor that canHt be removed'"
administration of anabolic steroids" stress due to pain %chronic laminitis' or performance an-iet$"
and Jc$stic folliclesJ due to old age are not as eas$ to correct( )ares with the latter problems
need long4term management and fre.uent veterinar$ e-aminations(
)ares in categories two and three have normal endocrine function" but have defects in their
reproductive tracts( )ares that conceive and abort after 9@ da$s usuall$ have degenerative
fibrotic changes to the uterine glands( These changes interfere with the glandsH abilit$ to produce
uterine mil3" the secretions that nourish the embr$o until the placenta attaches between ;A and
7AA da$s( If the glands are not functioning properl$" the embr$o starves( This abnormalit$ is
identified b$ uterine biops$" but there is no successful treatment( These mares usuall$ ma3e good
embr$o transfer candidates(
The most common mare fertilit$ problem is uterine infection( T$picall$ these mares have clean
uterine cultures in the spring" then have bacteria isolated from their uteri after the$ have been
bred three or four times( Two t$pes of mares fall into this categor$44mares that have had three or
four foals and cannot clear their uteri of the inflammator$ b$4products of breeding" and maiden
mares with tight cervi-es( The older mare accumulates fluid because her uterus is lower than her
pelvis and the uterus cannot drain" andCor she has perineal defects resulting in self4
contamination( )aiden mares become infected because the cervi- does not open and drain
properl$ after breeding( )ares in this categor$ need a complete breeding soundness evaluation
conducted when the$ are in heat" including rectal and ultrasonographic e-amination of the
reproductive tract" vaginal e-amination" digital e-amination of the cervi-" uterine culture" and
c$tolog$( +ome of these mares might need reproductive surger$ to correct perineal defects" urine
pooling" or cervical lacerations( These mares should be re4cultured after treatment and a second
c$tolog$ e-am needs to be collected before the$ are given a clean bill of health(
+tallion *valuation
For normal stallions" sperm numbers drop b$ @A4;AB in the winter" and subfertile stallions ma$
have an even greater decrease( This ma3es it difficult to properl$ identif$ what semen production
might be ne-t spring( For a new stallion entering stud service" it is important to conduct a
breeding soundness e-amination before winter to determine the number of mares he can cover
the following spring and to evaluate the longevit$ of his semen %if it is to be shipped'(
Before stallions enter stud service" a breeding soundness e-amination should be performed( The
e-am can usuall$ be performed in one da$ unless the horse has never mounted a mare( In this
case" the horse can be taught to mount a phantom in a .uiet environment so that he learns good
breeding manners( If a horse has been used at stud" he should be rested se-uall$ for a minimum
of seven da$s before semen is collected( The breeding evaluation includes e-amination of the
horseHs libido" his breeding techni.ue" and semen .ualit$( The volume" concentration" motilit$" and
morpholog$ of the semen are determined( If semen is to be shipped" it is added to a number of
e-tenders and the motilit$ evaluated over 9?4D8 hours( /nce the veterinarian has determined the
best method to e-tend and process the semen" the farm manager or owner can be taught to
correctl$ handle it( %! common cause of mare infertilit$ is poor semen handling('
Reprinted from The orse< Your &uide to *.uine ealth
!!*P )ission< To improve the health and welfare of the horse" to further the professional
development of its members" and to provide resources and leadership for the benefit of the
e.uine industr$( !merican !ssociation of *.uine Practitioners I 9AD@ Iron 0or3s Par3wa$"
Ge-ington" KY 9A@77 I ?@5C8::4A79D I www(aaep(org I www(m$orse)atters(com
posted< 7C;C8AA:( Gast updated< 7C;C8AA:(

Reproductive Problems in the $ra)t *orse
b "isa *ale# $%!# AA+P !ember

Lisa Hale, DVM, AAEP Member
Draft mares usually make excellent mothers, providin a lare amount of milk
and rarely re!ectin a foal" #ecause of these traits, draft mares make ood nurse
mares$ some mares can even support and feed t%o foals" Also, the tendency for
multiple ovulations makes draft mares ood candidates for embryo transfer"
Ho%ever, draft horses have some reproductive traits&lo%er fertility rates, t%innin,
retained placentas and other foalin difficulties&that lead to problems" 'n addition,
one common draft breed possesses a ene for a devastatin birth defect"
Epithelioenesis imperfecta (E') is a conenital defect seen in ne%born
#elian foals" *hese foals have a defect in the ene responsible for formin the
attachment of the skin to the underlyin tissue" *hey are born %ith patches of skin
missin from their extremities and body" +ometimes, an entire limb %ill be skinless"
,ther abnormalities include teeth that are present at birth, ulcers of the mouth and
ulcers of the coronary band" -oals %ill have difficulty nursin due to the oral
ulceration and the hooves %ill eventually slouh off" Althouh the severity of the
disease can vary at birth, the disease is proressive and there is no treatment"
Affected foals should be euthani.ed as soon as a dianosis is made"
*his defect is an inherited disease" /urrently, it is classified as an autosomal
recessive %hich means that the sire and dam must both be carriers of the disease for
a foal to born %ith E'" 'n the #elian breed, there is a certain line of breedin that
has been identified as carriers" 0esearch is under%ay to develop a test to identify
carriers of this defect"
1ettin a foal on the round in the first place can be a challene in the draft
breeds" ,ne reason is that, overall, both stallions and mares tend to have lo%er
fertility rates than their liht horse counterparts" +ince draft stallions mature slo%er,
many t%o2year2olds have poor semen 3uality and therefore a lo% conception rate"
Also, the testicles of a draft stallion are small in relation to their body si.e compared
to liht horses" *ypically the draft stallion tends to have a lo% sperm concentration,
hih semen volume and a lare amount of el in the e!aculate" #ecause of this, the
semen often must be centrifued to maintain proper concentration and sperm
3uantity for optimum reproductive efficiency in artificial insemination" *hese factors
make it more difficult and time consumin to successfully transport cooled and
fro.en semen from the heavy horses"
*%innin is most common in thorouhbreds and draft horses" *%ins result
%hen a mare ovulates and conceives on t%o follicles durin a heat cycle" 4p to 567
of draft mares %ill double ovulate or ovulate on t%o follicles" *hey have even been
kno%n to ovulate %ith three follicles and conceive %ith triplets" Due to a draft mare8s
lare uterus, they are more likely to carry t%ins to late estation or even foalin"
*his makes it very important to have draft mares sonorammed by a veterinarian9:2
96 days after ovulation to detect un%anted t%ins" As %ith liht mares, one embryo
may be crushed durin this early phase of prenancy, allo%in the other to mature"
4nfortunately, the hiher tendency for the development of multiple follicles does
make predictin ovulation more difficult in draft mares" *his becomes a factor %hen
breedin a mare %ith cooled, transported semen"
*he lare foals desired by draft horse breeders may create additional
reproductive dilemmas such as dystocia (difficult birth), difficulty rebreedin and
retained placentas" Althouh draft mares do not have a hiher incidence of dystocia
than the liht mares, %hen they do have problems durin foalin, the foal8s lare
si.e complicates delivery further" -or example, even if the foal is in the proper
position, many mares need assistance to deliver due to inade3uate uterine muscle
tone and contractions iven the si.e of the foal"
*he stress of deliverin these lare foals makes rebreedin difficult" #ecause
draft mares have poor uterine muscle tone, the uterus of a draft mare after foalin is
slo% to contract do%n, retainin a lare amount of fetal fluids" *his fact coupled %ith
the lare amount of semen volume introduced into the uterus from a natural
breedin make these mares difficult to et back in foal" 't is beneficial to sonoram
draft mares durin heat to detect fluid accumulation and aid in its removal" Artificial
insemination is a useful techni3ue to decrease the volume of seminal fluid used
durin breedin"
-inally, retained placentas are seen more commonly in draft mares than liht
mares" A placenta that is still attached after t%o hours should be considered
retained" Aressive veterinary treatment is %arranted for this condition to prevent
uterine infection (metritis), systemic infection (septicemia) and laminitis" ;-oal
founder< in any type of mare is a very serious condition, but it is compounded in the
draft mare due to her si.e"
0eproductive problems common in draft mares, coupled %ith the fact that
ne%born draft foals are less hardy and take loner to stand and nurse, make it very
important that all births are attended" 't is stronly recommended that a reliable foal
monitorin system be used"
Article Posted= -ebruary, 5>>>
1op$right L 755;48AAA !merican !ssociation of *.uine Practitioners( !ll rights reserved(
American Association o) +,uine Practitioners
9AD@ Iron 0or3s Par3wa$ M Ge-ington" KY 9A@77
Phone< ?@548::4A79D M Fa-< ?@548::475;?
posted< ;C7?C8AA8( Gast updated< ;C7?C8AA8(

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