Advances in Equine Breeding & Assisted Reproduction

Image of foal and mama horse.

Assisted equine reproduction has opened up new possibilities in the equine sporting community for horses where this was once limited. With the help of your equine veterinary specialist you can determine if your horse is an ideal candidate for this process either to become artificially inseminated or to donate sperm. Let's explore the procedures that take place to make this process possible.

For an owner who unexpectedly loses his horse to sudden death, the financial burden can be devastating. Equine researchers suggest if your horse was otherwise healthy that extracting sperm or harvesting testicles to be frozen can either be used to continue impregnating your own mares or be sold and shipped just following the horse's death. While extracting sperm from the epididymous is preferred, research shows that not a vast difference takes place in extracting sperm directly or from frozen testicles.

Usually you want ovulation and the arrival of fresh semen to be within 48 hours of one another. With cooled and frozen samples, your window tends to decrease. Sometimes, timing is an event where ovulation is missed and semen samples may become compromised. Timing ovulation can be an issue that may be easier to overcome with the intervention of medications such as heparin. As ovulation passes, the likelihood of pregnancy taking place decreases. The introduction of heparin to semen samples has been used to open a new "fertility window" says researchers increasing pregnancy rates in mares.

And yet another method of assisted reproduction gaining popularity is the use of embryo transfer. This method was developed to carry on particular traits between horses or to reduce compromising a show horse by impregnating her. The typical process follows inseminating a mare with a stallion's fresh chilled or frozen semen around the time of ovulation. Once inseminated and an embryo have been confirmed, the embryo is removed and placed into the preferred surrogate mare. This mare carries the pregnancy to full term. You'll want to search out a mare with a good personality, in great health and ideally who has been pregnant one time before.

Remember, be sure to breed your horse in ideal conditions. Ask yourself the basics- is this a non-stressful environment, is my horse healthy enough to become pregnant, is she receiving the right nutrition to maintain pregnancy.

Sources:

Glickman, Shari. “Equine Embryo Transfer.” Dressage Today.

Larson, Erica. “Hot Topics in Equine Reproduction.” The Horse, April 2013.

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  • "Kath, thank you so much for being Greyson's vet, your gentle hand, compassion and great skill made all the difference for my buddy."
    --Deirdre Dekking, Portland
  • "Dr. Mertens is a very friendly, knowledgeable equine veterinarian (and a friend to the rest of the farmyard, including the chickens!). Always up to date on the latest in equine health, and even though Mertens Mammals is a small clinic giving you the personable experience, Dr. Mertens also has equipment for more advanced diagnostics and procedures!"
    —Ari Gordon, Boring
  • "I have been a client of Mertens Mammals for 10 years. Kath (Dr. Mertens) is the most kind, thoughtful and caring Vet I have ever had for my animals. I have 3 horses: my Appy "Breeze" who turns 30 this year, my Paint " Rocket " 14 and my other Paint "Fergie " 3 are all under Kath's care. I also had a dog "Cowboy" who I lost to cancer last July. Kath took care of him also. Dr.Mertens came out on Mother's Day about 7 years ago to treat Breeze for a cut above her right eye. After a few weeks of recovery we were happy to not have a huge scar. Kath also spent 2 hours with me 3 years ago when Rocket had a small case of colic. (Thank God). I couldn't ask for a better person to take care of my girls. Kath always calls to check in on the patients. When people ask who I use for my veterinary needs for my horses, I'm always proud to refer them to Mertens Mammals. I am so thankful for an honest and caring Vet. Thank you, Kath!"
    --Michelle Schatz, Portland
  • "I got looking at Sassy’s records and it will be 6 years in July when you first met Sassy—I feel so fortunate that you became her vet and have looked after her all these years. You are such a wonderful and caring doc and I know you always have Sassy’s best interests at heart. I also know I can always rely on you to help me or Sassy when needed. Thanks for all you do for both of us—will keep you posted on Sassy.”"
    —Judy Becker, Eagle Creek
  • "My horse, Pester, would have lost her eye had it not been for the great care and dedication by Mertens Mammals. They are truly there for you any time you need them. I could go on and on. Kath Mertens has been so good to us!"
    --Troy and Wendy Mohr, Estacada
  • "She has always been there for us. She is forever in my thoughts as the best vet. She saved our hours old filly from certain death. She knew exactly what to do in an instant after just seconds in seeing her. We are forever in your debt...thank you!"
    Barbara T.
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