The Horse

NOV 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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TheHorse.com | The Horse November 2018 19 a great stallion is not going to fix a not- so-great mare." Technically speaking, the mare and the stallion each contribute 50% of their DNA. However, Ferris says, in his opinion the mare impacts the foal's build, structure, and trainability more than the stallion does. "I often suggest that if a client wants to produce top-level foals that they start with top-level mares," he says. "It's nearly impossible to get a top-level foal from a low-level mare." If the mare "doesn't have the nicest personality, if she pins her ears and kicks out when you approach, she teaches the foal that," Veley says. "We break the bank buying the absolute best mares we can." The Breeding Process Breeding a mare is not as easy as leav- ing it to the birds and the bees. While shipped semen has made stallions more accessible, it's a tricky process with no guarantee of conception. Espy estimates a 65-80% pregnancy rate with cooled semen and a 35-50% chance with frozen (and thawed) semen. If the mare doesn't take the first time, rebreeding can get expensive. "It costs about $900 to put frozen semen in the mare, and she may not catch that cycle," he says. "Then it's $900 for a second cycle, and she may not catch then, either. So they have $1,800 into a breeding and no pregnancy." By comparison, he says, it typically costs half as much to breed a mare with cooled semen. So when mare owners pick a stallion, Ferris encourages them to look for one with good-quality semen. That involves asking pointed questions, such as how many mares the stud bred the previous season, how many of those mares are cur- rently pregnant, and how many insemi- nation attempts it took to establish each pregnancy. The timing of breeding is a big factor, as well, and can vary based on breed and region, says Ferris. For example, Quarter Horse breeders often desire early foals (born January through April), while Warmblood breeders might want foals they can present at fall inspections (born May through July). Timing also shifts dramatically depending on weather, envi- ronment, and facilities. A mare can easily foal in March in California, but in Ferris' home state of Oregon, that time of year will be rainy and muddy, and in Colorado it could be cold and snowy. Breeders in these locales often prefer summer foalings. Mares are naturally most fertile from March through June under natural conditions. So if you are aiming for an earlier foal (e.g., for Western futurities or Thoroughbred racing), you'll need to adjust the mare's cycle accordingly. You might need to put her under artificial lights in November or December of the prior year so she can be bred in January or February. "The best advice I can offer any breeder is (to have) patience," Moore says. "It's not an easy process." She's been trying to flush embryos for transfer from Paige for four years, with no luck. This year, under Ferris' care, Paige has produced three embryos. Moore attributes the success to reframing the way she manages the mare. "My schedule fits her schedule," she says. "If that means I have to drive her to his practice every day for a week (for ultrasounds to determine where she is in her cycle so they can order semen and inseminate her), that's what I do. She's also had some downtime this year due to another injury, and having a little bit of rest and time to get a little fat may have also helped," in line with study findings showing that mares in higher body condi- tion typically conceive and carry pregnan- cies more easily. Building Your Team Large-scale breeding farms are suc- cessful, in part, because they have a team to help with each step of the process. That includes not only the breeding but also the wellness exams, vaccinations, deworming, and foaling. Ferris stresses the importance of assembling a team 330 days in advance of your foal's arrival. That team could be limited to one veterinarian who assists with every step of the process or include several who communicate with each other and the owner. Veley says the team can even include businesses such as hers. If an COURTESY TRICIA VELEY Breeders must manage their mares carefully to time insemination or ushing of embryos for transfer (shown here) just right to achieve a successful pregnancy.

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