Emergency Aid Needed for Equine Community

Ft-Mac

 

In light of the wildfires in Fort McMurray, AB, Equine Canada (EC) would like to share the following update from the Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF) with the Canadian equestrian community:

The Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF) greatly appreciates the outpour of support of the Alberta equine community and have been assembling a growing list of individuals and businesses who are willing to open up their farms and homes to those affected by the fires in Fort McMurray and their horses.

 The AEF will be doing all we can to update the equine community on the fire situation(s) as we receive them from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Emergency Directors and we are the first point of contact for equine updates.

 We are currently in communication with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, Horse Racing Alberta, and many other provincial equine organizations to coordinate help for those in need.

 At this time, emergency aid in the way of funds are needed for feed, water, transportation and veterinary care; these are of the utmost importance at this time. The AEF will match donations received up to $5,000. Donations of other items will be required at a later date to assist with recovery and replacement and the AEF will help with this coordination as well.

 If you are interested in providing aid in the form of a monetary donation, feel free to forward an etransfer (Security answer: fortmacequine) to Email: info@albertaequestrian.com or contact the office:

 Rita, 403-253-4411 ext. 7 or toll-free: 1-877-463-6233 ext. 7

 The AEF is unable to issue taxable receipts, however donations over $250 are eligible for a taxable donation receipt and can be made by completing this donation form.

 We encourage those offering to house equines to please familiarize themselves with Biosecurity best practices to help prevent a disease outbreak. If you are interested in being added to our contact list to help, please contact our office with contact information and the specifics as to what you can assist with.

 The AEF sends our thoughts to all residents and evacuees affected by the fires and we will continue to provide support for our equine friends.

Good Advice

HBOC-lead-in

Sensible counsel prevailed at this year’s Alberta Horse Conference, hosted each year by the Horse Industry Association of Alberta. In the April issue of Western Horse Review, we featured 44 notes of advice curated from those two days of lectures. Here are 16 more.

Billy Smith (speaking on transitions in the horse industry)

Billy Smith grew up in the western part of Texas and is the current executive director of the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). He spent eight years as a practicing journalist before accepting a teaching position at West Texas A&M. Smith later joined the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) where he served as executive director of information technology and various marketing roles for 13 years.

1. One of the chief challenges we have today in equine organizations is that information is instant. At board meetings we know significant information has gone out before the meeting even ends. We live in a world in which information moves instantly.

2. Over the last 75 years of developing equestrian organizations we’ve done a lot of things right in the marketing and grooming of our breeds. We’ve also fallen into some traps that have left us short-term gains but have seasoned the horse community with long-term challenges.

3. We ought to take a very hard look at what our cattle guys have done in their industry. We should invest in the genetic evaluation of our horses. There probably are some performance genetics out there that we can tie into in the quality of our animals. We’re exploring that in the Paint breed now. The reality is that there are genetics out there that can allow us to be much more predictable, with some of the genetic tools that are available to us.

4. No matter where you go in the horse community, the hue and cry is the same. How do we get more youth involved with horses?

Dirk Stroda.

Dirk Stroda.

Dirk Stroda (speaking on mental coaching in equine sports)

Dirk Stroda, from British Columbia, is the High Performance Mental Coach for Equine Canada. He currently coaches the Canadian Dressage, Para Dressage and the 3-Day Eventing teams on their way and at the 2016 Rio Olympic Summer Games. He has helped international athletes and national teams towards 11 Olympic Summer and Winters Games, many world championships, and PanAm Games and countless national championships.

5. I’ve coached athletes towards some major awards. And what I discovered was there was a blueprint I was able to see in highly successful people, vs. the blueprint of an average person. I thought, “there must be something there we can all learn to help our own businesses and careers, because these are principles. We can really get towards success more directly, with less struggle and be happier.”

6. There are seven principles to success: Context Vs. Content. I’m not giving you content, I’m giving you context. You create the content and I give you the framework.

7. When you change your emotions, everything changes. It’s that simple.

Dr. David Wilson.

Dr. David Wilson.

Dr. David Wilson, DVM (speaking on the laminitis vaccine)

Dr. David Wilson (Saskatchewan) is a 1980 graduate of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. After completing an internship at Iowa State University and residency in large animal surgery at the University of Florida, he was on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 15 years. His research includes implant biomechanics, development of orthopedic disease, minimally invasive surgical techniques and equine laminitis.  

8. The fact that pretreatment with the antibiotic, virginiamycin will prevent the development of laminitis, implicates microbial involvement in the disease.

9. Australian researchers have recently confirmed an overgrowth of streptococcal species in the hindgut and ex vivo studies have confirmed that bathing the hoof tissue in Streptococcus bovis exotoxins results in dissolution of the basement membrane and separation of the hoof wall from the underlying sensitive tissues.

Dr. Camie Heleski.

Dr. Camie Heleski.

Dr. Camie Heleski (speaking on using learning theory in everyday life)

Dr. Camie Heleski is coordinator of the two-year Ag Tech Horse Management Program at Michigan State University. As well as recruiting for the program, she also teaches and advises. Dr. Heleski earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

10. Operant / instrumental learning is when an animal learns to operate on its environment.

11. Signal learning or classical conditioning is the example of Pavlov’s dogs. Ring a bell, the dogs would salivate and they would get food.

12. There are fundamental key factors; consistency, predictability, contingency, appropriateness of reinforcements, and precision of cues.

Jim Anderson.

Jim Anderson.

Jim Anderson (speaking on developing the versatile horse)

Jim Anderson’s lifelong involvement with horses began with him starting colts and taking clinics with legendary trainers Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. As a professional trainer, Jim has lifetime earnings in excess of $200,000 in several events. He has won the Canadian Supreme Reining Futurity, the Calgary Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge, and the Extreme Cowboy Association World Championships. Recently the Albertan won the Road to the Horse first ever Wild Card Champion, Fan Favorite and the Colt Starting World Championship.
13. In order to gain success with our horses we must prepare the horse to learn and this is a three-step process; 1) the horse wants to focus on you and learn; 2) the horse understands pressure and looks for the release and reward; and 3) the horse joins up.

14. I use outside riding a lot! Confidence to ride alone comes from the horse taking confidence from the rider, rather than another horse. My favorite thing is riding with friends outside but then I lope away from them. Then I’ll lope back towards them, but go straight past the group.

15. How long do I work with a horse per day? About10-20 minutes of groundwork if I’m going to also ride him. It depends on how the horse is being that day – he might need more, he might need less. I can feel the horse out, if he’s not being good on the ground he probably won’t be in the saddle. I need his mind in the state of “wanting to learn.” I do think you can overdo your groundwork and the horse can became grumpy.

16. I don’t numb my horse out with any tools or cues. I want to keep that “feel” in my horse. Confidence in the horse comes from understanding, rather than by numbing due to repetition.

 

Maintaining Condition with Less Forage

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Photo by Ingrid Schulz

In times of drought, which can lead to a hay shortage, what can horse owners to do ensure their equine friends maintain their condition? The answer lies in the proper and complete digestion of forages: in order for a horse to completely digest forages, digestive health is key. Just like in humans, horses require pre- and pro-biotics to aid in better digestive health, but the need for good bacteria, as well as digestive enzymes, is magnified in horses because they are herbivores and need to break down the cellulose found in forages. To ensure horses get all the energy they can out of their feed, equine supplements with digestive enzymes and pre and probiotics are particularly helpful.

Biotic 8 is one such product – this is an equine pre- and pro-biotic digestive tract formula made by Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals. This orally-administered product is “used to change the bacterial flora in the large intestine and also to promote good digestion and intestinal health,” according to Omega Alpha. This is recommended to improve the digestive health of horses of all ages, including mares and foals.

Fusion TIFF File

 

Biotic 8 is a source of eight different probiotic species that not only support optimal digestive health, they are delivered in a way that ensure the bacteria are protected against stomach acid, and helps prevent bad bacteria from growing, which can result in chronic health issues.

The prebiotics found in this product aid in the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal system. Biotic 8 also uses three digestive enzymes to help break down and get all the energy you can from proteins, carbohydrates and cellulose; the last of which being extremely important as it increases the absorption of phytonutrients, which are found in plant material and key in a horse’s diet.

In addition to those features, here are some other ingredients and benefits in Biotic 8:

  • Flax seed: a source of fibre, Omega 3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants
  • Iodine: needed for the health of the thyroid gland, and a source of essential minerals
  • Spirulina (blue green algae) and kelp: provide minerals and micronutrients
  • Brewers yeast: a source of B vitamins
  • Marshmallow Root and Slippery Elm: used to soothe stomach irritation
  • Biotic 8 also contains several natural minerals to help increase energy

Biotic 8 is good for keeping your horse’s health in good shape, particularly when traveling, during the winter or if more confined to a stall. It’s also recommended for restoring good bacteria if your horse has been prescribed antibiotics.

The recommended dosage is two scoops mixed with feed daily. Biotic 8 is available in 400g and 1Kg packages, as well as single-serving packs. The single-serving packs, a 20g serving of the product, come in containers of 30, which make them good for traveling and going to shows. The packaging keeps the product fresh and protects the bacteria against humidity, ensuring the probiotics remain viable.

Western Careers – Equine Veterinarian

Not many people have the gumption to give up a successful career and start into post-secondary schooling again. Yet, that’s exactly what this cowgirl did. Here’s why she’ll never look back.

 Interview by Jenn Webster • Photograph by Deanna Kristensen

Erin-Shield

My great-grandfather homesteaded in Millarville, AB, in 1902. My grandmother was part of the very first University of Calgary graduating class. Being born and raised in the Calgary area meant I was always around horses. They were a part of my DNA. I remember how I used to get so excited if a veterinarian came to our place.

When I was younger, I started riding and training with show jumper Jonathan Asselin. At his barn I saw many interactions with vets and other equine personnel. The first time I ever observed a horse receiving acupuncture, I became immediately intrigued by sports medicine and its application to horses.

I went to school to be a human chiropractor for four years and later practiced with a big sports medicine practice in California. Our clients included the San Franciso 49ers and the San Jose Sharks. I got the opportunity to work with many injured players.

I met my future husband Dave while I was in California and ironically, he was also originally from Calgary. We knew we wanted to settle back in Calgary but if we wanted to travel, then was the time. So next we found ourselves in Ireland and I ran a locum Chiropractic practice there for two years.

I enjoyed what I was doing but I craved to work with animals. After Ireland we moved back to Calgary and the new University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine was opening. Hundreds of students were applying but I sent my application in and was lucky enough to be chosen. I’ve never looked back.

I graduated with distinction as a member of the first graduating class from the U of C’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. During my time as a vet student, I won a scholarship for leadership and excellence in equine veterinary medicine. The award is offered by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (which represents 63 countries). Every school has an internal competition to compete for this scholarship and my name was put forward by my teachers. Then you compete against all the other schools. Only four people win.

My next adventure has already begun with further studies in the field of Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. I am enrolled in graduate studies through the UCVM and Moore Equine, and hope to be one of very few individuals to become boarded under the newly formed American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation through a local residency program – one of only three programs in the world.

My mother gave me a custom-made, felt cowboy hat when I graduated as a veterinarian. Inside the headband she had it embroidered to read, “I can do this…”

I work with Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Balzac, Alberta, and honestly, this is my dream job. I am in horse heaven. It is the busiest equine referral hospital in Canada. With events such as Spruce Meadows and the Calgary Stampede, we’re really in the heart of the most elite performance horses in the world.

In 1998, I was a Calgary Stampede princess. Last summer, I was honored to serve as a Stampede veterinarian on the sideline. I estimate there to be 400+ horses there this year. Vets at the Stampede do everything from drug testing to caring for parade horses, to colics, minor lacerations and lameness exams. We’re also intimately involved in the Stampede’s Animal Care Advisory Panel, overseeing all animal welfare policies and codes of practice. They were long days but I loved every second of it.

Children are not in my plans for the immediate future but Moore is very supportive of women in veterinary medicine. If Dave and I do decide to have kids it’s nice to know I am in an environment where I can balance a family life and my career.

Surfing is my passion outside of veterinary medicine. Whenever my husband and I go on a holiday, it must include a surfing destination.

The logistics of stopping what you are currently doing and spending money to pursue a dream means a lot of people can’t do it. I feel very lucky to have been able to change career paths. I worked my butt off because I knew I was lucky to be given another chance.

Vaccination Strategy

Discuss vaccinations with your vet to devise the ultimate plan for your horse's needs.

Discuss vaccinations with your vet to devise the ultimate plan for your horse’s needs.

By Jenn Webster

If you’re a horse owner, it’s likely you’ve come up against the vaccination debate a time or two. For every individual equine, risk factors vary based on the animal’s age, exposure risk, value, general management and geographic location. There is no one single vaccination protocol for horses, however an informed vaccine strategy is one of the basic, most important things you can do to maintain your equine’s health. Your best bet is to discuss a protocol with your vet, however.

Here are a few basic considerations with specific key points regarding foals. 

Tetanus

Tetanus is caused by toxic-producing bacteria present in the intestinal tract of many animals and found in the soil where horses live. Spores enter the horse’s body through wounds or the umbilical cord of newborn foals. Tetanus is a constant threat to horses and humans and as such, horses should be vaccinated against annually.

Foals can receive their first tetanus vaccine as early as six months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or three months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet.

Encephalomyelitis

This disease is often referred to as “sleeping sickness” and caused by Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE) or Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE). These two strains of the disease have been seen throughout North America. A third version, Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE) has recently been seen in Mexico. These diseases are usually transmitted via mosquitoes and symptoms vary a great deal, however they result in the degeneration of the brain.

Foals can be vaccinated at six months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or three months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet and specifically ask if your foals need an encephalomyelitis booster.

Influenza

This is one of the most common respiratory diseases in horses and the virus is highly contagious. Horses that travel or are exposed to high horses traffic should be vaccinated regularly against it. Flu viruses can result in nasal discharge, fever, coughing and loss of appetite. The disease can be expensive to treat and is usually very uncomfortable for your horse to endure. Often, this vaccine is given in combination with the rhinopneumonitis vaccine.

Foals can be vaccinated at six months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated.

Rhinopneumonitis

It’s important to know that there are two very different disease viruses: equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) and equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4), that cause two different diseases, which are both known as rhinopneumonitis. Both cause respiratory tract problems, however EHV-1 can also cause abortion in pregnant mares, foal death and paralysis.

Since this vaccine is often given in a combination with the flu vaccine, as mentioned above, foals can be vaccinated at six months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated. Speak to your vet about flu/rhino boosters.

Strangles

No matter where you live, strangles is a highly contagious disease you should hope your horse never contract. If your equine does contract this disease, consult with your veterinarian for a treatment protocol. If your horse has contracted strangles in the past, ask your veterinarian about vaccinating this animal specifically – some vets think the horse may receive enough immunity from being exposed to the disease in the first place. There are some side-effects associated with the vaccine, because it is a modified live virus. This means the vaccine cannot cause serious disease in the horse, also allowing it to provide longer lasting protection. As such, this class of vaccine is often not recommended for pregnant mares. The efficiency of this vaccine has been questioned by many vets because outbreaks can occur even in vaccinated herds. Administered intra-nasally (IN), this vaccine requires a booster administered three to four weeks after the initial shot has been given.

Can be given to foals starting at six to nine months.

Rabies

Rabies is a scary disease that always results in death. Luckily, it is more prevalent in some areas than others – concern areas include southern Saskatchewan and the hotter southwestern states like Arizona and New Mexico. If you also choose to vaccinate your horses against rabies, your veterinarian may not want to administer a rabies vaccine on the same day as other vaccines as some serious health threats can occur.

Foals can be vaccinated against rabies at six, seven or 12 months of age if the mare was vaccinated. Speak with your vet.

West Nile Virus

There haven’t been a lot of Canadian cases in recent months, but West Nile Virus (WNV) should not be forgotten about. This disease is a mosquito- borne virus that can cause swelling and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord in horses, birds and humans. In Alberta, WNV is a federally reportable disease. This vaccine requires a booster in the initial sequence.

Foals from unvaccinated mares can be vaccinated for WNV for the first time at six months of age or older. The second vaccination should come three to four weeks later.

A Tale of Mistaken Identity

By Jenn Webster

Taylored-Revolution

As the date of April 9, 2013, approached, owners Janice and Jack Hepburn of Cochrane, Alberta, waited with anticipation. The days passed. April 10th became April 22nd and still, no foal for their beautiful palomino mare, Miss Chexy Whiz, better known as “Chexy”.

Rewind to 2012.

Chexy had been bred via artificial insemination to the 2004 sorrel stallion, Lokota Chic with the help of a professional veterinarian. Her last breeding date was recorded as May 2, 2012. The Hepburns were ecstatic that their mare was pregnant and upon their return from the vet clinic, they put Chexy out to pasture with a couple of their older geldings and a younger stud colt, yet to be gelded. All was well on their little acreage, with the prospect of a new foal to arrive in the spring.

Fast forward to 2013.

In preparation of Chexy’s foaling, she was brought into a stall each evening in April and Jack began the midnight hour checks on the mare. As the days continued to go by, the Hepburns couldn’t understand why the foal’s grand entry into the world was taking so long. They decided to borrow a FoAlert birth monitoring system from a friend, so Jack was no longer required to go out to the barn in the middle of the night.

“I called our vet and discussed our concerns about Chexy. He confirmed that the due date was April 9, 2013, but since she has never foaled before we had nothing to which we could compare this pregnancy. My mare was healthy and all seemed fine,” relayed Janice.

All the Hepburns could do was wait. Yet, as the middle of May approached they became increasingly concerned for the health of their mare and foal in utero.

Janice researched what she could about other broodmares in similar situations and discovered that it was possible for some mares to be pregnant longer than 11 months.

“We continued to bring her in at night and finally, the signs were becoming obvious that Chexy was nearing the end of her pregnancy. We could see her sides moving as the foal kicked and moved around. Chexy began waxing up.”

On May 21, 2013, the Hepburns left Chexy in the barn on a cold and rainy afternoon for two hours, so they could visit a friend. When they returned, they found a beautiful buckskin filly aside the mare, standing, dry and nursing. Both horses appeared healthy.

“We were so happy that things went well, especially because our records indicated that Chexy had been in foal for over a year!” said Janice.

“I plastered Facebook with baby pics and talked to the stallion owner and of course, we were all excited that everything had turned out fine.”

The players in this wacky tale of mistaken identity, Taylored Revolution (bay) stands in front of Miss Chexy Whiz.

The players in this wacky tale of mistaken identity, Taylored Revolution (bay) stands in front of Miss Chexy Whiz.

With a darling little buckskin filly running in their pasture alongside her dam, the Hepburns never gave the foal’s lineage another thought. Janice pulled hairs to submit for DNA testing, picked out a few name choices and filled out all the necessary paperwork to get her registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

“We were waiting for her papers. And waiting. And waiting,” chuckled Janice.

Finally she picked up the phone to contact the AQHA directly.

“I spoke to someone in the DNA department who told me that sire of this foal was not Lokota Chic but instead – Taylored Revolution,” Janice recalled.

The news hit her like a ton of bricks, for this was the registered name of the year-and-a-half-old stud colt which had been pastured with her pregnant mare, and long since been gelded. She tried to wrap her head around what the DNA agent was saying.

“Taylored Revolution was a gelding… I said to her, ‘AQHA has made a mistake. There is no way this could happen. My mare was pregnant when we brought her home…’”

Janice could hardly believe her ears. She kept repeating the word “impossible” to the agent.

To which the agent politely replied, “DNA does not lie, Ma’am.”

“After several minutes of listening to her, telling me that DNA does not lie, and yes, ‘Your stud at a year-and-a-half bred your mare…’ I had to believe her.”

The agent suggested that Janice look at the dates of when her stallion, Taylored Revolution, had been gelded. She gently reminded Janice that he had been in the same pasture as Chexy. And for further proof, the agent checked with a color specialist who said a sorrel (Lokota Chic) and a palomino (Chexy) could not produce a buckskin.

“I never knew that!” laughed Janice.

“She said a palomino and a bay (Taylored Revolution), however, could produce a buckskin. I never knew that either!”

"We have hopes that she will be a reining horse that I can show one day. She has the bloodlines." - Janice Hepburn

“We have hopes that she will be a reining horse that I can show one day. She has the bloodlines.” – Janice Hepburn

When Janice called her vet to explain what had happened, he immediately said, “Well that explains why the foaling dates were wrong!”

Janice and her veterinarian have determined that Chexy had been in foal when she came home from the clinic. However, they figure that she absorbed the pregnancy and came into her cycle again approximately 20 days later. On approximately June 15, 2012, Chexy was bred by the Hepburn’s then stallion, who was only one-and-half-years-old at the time.

“When we took Chexy into the vet to confirm the pregnancy as per our contract, she was indeed in foal. But not to Lokota Chic,” Janice said.

And since the breeding to Lokota Chic had been via artificial insemination, the AQHA required the resulting foal to be DNA-tested.

“There are so many lessons I have learned as a result of all this. Thank-goodness for DNA testing! Tough lesson to be learned, but what a lesson to remember!” she quipped.

“My sister-in-law asked me if I still liked our filly, now that we knew she was something different than what we expected. I told her, ‘I liked her yesterday when I thought I knew who her sire was and I like her today, now that I know who her sire really is.’

“It still amazes me that this happened. I just shake my head! We are so thrilled that we have a beautiful buckskin filly with great bloodlines. We couldn’t have planned this any better even if we tried to,” Janice expressed.

As a result, the Hepburns will have to redo the filly’s AQHA paperwork – since Janice was actually the owner of the stallion at the time of breeding. The date and type of breeding on the papers will have to be amended. Plus, the filly’s registered name will have to be changed.

“I have changed it to Taylored Made Whiz. I think it’s kind of cute and appropriate,” Janice smiled.

Taylored Revolution is now in training with Wendy Nelson and his owners are hopeful he will make it to the futurity show arena this year.

Taylored Revolution is now in training with Wendy Nelson and his owners are hopeful he will make it to the futurity show arena this year.

Turning Them Out

Stallion-and-mareUnder the right circumstances, pasture breeding can be an effective technique for breeding operations to maximize their foal crops, while minimizing costs. Yet, with the demand for higher control over mating’s, plus the high values of individual mares and stallions, pasture breeding is a technique that often results in an increased conception rate in a world already riddled with too many unwanted horses. Even so, pasture breeding is a convenient approach to producing foals and may prove beneficial big and small. Here are some of the considerations to keep in mind when considering pasture breeding for your operation.

In simple terms, pasture breeding involves placing a stallion in with a band of mares to encourage natural breeding behavior. Unlike artificial insemination or hand-breeding, there is little human interaction involved. Ideally, the horses are turned out in an area that is big enough to encourage grazing and without small,confined corners where individuals can become cornered. Fencing should be adequate, shelter should be provided and the animals must have appropriate access to feed and water. Additionally a stallion should not be able to contact other horses on the opposite side of the fence, as this can sometimes lead to territorial problems, unnecessary altercations or unwanted breeding’s. If foals remain at the sides of mares involved in pasture breeding, the area should also be secure and designed properly for foals. If mares will be giving birth in the same pasture, this is typically not an issue, however the area should be designed and maintained for safe foaling as well.

Photo by http://photog.have-dog.com.

Photo by http://photog.have-dog.com.

The Disadvantages

Once a stallion is introduced into a harem of mares, the horses are seldom handled individually in the environment. Care must be taken prior to introducing the stallion with mares to ensure that all horses involved are infection-free. An infected mare can contaminate a stallion, who will in turn contaminate the other mares. Screening of reproductive infections should take place prior to introducing the animals together in a pasture.

Close observation and care of the animals can be difficult especially if the stallion becomes overprotective. Additionally, there is a potential for injury to both the mares and the stallion in a pasture situation. Nicks and scrapes are one thing but a stallion receiving a kick to the testicles from an unwilling mare is a very real possibility too. Plus, her dynamics and acceptance of the horses of one another are other factors that play key in pasture breeding.

It is possible for a stallion to reject a mare or certain mares. It is also possible for a stallion unaccustomed to “life on the range” due to a long history in the race or show arena, be unsure as his new position as a breeding animal. Some stallions take to a natural breeding program with no problem, while others may be confused by elements like creeks, uneven ground or even a mare in full heat. Inexperience stallions may require a paddock next to the mares (or a single mare) for a short while to help provide positive experiences and “education” – and ensure a stallion should be added to the group.

Safety is a primary concern with this breeding technique and one of the biggest limiting factors of pasture breeding. Some stallions may react violently when another animal or human approaches the herd, which makes the practice dangerous for a novice horse breeder. Additionally, the number of mares a pastured stallion can service is limited in comparison to breeding through other techniques such as artificial insemination – one of the biggest reasons it has become a less commonly used strategy in the equine industry.

The Advantages

The fact that very little hands-on involvement from humans can be done in a pasture environment can also be one of the biggest advantages of this process. Much less time consuming than teasing mares and preparing them for artificial insemination or hand-breeding, pasture breeding requires less from an owner and often results in a increased conception rate. (In a pasture situation, 20 to 40 mares per season is a reasonable number to expect a stallion to cover. Pasture breeding also typically garners high conception rates in healthy animals.)

Increased receptivity in shy mares and a relaxed attitude in mares that are opposed to restraints, stocks or other management-related stresses are additional benefits seen from pasture breeding. The practice may also be more economical for some breeders as there is a reduced need for stalls, breeding equipment and an experienced technician.

A Natural Situation Needs Forethought

Depending on the circumstances of a specific breeding farm, pasture breeding can be very beneficial. Careful consideration into all of the technique’s aspects should be weighed with insight from veterinarians and experienced breeders before entering into a pasture breeding plan. Although natural breeding situations can be very successful, they can also result in severe economic loss when they are executed carelessly.

Know Your Breeding Contract

Stallion-and-mare

Planning for a foal is exciting. Yet, the road to putting four tiny hooves on the ground requires more than 12 months of advance planning. There’s a proper mating to consider, paperwork to read through and a budget to stick to: Unless you prefer unexpected, financial losses.

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As mare owner, you will have certain expectations when you enter into a breeding agreement with a stallion owner or manager. If your contract does not adequately address your concerns, it is your responsibility to understand what your contract states, before signing it. Specifically, you should understand your fees and which of them may or may not be refundable. And always remember, any services performed by a veterinarian are not included in the set of fees seen on a breeding contract. Veterinarian fees are in addition to a stallion agreement.

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Whether you work with a veterinarian or breeding facility to get your mare in foal, Canadians in particular, should research what the contract says about procedures that must be followed to order shipped semen. For example, does a particular stallion require same-day delivery? What happens if the stallion owner receives numerous requests for shipped semen on the same day and cannot honor them all? Further to this notion, it’s wise for mare owners to understand what happens with fees paid if the stallion (or mare for that matter), is sold before the contract is complete.

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Mare owners should also pay attention to the stallion’s breeding season duration and know the last day he is available for service. And if the mare is not confirmed pregnant prior to the end of the season, know how many breeding seasons you will be able to keep trying to breed your mare.

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Breeding contracts are usually also very specific regarding what type and when, pregnancy checks are required. Some contracts will even state who must perform a check and the type of documentation that must be submitted to the breeder. Breeding soundness can be an entirely different frustration so it’s best to understand what your worst case scenario is, before entering into an agreement.

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And beyond all of the above, breeding contract foal assurances are another important aspect to consider, prior to first stage labour. Many breeding contracts will often ease a mare owner’s mind with the promise of a Live Foal Guarantee. Often a live foal is defined as a foal that stands and nurses. However, keep in mind that just because a foal can get to its feet and take a drink, does not necessarily mean it is a healthy baby. Say for instance, you have bred a Paint to a Paint stallion – does your contract consider the possibility of lethal white syndrome?

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Lastly, mare owners must fully understand what state or province’s law will apply, and where parties must bring a claim, should one occur. Just because a semen shipment is sent to Canada, does not mean the Canadian justice system can defend a mare owner in the event a breeding contract is not carried to completion.

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And while a breeding agreement may seem daunting to begin with, the end result of a beautiful foal is worth every worry. Enter into the contract knowing the real cost of breeding your mare will be more than simply just the stud fee and all parties involved will consequently have a better, working relationship.

Frozen semen tanks.

Frozen semen tanks.

Common Terms & Definitions of a Breeding Contract:

• Parties of the Contract – The names of the owners of both the mare and stallion should begin the contract. This section should include the address and phone numbers for both parties.
Stallion – The stud must be clearly identified, including his registration number(s). His location must also be specified, in addition to the season year he will be standing there.
Stud Fee – This one-time fee is for the stallion’s services. Some fees are required in full prior to shipping semen or insemination of a mare. Other stallion owners/managers may request only part of the stud fee, with the balance remaining to be paid in full once the mare is confirmed pregnant. *Price range for western performance stallions can be anywhere from $250 to a private treaty.

• Booking Fee – This fee is charged to reserve a place for your mare in the breeding schedule. Usually, the booking fee is non-refundable and due at the time you enter into the breeding contract. May be included, or in addition to, the stud fee, so read your contract carefully.  *Price range $100-$5,000.
Farm Fee – This fee goes straight to the stallion station or farm responsible for standing the stallion. It can cover the service of collecting the stud and preparing the semen for shipment, or insemination. This is not a common fee on stallion contracts. *Price range $100-$800.
Chute Fee – This fee is for mares that are on site for breeding and to cover the costs and time of teasing or watching her heat cycles. This fee should always be for “on farm” breedings only. *Price range $100-$600.
Semen Shipping Deposits and Fees – Equitainers or specialized containers required to ship semen are expensive pieces of equipment and therefore, many stallion owners require a deposit on them before they will ship the container out. However, this fee is usually refundable if the container is returned in a timely manner and in the same shape it was sent in. This fee may or may not also include courier services *Price range $50-$500.
Shipping Fee – This is commonly a collection and processing fee for the stallion station. Do not confuse it with a semen shipping fee as sometimes, they are two different fees. Some stallion stations may charge a shipping fee and then send a shipment collect. Although these fees will likely be outlined in your contract, they may be confusing at first. It is recommended to speak with the stallion station to go over all fees to prevent surprises. *Price range $50-$450.
Collection Fee – The stallion station or manager may charge a fee every time the stallion is collected to be shipped to the mare. Often the first shipment is included in the breeding fee, with additional shipments at a specific cost. Review your contract for details. *Price range – $75 to $400.
Handling Fee – In addition to the collection fee, a fee for the handling per collection is charged by the stallion owner to the mare owner. This fee is non-refundable and sometimes is blended in with a farm fee or a semen shipping fee. * Price range $75-$150.

Happy breeding season!

Happy breeding season!

A Pregnancy Story

From a tiny embryo to...

From a tiny embryo to a darling little foal at their mother’s side. Photo by Jenn Webster.

 

With breeding season upon us, My Stable Life has dove into the world of equine reproduction and taken an inside look at some of the specifics of ultrasounding mares. If you missed the first two blogs you can catch them here: Ultrasounding 101 and Understanding Estrus on Ultrasound. In this final ultrasounding post, we will take a look at a typical equine pregnancy and follow a follicle along in normal breeding development.

EQUINE-REPRO ULTRASOUNDING – A PREGNANCY STORY
Age of the embryo: Day 0.
What is happening: Day of ovulation.
Image on Ultrasound: A CL is seen on the ovary. Uterine edema is resolved. This can
best be determined by following follicular development through the estrus period.

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Day 14 of pregnancy.

Day 14 of pregnancy.

Age of the embryo: Day 14 of a pregnancy.
What is happening: Early detection of an embryo can be determined at 11 to 15 days.
Most vets prefer to check at Day 14, since an early detection of twins is extremely
important for the health of the mare. If twins are present, both vesicles are visible at Day
14. At this time they are still highly mobile within the uterus, allowing manual reduction
of one twin to be possible.
Image on Ultrasound: The embryonic vesicle is seen as a spherical black structure
approximately 14-15 mm in diameter. The yolk sac is highly visible and the embryo is
highly mobile in the uterine lumen and can found anywhere in one of the uterine horns
or the body. The mareʼs uterus is tightly toned.

 

Day 16 of pregnancy.

Day 16 of pregnancy.

Age of the embryo: Day 16 of a pregnancy.
What is happening: Fixation of the embryo at the base of the uterine horn.
Image on Ultrasound: The black spherical shape has grown in size and has implanted
itself at the base of the uterine horn. A healthy pregnancy would not indicate the
presence of any fluid, edema or cysts in the uterus.

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Day 28 of pregnancy.

Day 28 of pregnancy.

Age of the embryo: Day 28 of a pregnancy.
What is happening: A healthy embryo is developing. Detection of a heartbeart can be
done as early as Day 22, as a fluttering movement within the echogenic mass of the
embryo. The developing allantois can also be determined at Day 24.
Image on Ultrasound: At Day 28, the allantoic sac occupies 50 per cent of the vesicle
and the embryo is located in the middle of the embryonic vesicle. A visible membrane
separates the yolk sac (top) and the allantoic sac (bottom).

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Day 42

Day 42 of pregnancy.

Age of the embryo: Day 42 of a pregnancy.
What is happening: From Day 42 to 48, the fetus descends.
Image on Ultrasound: The fetus begins to descend back to the ventral (underside) part
of the vesicle, hanging from the umbilical pole attached at the dorsal (upper side) aspect
of the vesicle. The yolk sac is now enclosed in the umbilical cord and can sometimes be
seen as a black structure. On Day 48, the fetus is on the floor of the vesicle and the
umbilical cord can be seen hanging from the top.

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Twin equine embryos, as seen on ultrasound at Day 14.

Twin equine embryos, as seen on ultrasound at Day 14.

According to the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine and the
Department of Reproduction, only nine per cent of mares with twin embryos will carry
both foals to term. Of the rest, 60 per cent will deliver one live foal and 31 per cent will
lose both pregnancies. This is simply due to the fact that the mareʼs placenta is not
designed to support twin pregnancies and combined with the birth weight of the twins, if
carried to term, twins rarely exceed the normal birth weight of a single foal.

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This is why, an ultrasound at Day 14 to determine twinning is very important, prior to
implantation of the embryo(s) at the base of the uterine horn. If your vet determines that
twins are present, he or she may choose to leave the mare for a few days (only up to
Day 19 at the latest), to see if one vesicle regresses on its own. This is something that
may require daily ultrasounds to monitor.

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If the vesicle does not resolve naturally, your vet will likely rupture one of the vesicles
transrectally between their finger and thumb, or with the use of a transducer by trapping
it at the top of the horn. Manual rupture of one vesicle is highly effective if the twins are
fixed bilaterally. Unilateral fixation is much more difficult.

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After Day 25, correction of twins is increasingly difficult and abortion of both twins may
be necessary to ensure the health of the mare.

IMAGING FOR THE FUTURE
Ultrasonography has gained wide acceptance and is a very beneficial tool in equine
reproduction. While the facts in this article have mostly detailed an ideal pregnancy,
ultrasound imaging can also be very beneficial for monitoring ovarian and uterine
abnormalities and pathology. Some machines can additionally be used for fetal sexing
at Day 60 of a pregnancy.

Thank-you to Dr. Tammi Roalstad of Scottsdale, AZ, for providing the ultrasound images and information used in this article.