Foalert Systems

Last breeding season, I had the chance to tour around with Dr. Bonnie Thwaits, DVM of Tucson, AZ, and learn a few things about preparing for the happiest season of the year (in my opinion) – foaling season! With numerous mares to be responsible for in any given breeding year, Dr. Thwaits utilizes Foalert, a foaling monitoring system that can essentially, allow her to be in two places at once.

On this ride along, I was allowed to photograph the attachment of an actual foaling device into a mare that was expected to deliver within a short period of time. * So on that note, if you have a queasy stomach for sutures and things of this nature, perhaps it’s best for you to stop reading today’s blog now. My Stable Life will return with less graphic veterinary images, I promise!

The Foalert System allows vets and owners a great amount of flexibility by alerting them to a foaling – no more regular foaling barn checks every hour throughout the night – making it also very beneficial in the circumstances of maiden mares or dystocias. It allows vets and owners to sleep until the mare and foal actually need intervention and has been proven to prevent foaling losses, especially in early mares. It provides 24 hour, round the clock supervision of a mare due to foal, making foaling season much less stressful and gives owners peace of mind.

So how does it work? Basically, a transmitter is sutured with 3 simple sutures, by someone who is experienced with such procedures (most often, veterinarians) just outside of the mare’s vulva, approximately 1-2 weeks prior to the expected due date. The physical separation of the vulva lips pulls the actuating magnet from the transmitter. When this occurs, a silent radio signal is sent to the receiver which then sounds an audible alarm and activates any accessories attached to the receiver. Foalerts allow owners or vets to monitor multiple births simultaneously, provided each expectant mother is wearing a transmitter and is within the tested range of the receiver.

Interestingly enough, the Automatic Dialer that can come with the system can be programmed to call up to 4 telephone and/or pager numbers when activated by the receiver. The dialer will call each number and deliver either a voice or numeric message, allowing for the utmost freedom of movement for the attendant as there are no distant restraints via the telephone line.

It’s important to note that the alarm sounds when the vulva lips physically open and the system is designed to be effective in cases of dystocia. This is because the system has also been proven in some cases of a full breach, that the straining of a mare will cause the magnet to become dislodged and activate the transmitter.

Best Babies First Batch


We’ve loved receiving your submissions to Best Babies Photo Contest! Keep your photos coming, you have until June 30 to enter. Send your photo to (along with a line describing foal’s parentage and location). With that you will be automatically entered in our 2011 Best Babies contest and eligible to win our fantastic foaling welcome package, valued at $200.00.

(Please note, photos may be posted on or published in the magazine. Contest runs until June 30/2011.)

Here is a selection of the first set of entries.


2011 Bay filly, Cashes Wildfire (La Royal Cash x Myra Hudson) x Zillas Spin Doctor (Birdzilla x Merri Voyage). Beaverlodge Alberta. Photo by Jen Osgood

2011 bay filly, out of Cashes Wildfire (La Royal Cash x Myra Hudson) x Zillas Spin Doctor (Birdzilla x Merri Voyage). Beaverlodge Alberta, this picture is three generations of girls. Photo by Jen Osgood

This is “Jake” born on Mother’s Day in Berwyn, AB. Sire is KRK Mighty Fletchin out of Meow’s Little Jazz. Photo by Melanie Elliott

Justice is a Foxtrotter x Percheron cross. He and his dam were rescued two days before this picture was taken. Justice symbolizes strength and courage. He and his dam will be up for adoption after he is weaned this fall. He is located in Mountain Grove, Missouri with Bridles-N-Braids Equine Rescue. Photo by Deanna Kafka

Submitted by Carol Schaffer, Sandy Ridge Stallion Station, Bassano, Alberta

This filly is out of a Peppy San, Pepo San, Two Eyed Jack and Impressive bred mare and a Poco Bueno, Hancock and Two Eyed Jack bred stallion located near Fort Saskatchewan Alberta. Photo by Malory Parrish

This is Smiley born April 15th, 2011, she is our APHA filly (Sonny’s Calico Flit x Salty Duck). We call her Smiley as her markings on her lips look like she is smiling. Photos by Sonja Avramenko, Karma Ridge Stables, Thorsby, AB

This is Smiley born April 15th, 2011, she is our APHA filly (Sonny’s Calico Flit x Salty Duck). Photo by Sonja Avramenko, Karma Ridge Stables, Thorsby, AB

2011 palomino filly standing for the first time – Sire: Shiners Q Chex Dam: Twister New Tip born in Grandora, Sask. May 12. Photo by Michelle Walerius

This is Catalina, born May 6, 2011. Sired by Major Eyed, out of Peps Got Class,in Griffin, SK. Photo by Andrea Clarke

Enhance Your Stud’s Repro-Efficiency

Today, guest blogger, Mandy Paul, from Breeders Choice helps maximize your stallion’s reproductive efficiency with advice on lubricants. Breeders Choice is a great source for equine breeding equipment and supplies and is renown in the equine breeding industry as a recognized expert in equine semen collection, processing and shipping, both cooled and frozen.

So without further adieu, I’ll let Mandy take it away…


Breeding horses can be frustrating when you think you are doing everything right and you still can’t seem to get some mares pregnant. As stallion owners know, fertility is everything. Some stallions are born with super sperm – so good in fact, if you left it on the counter for a day and put it into a 20-year-old mare, she would get pregnant. But then there are those stallions that need all of the help they can get. The overall costs of semen collection, shipping and artificial insemination warrant the use of products that ensure the best sperm function possible during each step of the process.

The equine breeding industry has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, but we are still learning. We have discovered that some products we were initially told were the way to go, have now been proven to be harmful to our breeding program’s fertility rates. I feel the biggest improvements have come along in extenders and lubricants.

In this blog entry, I would like to focus on lubricants. Some of the major brands out in regular use in the breeding shed are Priority Care, K-Y, H-R and Surgilube. However, now there is a newer lubricant that is up-staging all of the others. Pre-Seed was developed for humans and now, a version is made especially for horses. Pre-Seed is the only lubricant formulated with the right osmolality and ion concentration for breeding horses; a buffer to ensure that pH remains stable; and an antioxidant to protect sperm from free radical damage during handling.

Additionally, Pre-Seed claims that it is the only lubricant clinically proven not to harm stallion sperm from the time of collection, through 48 hours of cooled storage. Independent studies have shown that this product helps to maintain better sperm function than other lubricants and does not interfere with the ability of sperm to fertilize eggs or support embryo development.

Scientific literature has well-documented the damage caused to sperm by common lubricants. As breeders, we spend hundreds of dollars to ensure great fertility and unfortunately, a small bottle of lubricant can get in the way of great results. Therefore, in my opinion, I think we owe it to our stallions and mares to lube up with the best. At Breeders Choice, we have gotten amazing feedback on this product with vets saying things like, “Pre-Seed has worked great on stallions with tail piece problems,” and “Breeding horses is expensive, so why not spend a little bit more for greater results.”

If you would like more information on Pre-Seed and some scientific data check out:

If you would like more information about Breeders Choice, visit:

Nap Time

The antics of colts always intrigue me. And this particular little fellow is no exception. With all the wonderful weather we’ve been having lately, this colt’s mother likes to take the time to indulge in sunlight naps. However, her son often has different ideas.

If horses could talk, this is what I figure he’d be saying…


Hey Mum, C’mon on! Come play with me…

Puuuuullllllleaseeeeeee!! Come play with me! We’ll have fun…

Mum, I’m getting mad…. and flusterated!

(Is that even a word…?)

Are ya sure ya don’t wanna play with me? We can have a great time! I’ll pretend to be a big horsey and you – you, can be whatever you wanna be!


Hey you! You wanna play with me?

Hey wait! Come back…! I won’t play so rough, I promise…!

Okay. Nevermind then.

Hi Mum, I’m back.

I love you.

And I’m glad you don’t wanna play. Cuz, I’m kinda tired…

Best Babies 2011 Contest

For all the same reasons we kicked off our inaugural Best Babies 2010 Photo Contest, we pursue it again this year.

Because it’s a beautiful spring day. Because we await our own new arrival here at the log house. Because it’s difficult to think of any subject which can loosen the words “grab the camera” from any horseperson’s lips more readily. Because I can’t wait to show you the first set of submissions to our Best Babies Photo Contest. Because I fell in love with photographing foals when we had our first three years ago. Because I want to encourage you to capture those short-lived days of foalhood.

Send us Your Best Foal Shot

If your latest beauty of an arrival has you running for your camera, we invite you to share your foal photos with Western Horse Review readers in our 2011 Best Babies Photo Contest. Send your photo to (along with a line describing foal’s parentage and location). With that you will be automatically entered in our Best Babies contest and eligible to win our fantastic foaling welcome package, valued at $200.00.

(Please note, photos may be posted on or published in the magazine. Contest runs until June 30/2011.)

Breeding Truths & Folklore

Breeding season is upon us. With that, many questions are often raised that we don’t typically think about at other times in the year. Plus, the subject of breeding can conjure up many different opinions and conversations regarding what’s “best” to obtain equine reproductive success. Here are two of the most commonly debated breeding myths and breeding specialist, Dr. Chris Berezowski of Moore Equine’s Veterinary Reproduction Centre helps us sort through the mire.

1. Two doses, two inseminations.


When two doses of semen are shipped, there are varying opinions regarding whether or not both should be used at the same time, or if one should be held until the following day. This is a widely debated subject in the world of equine reproduction. Says Dr. Chris Berezowski of Moore and Co. vet clinic located in Balzac, Alberta, “When two doses are sent, it’s a bit of a myth to do a breeding immediately and save one dose to breed with again the next day.”

Dr. Berezowski says it’s actually better to put both doses in at same time. “The reason is because as soon as sperm is collected from a stud, it’s dying,” he says. “Extender helps it survive transport but regardless, that sperm is dying. By putting one dose in and then waiting 24 hours for the second dose – you have more sperm dying. It’s better for the sperm to be in the mare’s uterus rather than sitting in a box. Sperm still die in the mare’s uterus but not to the same degree they do sitting in a syringe.”

2. A larger breeding dose is always better.


“A larger breeding dose does not mean a larger sperm concentration,” Dr. Berezowski states. “There are some studs that do better with very a small volume where the sperm are centrifuged to concentrate them. So more volume doesn’t necessarily mean better odds for breeding.”

Of course, it all depends on the horse but a larger volume can actually mean a smaller concentration: doses with a lot of extender in it can amount to some “pretty watered down stuff.”

In terms of the mare, usually her uterus can handle about 100 mls of volume. “So if you were putting in two syringes of 60mls each, the last little bit might not fit in there,” explains Dr. Berezowski.

Additionally, more volume can also occasionally lead to irritation of the mare’s uterus. “If anything, this happens with an extender and in particular it’s a frozen semen issue. But it can occur with normal cooled semen as well. The ingredient added for cryo-protection can sometimes irritate the mare’s uterus,” said Dr. Berezowski.

Chris Berezowski is an equine reproductive specialist at Moore & Co. veterinary clinic in Balzac, Alberta. He received specialty training at Texas A &  M University and prior to that, went to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s blog on My Stable Life where we reveal three additional breeding debates. Are they fact or fiction? You decide.

Vet Q&A For Pregnant Mares

When it comes to looking after the health protocol for +40 horses, some things are fairly straightforward. Deworming, vaccinations, dental and hoof care are all regular considerations we schedule, organize and then record to ensure our herd is at the peak of its health. However, when it comes to these same aspects regarding our broodmares (or mares that we have gotten in foal for the upcoming year), we often think twice. Some regular health protocols all of a sudden aren’t so regular if a mare is partway through gestation and may need to be held off in between pregnancies. Or it may be that different protocols might come into place altogether concerning broodmares.

Dr. Chris Berezowski DVM, DACT, DABVP (Equine) of Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Calgary, AB, has kindly offered to help answer some of these common broodmare concerns.

Q. Deworming in broodmares is something that has me really concerned – Can you please outline a proper deworming schedule for broodmares year-round?

A. Deworming protocols always seems to be a scary topic for most people. It is true that Ivermectin is the most commonly recommended safe dewormer. Other options for dewormers that have been proven safe for pregnant mares include fenbendazole and moxidectin. Quest Plus and Eqvalan Gold are not approved for use in pregnant mares.

My general recommendation for deworming pregnant mares is to use a rotation of ivermection, moxidectin and fenbendazole during pregnancy and then a Quest Plus after foaling but before rebreeding.

Q. Do you need to keep lights on in your foaling barn, after the foal is born, if you are planning to breed your mare on her foal heat? And do lights help a mare cycle any better if she is already pregnant?

A. Yes, if a mare foals early in the season (Jan – April) but is not under artificial light, she will most likely not be having fertile heat cycles until late April or May.  Even though she was pregnant, she still needs the artificial lighting to stimulate her to cycle early.

Artificial lighting won't help a mare cycle better if she is already pregnant.  The benefit of artificial lighting is to have an earlier start to the breeding season.

Q. Would you do a pregnant mare's teeth? Is anesthetic ok for them?

A.  I prefer not to sedate any mare during pregnancy unless it is absolutely necessary. The reason is that the sedation given to the mare also makes its way to the fetus.  Situations where the mare has a medical issue that necessitates sedation (colic, laceration, etc…) is when I would use it, as the benefit outweighs the risk. For things like a yearly dental, I would wait until the mare is not pregnant. This is a good thing to do prior to rebreeding next spring.

Q. I understand that Ventipulmin may not be safe for mares in late gestation? If so, why not?

A.  It is true that Ventipulmin is not safe to use in late gestation mares. The reason is that it can interfere with the activity of oxytocin and the normal contraction of the uterus during labor.

Q. If you had a mare that gave birth to a foal that did not receive enough colostrum from her this year, would you breed her again? Would embryo transfer be a safer bet?

A. If a mare has produced either a low amount or low quality colostrum on a previous foaling, there is a significant chance that it will happen again on a subsequent foaling.  In these situations, you can use high quality colostrum from another mare and feed it to the newborn foal or you can administer IV plamsa to the foal.  Embryo transfer is an option but there is no guarantee that the recipient mare will produce adequate colostrum either.

How To Send In an AQHA DNA Sample

Today, Lacey gives me a hand with the youngsters to collect DNA samples.

Howdy folks! If you caught yesterday’s My Stable Life, you would have seen that we covered the topic of DNA Kits Vs. Parentage Verification, and why it’s necessary when it comes to registering your foals. Today, let’s talk about actually sending in a DNA sample to ensure your foals get their registration certificates.

It seems like a simple process, but the first couple of times I had to send samples in I had several questions. So let’s get to it:

1. Once you have obtained your DNA Kit in the mail from the AQHA, it’s time to round your foals up and start pulling hairs. Literally.

As soon as you open the envelope up, you will typically find 2 pieces of paper, an envelope and a kit for the DNA sample inside. Each kit is for a single horse only – the horse appearing above the barcode. You must be certain that the listed horse is the same one you are testing.

2. Next, complete the card that is attached to the top of the kit, detach it and return that portion to the AQHA.

3. Take the remaining portion of the card out to the barn or pasture with you. Pull approximately 50 hairs from the foal’s mane or tail by wrapping them around a clean comb or a forefinger. Grasp the hairs as close to the body as possible to ensure the roots are obtained – the root bulb of the hair contains the DNA, so be sure to collect pulled hairs (not cut) with root bulbs intact.

4. Remove the sticky, protective covering on your kit from the adhesive where instructed. Place the pulled hairs in the adhesive area, ensuring the roots are in the area also where indicated. Try and reapply the protective covering back to the adhesive, over top of the hairs as best you can. Fold the kit in half to help the adhesive area secure all the hairs.

5. Do not return the hairs and kit to the AQHA!! Instead, this portion must be placed into the envelope addressed to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, CA.

Now if you are Canadian and the foal was born on Canadian soil, the hairs in this envelope must also be accompanied by a Permit for Importation and a Statement of Health (both of which came included in the original envelope you received from the AQHA).

Fill out and sign the Statement of Health as directed and if you have decided to courier your DNA sample to the U of Davis instead of using regular mail, you must ensure to put the courier tracking number or invoice number at the bottom as well. If you are sending the sample via regular mail, you can leave this line blank.

Put the Permit for Importation and Statement of Health into another envelope and label it “IMPORT PERMIT.”

6. Place the 2 envelopes back to back with the words “IMPORT PERMIT” facing out on one side and the address for the U of Davis facing out on the other side. Tape the 2 envelopes together. This way, once your sample reaches the border, the import permit and health statement can easily be ripped off by customs agents for their files.

And that’s it! You’re done. Once the AQHA receives confirmation that your DNA sample has been sent to the U of Davis and the sample goes through its genetic testing, the AQHA will issue your foal’s first set of registration papers.

DNA Kits Vs. Parentage Verification

Have you ever found yourself at the end of the registering process for your new AQHA foals of the year, wondering which kit you should order to complete the task? I have.

If you do find yourself in this scenario registering your foals online, you will eventually come to the page where it gives you a choice between DNA kits and parentage verification kits, etc.

And you may ask yourself, “What’s the difference between these kits exactly?”

Or, “Why do some foals need parentage verification but others only need the DNA kit?”

And finally, “When you are given the choice (between a DNA Kit and a parentage verification kit) what’s best?”

I’ve always hated coming to that page and being unsure of what to order. So I decided to explore the subject a little further. I contacted the AQHA and the following is what a representative shared with me:


“Eventually every foal will need to be parentage verified.  Parentage verified means we need DNA types on file for the sire, dam and foal. The lab compares these types to prove the foal is actually out of those set of parents.

“However, DNA means only putting a DNA type on file for that one horse. We [the AQHA] only require just the DNA if the mare of a foal was born in 1989 or after. If the mare was born in 1989 or after and we request DNA, then we also require DNA on the sire as well. But, the foal will not need to be tested unless one the following applies:

• We require parentage verification on a foal, if the foal was produced by: Embryo transfer, frozen semen, cooled semen, if the foal is 48 months or older at time of registration, or if the mare was exposed to 2 stallions less than 30 days, or some type of rule violation.

“If none of the above apply and you request just DNA on the foal but the sire and dam are already typed, we will go ahead and have the lab do parentage verification on the foal. If one of the parents aren’t DNA typed and you request only DNA on the foal and none of the above apply, then we will just put a DNA on file for the foal only.”

And according to AQHA Rule 202. Registration Procedure:

(i) Parentage must be verified through genetic testing before a foal can be registered if:
(1) Either of the parents was less than 2 years of age at time of conception.
(2) It was the result of an embryo/oocyte transfer.
(3) It was conceived by the use of cooled transported semen.
(4) It was conceived by the use of frozen semen.
(5) It was more than 48 months of age at time application for registration is made.
(6) Its dam was exposed to more than one stallion within a 30 day time period.
(7) It has white markings exceeding the limitations specified in rule 205(d).
(8) It is foaled January 1, 2007, or after and is a descendant of Impressive 0767246 as required in rule 205(c).
(9) The Executive Committee has justifiable cause to question its parentage.

(j) A genetic type must be on file with AQHA for any mare foaled on or after January 1, 1989, prior to the registration of any foal.
(1) Proper fees as per rule 222 must be remitted.
(2) Refer to rules 209(f ), 212(a)(2) and 304(c).

This status means a foal and its sire and dam have been DNA typed and the foal has been confirmed to qualify as an offspring of that particular mating.

And if you still need further explanation,  you may want to call the AQHA and a rep will do their best to explain what kit is best for your situation.

The number to customer service at the American Quarter Horse Association is:

(806) 376-4811

Tomorrow on My Stable Life, we’ll tackle the process of actually sending equine DNA to be tested and how to get your samples across the border correctly.