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The expense of not preparing the mare...
The expense of not preparing the mare...


One of the worst situations for the broodmare owner is to end the breeding season with an open mare.  Next is to end the breeding season with a mare bred at the very last.  This mare will be foaling very late and the God of Fertility will have to smile on her for her to be bred back on foal heat next year or the season will end with her still open.  The only way to improve her foaling date is to skip a season and start early the next year.

The best way to prevent the economical and financial disappointment of missing a foal is to have the mare ready to breed before the season begins.  If she is thin or if she has a uterine infection at the beginning of the season there will be time lost correcting these problems.  These problems may not be diagnosed until after two or three attempts at breeding.  If the first attempt is unsuccessful, it may be passed off as a mare problem, as this is the first heat of the season and the heat may have been irregular.  So we rebreed the mare three weeks later after an ultrasound finds her not pregnant and coming into heat, or if the mare is showing heat to the stallion on recheck.  Two weeks after this second breeding the ultrasound finds her open again, or when presented to the stallion she is showing signs of heat.  Six weeks have been lost and we are facing a dilemma.

If the mare was checked by ultrasound and found to be open, there is still time to culture her uterus before she has to bred the third time.   However, if you decide to wait until time for the next heat and just take the mare by the stallion for a quick tease and she shows signs of heat, you are faced with a difficult decision.  Do we go ahead and breed her since we are right there and the both the mare and stallion are more than ready?  Or, suspecting there is a mare problem with this proof of a second failed breeding, do we take her in for an examination and miss this breeding?  I really did not need to ask the last question as human nature and the eternal optimism of the mare owner will dictate the mare be bred right then.  By now the mare's owner is beginning to suspect there may be a problem with the stallion.   He (it has to be a he; ladies know a great deal more about these things and are more likely to take preventive measures early on!) knows the last breeding was a successful one as the mare stayed in heat for the expected length of time and was probably bred two or three times.  The mare has had a foal every year (except last year) and always became pregnant after breeding through one heat.  So there must be a problem with the stallions fertility!  But, since everything is in place, we will breed one more time.

This ties up another two or three weeks until the mare can be ultrasound or she can be returned to the stallion.  After nine weeks of trying, it is finally time to have something done.  It is also late May or early June.  

The reproductive examination can be done in the clinic.  The ovaries will be examined to be sure they are both present and functioning.  The uterus will be examined rectally for size and texture.  The walls will be palpated for any cysts or scars.  Using a speculum, the cervix will be observed for scars and to confirm the stage of the heat cycle as previously determined by the examination of the ovaries.  The vagina will be examined for discharge and scaring.  The color and lubrication of the lining will further confirm the heat status.  The lips of the vulva will be evaluated for their ability to close and protect the vagina,
and ultimately the uterus, from contamination.

The mares weight and body condition will be evaluated to determine if nutritional changes are needed.

All of the above can be performed during an office visit and takes about as long as it takes to tell you about it.  A swab of the uterus will be taken to check for infection.  A check for inflammatory cells will tell us promptly if there is infection in the uterus.  Once this is found we know we do not need to go back to the stallion this heat.  

Using the swab we will do a bacterial culture which tells us what the infection is and what is the best antibiotic for treatment.  This result will take a little more then 48 hours.  The antibiotics are infused into the uterus for specific treatment of the infection.  The number of infusions are determined by the type of bacteria and how much of it grows on culture.

To be sure this one round of treatments was successful, another uterine culture will be necessary a week after the last infusion.  If this is negative, the mare can be brought into heat using prostaglandin or wait for her next natural heat to be taken to the stallion.

If the above had been done before the beginning of the breeding season, the mare would already be two months pregnant.  If she did not become pregnant after two breedings, the mare's owner would have had a reason to suspect the stallion.

When a stallion owner requests a negative culture of the mares coming to his pride and joy, he is protecting both parties.  If the mare comes to the farm with an undiagnosed uterine infection and does not become pregnant, there are mixed feelings.  The stallion's owner is sure of his `manhood' and just knows the mare must have something wrong with her.  The owner of the very nice mare is just sure there is nothing wrong with his lady and is starting to wish he had selected another, more potent stallion, and tells this to everyone listening at the next saddle club meeting!   It is easy to see where this is going.  In the areas where the stud fees are in the 10s of 1,000s of dollars you can be sure the mares are thoroughly examined and the exam verified before the mare can think about visiting her suitor.   We should take our mares just as seriously.

Whether the mare is to be bred naturally, by artificial insemination using fresh semen, or by artificial insemination using fresh cooled semen, the precautions are the same.  The routine reproductive examination should be the first priority after the stallion is selected and the paper work completed.  The small cost involved will be more then made up by reduced trips to the stallion or fewer days of mare care.  It will shorten the time to the establishment of a pregnancy and assure a good experience for the mare, the stallion, and their owners.

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