Horse Breeding

The Orphaned Foal

February 13, 2015

When this foal’s nurse mare rejected him, an unusual therapy eventually helped with adoption.

When a foal is orphaned, it might take a few tries and even a little therapy on the nurse mare to get her to accept him. Journal photo

When a foal is orphaned, it might take a few tries and even a little therapy on the nurse mare to get her to accept him. Journal photo

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Felix was an orphan at less than 10 hours of age.

His dam was a 19-year-old mare who had given birth to several foals previously. The birth was unassisted and uneventful.

The mare began to show signs of shock early the next morning and eventually died.

Felix was brought to our clinic for nursing care and management. We collected a small blood sample for evaluation of passive transfer of antibodies when he was about 12 hours old. We knew that he had nursed from his mother, but we did not know the quality or quantity Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Breeding How-To: Labeling Your Stallion’s Semen

January 30, 2015

Make sure there are no mix-ups by putting correct labels on collected semen.

A very important part of getting your stallion’s semen packed up and ready to ship is making sure it is properly and thoroughly labeled. Photo courtesy of Dr. Patrick McCue

A very important part of getting your stallion’s semen packed up and ready to ship is making sure it is properly and thoroughly labeled. Photo courtesy of Dr. Patrick McCue

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Throughout the country, stallions are collected for on-farm breeding, shipment of semen to the location of the mare, or for freezing. Some farms or clinics stand multiple stallions, whereas others may have a single stallion. Collection schedules vary with mare book size and management practices. A majority of Quarter Horse stallions with a large book of mares are collected on a routine basis, either every other day (i.e., even or odd days of the month), or on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday (and possibly Saturday) basis.

Breeding managers go to great efforts to promote or market their stallion(s), take pride in the way their stallions are housed, fed, groomed and handled, and are rightfully concerned about semen characteristics (especially sperm numbers and motility). The vast majority of farm personnel that collect, handle and process semen are well trained and efficient at their tasks. Read the rest of this entry »

The Changing Landscape of Quarter Horse Genetics, Part 2

December 19, 2014

What does the flattening genetic landscape mean for the future of the American Quarter Horse?

individual horse in a crowd

“Any time we take a single individual and increase its ability to generate offspring, that is going to decrease the genetic pool that is reproducing,” says Dr. McCue. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

In Part 1 of this series, you were introduced to the research team from the University of Minnesota that analyzed the genetic diversity of six Quarter Horse performance subgroups: halter, western pleasure, reining, working cow horse, cutting and racing. The 2012-2013 study was partially funded by the American Quarter Horse Foundation.

Now, we continue with the rest of the findings and what they mean for the future of the American Quarter Horse. Read the rest of this entry »

The Changing Landscape of Quarter Horse Genetics, Part 1

December 12, 2014

Certain populations of the American Quarter Horse are losing genetic diversity, as revealed in genetic research supported by the American Quarter Horse Foundation.

horses in a cluster

“We were able to prove quite clearly that horses were in a specific genetic cluster, depending on what performance group they came from,” says Dr. Molly McCue. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Talk to an equine geneticist long enough, and you are bound to hear two assertions made about the American Quarter Horse breed that sound like opposites: First, it is one of the most genetically diverse equine breeds in the world; and second, it’s becoming increasingly inbred.

Beginning in colonial America, the breed began from a diverse genetic base of largely Thoroughbred and Spanish blood that was added to and developed for roughly 200 years, focusing on producing quickness and durability. But fast-forward to the modern era of specialized American Quarter Horse performers – especially at the highest levels – and you find specialization in the horse-breeding herd, too; specific groups of individuals used to produce those top performers. Read the rest of this entry »

Stallion Reproductive Evaluation

December 5, 2014

It’s always a good idea to have a reproductive evaluation performed on your stallion so you’ll know what to expect and can identify potential problems.

Knowing your stallions reproductive health is important to the success of any potential breeding program

Knowing your stallion’s reproductive health is important to the success of any potential breeding program. Journal photo

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Reproductive evaluations are typically performed on stallions for three reasons:

  1. Estimate future reproductive potential
  2. Evaluate prior to purchase
  3. Determine causes of poor reproductive performance

The evaluation should encompass general health of the horse, behavior, mating ability, genital examination, semen evaluation and other parameters. In most cases, the examination can be performed in one day. Here are the important components of a stallion reproductive evaluation: Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Breeding Dilemma Resolved

November 21, 2014

Sometimes all it takes to manage mare reproduction problems is working closely with your veterinarian to find the program that works for your mare.

mare and foal

With proper care and management, a problem mare can conceive a foal. Journal photo

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

In the January 2011 issue of the Journal, I presented the case of a 15-year old mare with a history of subfertility. A series of tests yielded a final diagnosis of fungal endometritis – the mare had a yeast infection in her uterus. This column will describe the treatment and outcome after the first breeding of the year.

Fungal infections of the equine uterus can be difficult to treat and will often recur if all of the organisms aren’t eliminated. Read the rest of this entry »

Stallions That Accumulate

November 14, 2014

Proper management can help stallions with “sperm accumulation syndrome” still have a successful horse-breeding career.

stallion sperm mobility chart

In stallions affected by sperm accumulation, sperm numbers in the first collection will be very high and sperm motility will be low. The number of sperm per ejaculate typically decreases and the percentage of live, motile sperm increases after two to four days of daily collection. Courtesy of Dr. Patrick McCue

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

A 3-year-old stallion was referred to the clinic after an initial semen evaluation at home suggested that there were no motile spermatozoa in the ejaculate. It was the first time the horse had ever been collected.

The horse was in excellent body condition. The total scrotal width was measured at 9.3 cm, well above the minimum of 8.0 cm for a breeding stallion. A semen collection attempt was performed at 10 a.m. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Breeding Problems: Pyometra

November 7, 2014

Infectious fluid in the uterus can mean poor future fertility for a broodmare.

mare and foal

Pyometra carries a very guarded-to-poor prognosis for future fertility. The condition may be associated with a physical obstruction or functional defect in the cervix. Journal photo

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

A 19-year-old American Quarter Horse mare came to the clinic for evaluation of a vaginal discharge. The mare had given birth to eight foals in her lifetime, and the last foal was born five months prior to the clinic visit.

The foaling was normal, and the mare was left open and not rebred. The goal of the exam was to determine the source of the vaginal discharge and provide a prognosis for future fertility. The mare was in good body condition for her age, and her external reproductive conformation was normal. Read the rest of this entry »

Predicting Foaling

October 31, 2014

Technology plus clinical signs equal success in the horse-breeding business.

pregnant mare

The last few days prior to foaling can be especially tedious for the horse owner, farm manager or foaling staff. Know the foaling signs to watch for. Journal photo

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Clinical signs of impending foaling begin subtly a month or so prior to the due date. Changes become more dramatic and occur more rapidly as the day of foaling approaches.

The first noticeable change is in the mare’s mammary gland, which begins to enlarge two to six weeks prior to term. Some mares can develop a large amount of edema around the udder before the gland itself becomes enlarged. Mammary gland development will be much more pronounced in mares that have previously had foals than in maiden mares. The teats or nipples will remain relatively flat until the last few days prior to foaling, at which time they will engorge or fill with milk.

The mammary gland secretion changes from a clear straw-colored fluid to a more turbid milk-like substance as the due date draws near. The secretion Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Breeding Chemistry

October 24, 2014

Sometimes, synthetic progestins that are used on mares are also used on unruly stallions to calm their demeanor. Does this affect their performance in the breeding shed?

Horse owners and trainers should use caution and discretion when contemplating the use of altrenogest in young performance stallions destined for a future reproduction career. Journal photo

Horse owners and trainers should use caution and discretion when contemplating the use of altrenogest in young performance stallions destined for a future reproduction career. Journal photo

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Regumate or altrenogest, a synthetic progestin approved for suppression of estrus in mares, is also used to help maintain pregnancy in mares determined to be at high risk.

Regumate is occasionally administered off-label to stallions to suppress undesirable male behavioral characteristics that interfere with the horse’s training or athletic performance. In horses, products can be used off label if there is a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship and there is no licensed product on the market that treats the condition you’re trying to treat. Any liability for the product’s safety and efficacy lies with the prescribing veterinarian.

So does Regumate have adverse effects on reproductive performance in stallions? Progestins are known to inhibit pituitary luteinizing hormone secretion. In the male, LH stimulates Leydig cells of the testes to produce testosterone for spermatogenesis and libido. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Breeding History: Wilywood

October 17, 2014

This descendant of Driftwood sired classy and talented ranch and rodeo horses with great dispositions.

Robert Eliason, 17, ropes a calf on Wilywood without a bridle. Photo courtesy of Tom Eliason

Robert Eliason, 17, ropes a calf on Wilywood without a bridle. Photo courtesy of Tom Eliason

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

“Wilywood promoted himself,” Tom Eliason said with a smile. “Joann and I had eight children, and feeding the kids was always ahead of showing a horse. But the things Wilywood did for our family are beyond any numbers or statistics. Nobody can ever tell me he was just another horse.”

Tom would know. He was training horses professionally before he finished high school, and has bred Quarter Horses for four decades. He trained and rode Mr Flintrock, the 1977 AQHA world champion heeling horse, and debuted Two Eyed Jack in reining (they won). Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Breeding Compatibility

October 10, 2014

Some pairings just don’t work, and that seemingly perfect mare-stallion combination fails to result in pregnancy.

unhappy mare

Sometimes a typically easily bred mare and a usually very fertile stallion just don’t have the right genetic mixture. Journal photo

By Dr. Patrick McCue in The American Quarter Horse Journal

The 12-year-old mare had already successfully carried four foals to term. She was known as an easy breeder because she always settled on either the first or second cycle. The mare had conceived in previous years after having been bred with either frozen semen or cooled semen.

This year, the owner wanted to breed her to a local stallion of known good fertility and get her pregnant early in the season. Nice and simple. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way.

The previous fall, we suggested the mare be put under lights. Beginning about December 1, we had recommended that the mare be housed at night in a stall and allowed daily outdoor turnout. Read the rest of this entry »