It's probably safe to say that behind every homebred filly or colt there's a story. It could be as simple as one live cover, one pregnancy check, and a healthy foal arrival--smooth sailing. Or, the process could've been a little more complex. I had the opportunity to breed a favorite Warmblood jumper that belonged to my university to an accomplished stallion that had also been at the university for a time. The mare, Koko, was in Virginia. Aslan was in Texas. The objective wasn't rocket science: Make sure the mare was in heat, time her ovulation with a shot, order the cooled semen and have it delivered, inseminate the mare. But it wasn't that simple. FedEx wasted the first shipment by sending it to Pennsylvania. Then Koko ovulated over a holiday weekend when no overnight shipping was available. But the third time, despite a sheriff's roadblock delaying delivery for hours, Koko became pregnant and carried to term. Never mind the fact Mocha was born on a hillside in a raging thunderstorm; we had a healthy filly.
I'll be the first to admit that I didn't do enough homework before having this mare bred: The collection of breeding articles within our pages this month would've been a fantastic resource for planning.
I would have read up on breeding soundness examinations and asked our veterinarian to perform one to determine Koko's suitability as a broodmare in the first place. After all, she was in her late teens and probably a maiden—a combination that can reduce a mare's fertility significantly (I didn't know that either at the time). We later found out that Koko had been deemed unbreedable several years earlier, so it's a wonder she caught at all.
Also, I might have asked for information on Aslan's sperm motility and per-cycle pregnancy rate, and paid close attention to the farm's live-foal policy for cues about his fertility. Of course, looking back I realize his rates were probably stellar, considering that Koko conceived.
Ultimately, I was a novice breeder, who with the help of some good fortune and a very skilled veterinarian (Thanks, Dr. Bosse!) reached my goal of producing my first (and probably only) homebred foal.
This month's breeding articles give big- and small-time breeders, even first-timers, a comprehensive look at the complex aspects of breeding, with input from some of the world's experts. If you choose to breed next year, I hope you'll take advantage of these materials.
Speaking of education, we're always looking for new ways to help you take better care of your horses. Our latest efforts: You can hear our digital editor/producer, Christy West, and a guest vet talk about horse health every Wednesday morning during Horse Radio Network's live "Horses In The Morning" show (www.TheHorse.com/Podcasts.aspx). Also, our recent "Ask the Vet Live" events (www.TheHorse.com/Ask-the-Vet) have been quite popular.
As 2010 draws to a close, I hope you have a safe and memorable holiday season with your family--human and horse.
(Reprinted from the December issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.)