Summit Speakers Discuss Equine Reproductive Technology

Four speakers discussed advances in assisted reproduction to wrap up the session on the emerging science of horse breeding at the Kentucky International Equine Summit, held in Lexington, Ky., April 28-29. The speakers agreed that the key is not finding new technologies for breeding, but honing in on those we currently employ with a greater understanding of what is most effective.

Panelists included:

  • John Steiner, DVM, Dipl. ACT, a specialist in equine reproduction at Rhinebeck Equine LLP in Rhinebeck, N.Y.;
  • Laura Wipf, farm manager at Royal Vista Ranches LLC in Wayne, Okla.; and
  • Jason Bruemmer, PhD, and Jim Heird, PhD, both of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. Bruemmer is an associate professor in the department of animal sciences and Heird is the director of teaching and outreach equine sciences.

Some of the subjects included:

  • Embryo vitrification (the ability to harvest a mare's eggs within 24 hours of her death);
  • Sex-sorting;
  • Embryo transfer;
  • Gamete intrafallopian transfer (placing an mare's egg into a surrogate mare where it will be fertilized--a method that might be utilized when traditional embryo transfer is not successful);
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (injecting a single sperm into an egg); and,
  • Cloning.

Wipf said frozen semen is useful when a stallion dies, or gets sick or injured during breeding season.

"Frozen semen offers a backup and opens doors to international shipments," Wipf said.

Heird noted that it recently took him 11 months to get the proper paperwork completed and approved to ship some fillies overseas, but only six weeks to ship semen.

"It's a simple and easy way to spread and improve genetics around the world," he said.

Panelists also discussed the effects of mares having a greater impact on the gene pool through multiple foal registrations per year, which several breed organizations now allow.

"This will diversify genetics, allow for more outcrosses, and give freshman sires a chance that they may not otherwise get," Wipf said.

Bruemmer summed it up by saying all of these technologies are beneficial, but we have to learn how and when to best use them.

He noted that registration numbers for Quarter Horses, Paints, and Arabians have declined between 2003 and 2007. However, Thoroughbred registration numbers have increased during this same time, despite being the breed that does not allow assisted reproduction.

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Jeannie Blancq Putney

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