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November 2017 - AAEP is on Stall Rest

AAEP is taking the month of November off from "Ask the Vet", but will be back in December to answer your equine health questions concerning winter weather care for your horse with expert, Dr. Christine Tuma.



Click here to read this month's questions and answers.
  1. Can I breed any jumping mare by any jumping stallion and expect that the foal will be able to jump the same? What does the latest knowledge about genetics say? (View Answer)
    Although our understanding of equine genetics has been greatly expanded in recent years, we are a long way from recognizing the genes for a given athletic talent. The Equine Genome Project, an international team of scientists, has sequenced, or mapped, all the DNA of the horse. Surprisingly, we only recognize about 2% of the genetic material as "genes" for specific traits. That means we have a map, but we don't know where 98% of it goes. In addition, there are "inherited tendencies" that may not be genetic. For example, we know that the mare can transmit undesirable traits like OCD and metabolic syndrome, so females with these traits should not be bred or even carry embryo transfer foals. Maybe there is a "jumping gene", but we haven't found it yet. We should be selecting horses that are outstanding in a given discipline, and breeding them. It would not be wise to "settle for" less than the absolute best we can afford. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho
  2. I have a mare due to foal in about a month. She is a pasture horse and not use to being stalled. I have been told that stalling her when she is close to foaling may stress her too much and I should let her foal in her usual environment. Thoughts? (View Answer)
    Exactly where to put a foaling mare has been a question tormenting horsemen since the first stall was constructed. A stall gives ready access to the mare and foal immediately postpartum (after birth) but some mares resent confinement either due to the restricted space, or the lack of social interaction with other herd mates. A clean, grassy paddock would be ideal, but not every facility has this luxury. We should consider the experience and temperament of the mare. Maiden mares may need more supervision during the foaling process, while veteran moms can usually get this done without any help at all. If a stall is our only choice, try to find an environment where she is most at ease. If she paces the fence or stall, she is obviously not comfortable. Some nervous mares respond well to having a buddy horse in a stall nearby. Finally, remember that millions of mares have given birth without people around to worry about them. So relax. Enjoy the miracle of your new foal. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho
  3. I own a stallion that we are going to be using for breeding, but he is positive for Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED). The mare that we would like to breed to him is NN. Will the foal be positive for GBED? We have high caliper cutting horses and this poses some concern. (View Answer)
    Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED) is a genetic, autosomal recessive defect carried by up to 10% of Quarter Horses, Paint and related breeds. A recessive trait is one that can only be expressed if both parents carry a copy of the gene. Like the genetics of eye color in people, someone with brown eyes can carry a copy of the blue-eyed gene, but expression of the trait (blue eyes) requires that both parents are carriers. A stallion that carries the GBED gene will not be effected, but he will pass on a copy of the gene to 50% of his foals from negative mares. But 100% of his foals from positive mares will be aborted late, or die during the first eight weeks of life. Interestingly, the AQHA requires all stallions be tested for the five genetic diseases currently recognized. glycogen branching enzyme deficiency (GBED) hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA) hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) malignant hyperthermia (MH) polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) ...But the presence of any of these genetic markers "does not disqualify any horse from being registered or competing in AQHA events". It costs $125 for the testing thru the AQHA in their lab. The AQHA is a private, profitable entity and maintaining a genetic data base is a worthy endeavor. This allows performance monitoring so desired traits of certain lines can be acquired through careful selection. The real question here is one of ethics, rather than genetics. We must consider the damage that genetic disorders such as HYPP, HERDA, CID and others have caused in large populations of horses. Good horsemanship dictates good care, not only of the horses we have now, but future generations, as well. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho
  4. We had a foal born a few days ago and the veterinarian says there is no lens in one eye. We asked if a lens could be implanted, which he thinks the surrounding area at the bottom is not formed to support attachment. None of us have heard of this. Any ideas? (View Answer)
    It reminds me of a dog breeder client I had many years ago. Her husband was a horse breeder, but the wife was strictly a "dog expert". While her husband was out of town, a mare foaled. The wife called me to say the baby was fine, but wanted to know when she would "open her eyes". Was it two weeks like a puppy? She argued vehemently with me when I told her foals are born with their eyes open. I convinced her that a new foal exam would be a good idea. The foal presented with four major birth defects: 1. She had no eyes (hence the appearance they were closed), 2. Atlanto/axial subluxation, 3. Scoliosis and 4. Cardiac arrhythmia and murmur. Unfortunatley, she did not like the bad news. Two years later, another veterinarian had to euthanize her when she fell on somebody, apparently due to the congenital neuro problems. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho
  5. I have a 16-year-old mare that had two foals after we purchased her four years ago. We have tried to breed her through artificial insemination to no avail. She spent a week at Auburn University, which they could not find a reason why she would not breed. Any suggestions? (View Answer)
    Mares are remarkably fertile animals. However, their productivity declines after the age of about 13. The fact that your mare has had two foals in the last four years is encouraging, but without more details of her breeding history, it will be difficult to make specific suggestions here. In young, "normal" mares, pregnancy occurs in about 60% of cycles. During the course of the average breeding season, though, we would expect 90% or more to conceive after breeding through four or five cycles unless infection or other pathology is involved. Even though she has had foals in previous years, she has eggs and a reproductive tract that are 16 years old, and many mares of this age can be challenging. Managing older mares often requires diagnostic tests. Culture, biopsy and ultrasound images can detect abnormalities that may impair fertility, but our understanding of the amazingly complex intricacies of reproduction is still very limited. Although the standard diagnostic tests may come back completely "normal", these observations are a minuscule segment of the entire process. There are many things we can measure, but the microscopic, cellular events that must take place for pregnancy to be established and maintained to term are still a mystery . Some mares just "skip years". It is not uncommon, despite exhaustive measures, to fail to get the mare in foal this year, but she easily conceives the first time next year. Artificial insemination (AI) can improve fertility in older mares because it reduces the chance of infection, but many mares--even difficult cases--will "take" when they are simply turned out with a stallion. Although stallion owners may be reluctant to do this due to concerns for safety, horses have been making foals a lot longer than there have been people to manage them. You may try changing stallions. There are aspects of the immune system that may impair fertility in mares bred repeatedly to the same stallion. In addition, there are some breed specific genetic disorders that can have effects on fertility. These tests are readily available through your AAEP member veterinarian. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho
  6. How old is too old to breed a mare for the first time? (View Answer)
    Mares do not typically go through menopause, as they will usually cycle throughout their entire lives, but their fertility starts to decline after about 13 years as their eggs and reproductive organs age. Mares that have had foals regularly up to that age, may be easier to get in foal, so their productivity can extend into later years. However, older, "maiden" mares can be a real challenge to breed. There is no greater danger to the mare due to advancing age, but conception is often more difficult. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho
  7. I have a 16-year-old mare that has had two foals after we purchased her four years ago. We have tried to artificially inseminate (AI) her to no avail. She spent a week at Auburn University in which they could not find a reason why she would not breed. Any suggestions? (View Answer)
    Mares are remarkably fertile animals. However, their productivity declines after the age of about 13. The fact that your mare has had two foals in the last four years is encouraging, but without more details of her breeding history, it will be difficult to make specific suggestions here. In young, "normal" mares, pregnancy occurs in about 60% of cycles. During the course of the average breeding season, though, we would expect 90% or more to conceive after breeding through four or five cycles unless infection or other pathology is involved. Even though she has had foals in previous years, she has eggs and a reproductive tract that are 16 years old, and many mares of this age can be challenging. Managing older mares often requires diagnostic tests. Culture, biopsy and ultrasound images can detect abnormalities that may impair fertility, but our understanding of the amazingly complex intricacies of reproduction is still very limited. Although the standard diagnostic tests may come back completely "normal", these observations are a minuscule segment of the entire process. There are many things we can measure, but the microscopic, cellular events that must take place for pregnancy to be established and maintained to term are still a mystery . Some mares just "skip years". It is not uncommon, despite exhaustive measures, to fail to get the mare in foal this year, but she easily conceives the first time next year. Artificial insemination (AI) can improve fertility in older mares because it reduces the chance of infection, but many mares--even difficult cases--will "take" when they are simply turned out with a stallion. Although stallion owners may be reluctant to do this due to concerns for safety, horses have been making foals a lot longer than there have been people to manage them. You may try changing stallions. There are aspects of the immune system that may impair fertility in mares bred repeatedly to the same stallion. In addition, there are some breed specific genetic disorders that can have effects on fertility. These tests are readily available through your AAEP member veterinarian. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho
  8. What are all the different ways of detecting a twin pregnancy in a mare? (View Answer)
    Although there are some hormone tests available to determine pregnancy in mares, the only reliable method of detecting twins is with ultrasound. This is a safe and very effective way of imaging the reproductive tract of mares and is readily available through most AAEP members. Madison Seamans, DVM, MS, Kuna, Idaho