Last fall, I purchased a TB mare, sans paperwork, to cross with our Shire stallion. The mare was particularly nice, and the price was right, so I took a gamble.
She cycled off-and-on through the winter. In March, I turned her out with our stallion, after she showed when teased. Covered (repeatedly). She came into heat about 20 days later, covered (repeatedly). Her mood then changed, as if in foal, but she would occassionally - once a week or so - allow the stallion to cover.
In May, we had the vet ultrasound. No foal, no ovary activity. No sign of infection. The vet felt that this was due to her estimated age and suggested that we leave her with the stallion as the best tool for stimulating reproduction activity.
In July, I finally got around to tracing her lip tattoo and found her history. A fairly serious racer (she won about $255,000), she produced four foals after her racing career ended. Subsequently, she missed 2 years, produced a dead foal one year. Apparently, at that point she was sold. At least now I have a little more information on her breeding history. I have contacted the breeder, but have not yet heard back - they could probably fill in more of the blanks.
In August, we had another ultrasound done since thre have been no signs of heat, no covering for about a month. No foal. No ovary activity. "Very small and quiet" was the vet's comment. He feels we should just give it up and sell her -- but then he is very much a "naturalist" and apparently this mare is not in a "natural" state.
Mare is current on worming. Her generally health is very good, her weight good - a little on the light side.
Suggestions would be very helpful.
Posted on Monday, August 14, 2000 - 02:38 pm:
I would suggest that you have a complete BSE (breeding soundness examination) performed by an equine veterinarian who either specializes in, or has a profound interest in, reproduction.
You have indicated that this mare is an older mare, and that she has had multiple foals previously. This would suggest to me that an endometrial biopsy would be a good move (this would be included in a extensive BSE). Sometimes there is a degredation of the endometrium with multiple foals.
It would also be worth looking at the possibility of fluid retension pre- and post-breeding. Many older mares have reproductive conformation that inclines them to an inability for natural uterine clearance. Additionally some older mares have a harder time "clearing" fluid, regardless of conformation. Mares like that are good candidates for oxytocin therapy pre- and/or post-breeding (see this link).
With race earnings of the type this mare has, it sounds as though it is worth persevering with trying to get her in foal!
Thank you , Jos! I have been thinking that we should find a vet who just loves equine reproduction. Our current fellow is great, but doesn't seem to care that much about more TBs on this Earth. I will start tomorrow to find a specialist/passionist in the field. How does one find a vet that really has a profound interest in reproduction?
Do you think there is any significance in the fact that she cycled (semi) normally for a while, and now is not? Our other mares are still cycling. We are outside of Seattle. I know the light has a lot to do with it, but the other mares seem to have plenty of hormones left. I'm just wondering if there isn't a clue there. [Obviously, I am learning......and everything MIGHT be a clue...]
I have adjusted her diet per some TB folks suggestion - increased Vit E and Selenium. I'm being careful because I am afraid of going too far with the Selenium, but the local folks are pretty emphatic that it makes a difference. I have heard enough success stories that I am interested. Any thoughts?
Again, thank you for your feedback.
Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2000 - 10:11 am:
Probably word of mouth is the best way to find an equine repro specialist. Failing that, you might want to consult with your local veterinary teaching university.
Selinium is a vital trace element, and we are also deficient in it here in Eastern Canada, so feeding a commercially prepared feed, prepared in your local area, is one solution (as generally feed mills are cognizant of the deficiency, and supplement accordingly), or you can supplement yourself. Do be cautious (especially if you are contemplating using injectible selenium), as overdosing can be a hazard too.
At this stage, I don't really attach much importance to your mare not appearing to cycle in the middle of the season unless you were teasing every other day with a stallion, or ultrasounding about every 5 days. Not all mares will "show" if they are not teased by a stallion, and she is most likely one that showed a little earlier in the year, then stopped being highly demonstrative. Rule out all the other possibilities before worrying she's not cycling! Make sure she's teased hard, and regularly. It can take up to 15 minutes to get a mare to respond favourably to even a stallion sometimes. Poor teasing practices by humans is probably one of the weakest links in the equine reproduction chain. Start with that good BSE though!
We took her out of the stallion's paddock (she has been with a stallion since March) and have her turned out with mares. The mare paddock shares a fence with the stallion's so it's great for watching for signs of heat. The mare was showing for him, so we called in another vet (Friday) Vet was able to come on Monday.
Did an ultrasound and culture on the mare. No fluid, no obvious sign of infection. Culture should be back today. Cervix closed - didn't seem to be in heat.
Ovaries: same thing. Both small, quiet. No follicle activity. (never is)
So...? Not cycling and just playing with the stallion? Hormones not right? Were we too late (although we watch closely)? Thoughts?
Posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2000 - 04:55 pm:
Am I right in believing that you have had this mare less than a year? And if so, was she still racing prior to you getting her (or at least in training)? If so there is a possibility that she has been receiving steroids, which would cause her to "shut down". If this is indeed the case, I have seen mares take over a year to re-establish normal estrous cycles.
Another possibility is that she is an "intersex mare", whereby she carries an extra chromosome. This can result in the small ovaries (how small??) you mention. Typically, you would be looking at something pea size. (Hopefully it's not this, as there's no solution).
It would probably be worthwhile running a blood progesterone assay on her too. This will indicate whether or not she has actually been cycling (albeit silently). It would also indicate whether she was at a stage in her cycle where she would respond to more prostaglandin.
The next possibility would be to put her on a Progesterone and Estradiol ("P&E") hormone regime. This would hopefully establish an accurate estrus, and pin-point ovulation to within a couple of days. It's a 10 day course, with PGF2a given in conjunction with the dose on the 1oth day. She should ovulate approximately 9 days after that, if hCG is given on the morning of the 8th day. The combination also has a slightly stimulatory effect for follicular formation.
If none of the above seem to fit, it may also be worth running a T4 analysis for Thyroid levels. It may be necessary to supplement with Thyro-L. BET labs are a good facility to run these tests for you.
Thanks! I am going to print this and share with the new vet. She's young, not a lot of experience, but really wants to understand repro. She'll appreciate your guidance -- as do I.
Ovaries are not pea sized, but are "small" (a relative word - I should ask the vet(s) to articulate).
Good news today - An infection did show up on the culture. Never showed any external symptoms, but I guess that's the way it goes. Vet is coming back out in a couple of days to flush and I'll have her draw blood.
Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 - 05:47 pm:
pea size ovaries for a 6yo mare. Has been checked by various vets for the last 3 years. She has a serious spinal accident when foal. Could it be related to the missing of follicular activity?
Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 - 09:35 pm:
I doubt that the lack of ovarian development is related to the foal injury. The lack of follicular activity however is almost certainly related to the ovarian size.
Mares of this age with this size ovaries are often "intersex" mares - in other words during development in utero there's a "glitch" and instead of ending up with 64 chromosomes, they lose one and end up as 63,X/64,XX or 63,X/64,XY. These mares are not fertile, nor will they ever become so. They can be definitively identified as such by karotyping, which can be done at UC Davis among other places.
One area that some of these mares do have a use for in regards to the breeding shed is as "jump mares" for semen collection, as they are essentially naturally ovariectomised and many will therefore respond to exogenous estrogen with an estrus-like display, allowing the stallion to mount them for semen collection using an AV.
Paul Legerton (126.96.36.199)
Posted on Friday, January 04, 2002 - 02:27 am:
Didnt this mare have 4 foals so not intersex?
Posted on Friday, January 04, 2002 - 03:09 am:
Yes - well spotted!
I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of each detail with every horse on here, and (as can now be seen!) I don't always have the time to read back far enough in the notes.
A true intersex mare is not able to sexually develop and therefore cannot have had 4 foals.
Thanks for pointing this error out.
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