December 2015 - Beginning Breeders
Written by CRM
Saturday, 28 November 2015 02:05
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“Sex camp” and other adventures in managing a breeding stallion.

Shae and Tina Lovazanno are experienced horse owners, trainers and dressage competitors, but they are beginners when it comes to standing an active breeding stallion. “We’ve owned stallions before, but not breeding stallions and there is a big difference,” explains Shae.

Shae and Tracio. Photo by Tamara

We asked Shae to share some of their experiences after their first full year of standing the Pura Raza Espanola sire Tracio at Dancing Kings Farms, located in Morgan Hill and Woodside.

Tracio is a “qualified” stallion per the Spanish studbook, the ANCCE. The Lovazannos found him in Spain in 2014, while shopping for a top dressage prospect and he has quickly established himself as a star in that arena. In Open dressage competition, a 2015 highlight was earning Jr/YR Intermediate I Championship at the CDS Championships in September. More recently, Tracio and Shae were named USPRE California Series High Point Grand Champion for 2015.

As the competitive accomplishments rack up, Tracio is proving a quick study in the breeding shed. In his native Spain, the focus was on dressage training. He bred one foal there, then performed live cover twice as part of the screening process during quarantine on arrival in the United States.

Since then, the Lavazannos have taken him to a local vet for collection of fresh cooled semen, based on outside demand and for breedings to their own mares. That’s a little tough because breeding season and show season are concurrent. Tracio is easily able to toggle between show and shed mode, but it makes for a hectic schedule. So they recently stepped up his semen availability by taking him to “sex camp,” Shae jokes.

Here is Shae’s report on some of the early adventures in breeding.

Tracio got to spend one week in what I am sure he thinks is heaven on earth for a stallion! We dropped him off on Monday for a week’s stay at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos.

He was there to be collected and have his semen frozen. He pranced off the trailer with his head in the air calling to the mares to let them know he had arrived. He was definitely getting the attention he wanted and knew what he was there to do.

The staff there began collecting that day. All of his collections are done on a “phantom,” a breeding mount, with an artificial vagina.

Tracio did perform live cover twice. It’s part of the health screening for stallions when they are imported into the United States. We chose to never have him breed by live cover because he is a busy competition horse and the risks involved are not worth it.

He was collected Monday, which was a “flush out day,” then Wednesday and Friday. The flush out day is typical when a horse has not been collected regularly, or not for a long while. They gave him a day to “rest” in between collections. The rest days are for rebuilding a strong sperm count, rather than for his actual state of mind. If Tracio could choose, he would definitely be collected every day!

Tracio came home with his head hanging low looking very exhausted!

Right after collection, they use a process called “centrifugation.” This concentrates the sperm to a “pellet,” which is then frozen and stored. We now have 20-plus “straws,” or doses of frozen semen, ready to ship at any time! Frozen semen is much more convenient for both the stallion owner and the mare owner and it also reduces a lot of risk on the stallion. We’ll still do fresh cooled semen collection when a mare owner has a special need for it.

Prior to the Alamo Pintado visit, Tracio has pretty much figured out his breeding routine. When a mare owner requested semen or when we have a mare ready for breeding to him, we take him to a nearby vet for a one-time collection. With our competition schedule, we haul him to various places all the time, but we never take him to that vet except for collections for fresh cooled semen. So, he knows what his job is when he gets there, versus when he unloads at a show. He’s getting pretty good at it!

When I’m riding him, I can always tell a difference after he’s been collected. He’s more focused. He’s like, ‘Oh, I know what you want me to do.’

We have owned stallions before but never a breeding stallion. For us, competition comes first and breeding is more of a hobby. It is fun, especially when we are breeding horses for ourselves, but it’s also a lot of work and in another realm of the horse world. Arranging the collections, making videos and responding to emails are just as time consuming as training our horses. It has been really rewarding to see what’s come of various pairings and we are really enjoying it.

We had a good response to a Facebook contest in which we offered a free breeding to Tracio. It can be very expensive breeding to a top PRE stallion and we were happy to give a chance to somebody that might otherwise not have been able to afford it. Our requirements for mares bred to Tracio are not quite as strict as those of some breeders. Our feeling is that access to a top quality stallion is good for American breeding as a whole and, because this is more of a hobby for us, we can do that.