Advances in veterinary science have made the equine breeding process more accessible to a wider swath of horse owners than ever before. Having focused his practice on equine reproduction for the last six years, William Swyers, DVM, observes that the current trend is toward the use of more assisted reproductive techniques.
Swyers’ practice, Stallion & Mare Assisted Reproduction, PC, SMART For Horses, in Riverside County’s Temecula continues to be poised smack dab in the middle of that trend with technology, techniques and veterinary know-how to help clients throughout the Southwest maximize the reproductive potential of their horses.
Computer assisted semen analysis, semen cryopreservation, video endoscopic insemination, embryo transfers, embryo cryopreservation and embryo vitrification are a few of the assisted reproductive techniques offered by Swyers and the SMART staff. Stallion management programs include fertility evaluations, routine breeding services, cooled and frozen semen programs that encompass collection, preparation, storage and distribution both domestically and internationally.
SMART For Horses’ complete mare management includes foaling services, fertility evaluations, breeding cycle management, sub-fertile mare management and pregnancy management for routine and high risk cases.
Management of cooled and frozen semen is a somewhat routine reproductive service now, and Swyers is most excited about what’s become possible in the management of oocytes, the female egg. Staying on the cutting edge of this area, SMART is beginning to collect eggs from mares to perform in-vitro fertilizations. This is relatively new with horses, Swyers notes. “The commercialization of this process only began in 2003 or 2004.” In-vitro is most useful when a mare has trouble conceiving or, for various reasons, is unable to have her eggs collected. In-vitro can also work well from the stallion’s perspective, Swyers explains. “If the stallion has poor semen quality or a low number of spermazoa, in-vitro can take over that process for him.”
Swyers also works with frozen embryos. “Donor mares are bred and embryos are collected,” he explains of another relatively new tool. “Instead of transferring the embryo into a recipient, the embryo is frozen and transferred later at a more appropriate time.”
Evaluations Are Essential
SMART For Horses is based at Tanya Jenkins Performance Horses in Temecula. Many of the cutting edge services Swyers and his team provide are best performed at SMART’s practice, but a well-equipped mobile unit allows them to travel throughout Southern California and surrounding states to provide the more routine cryopreservation services and assisted reproductive techniques for the mare. SMART’s facility has room for over 100 mares. They are welcome to come in for various phases of the breeding process, including the entire duration from conception to foaling and weanling their babies. This season, Swyers expects to have five stallions on site, with plans to manage the breeding of another 30-plus, as they did last year. All-time leading barrel racing sire, the Quarter Horse Dash Ta Fame, is one of
SMART’s charges, as is Brooke Front, a Thoroughbred hunter stallion.
The breeding process for mares and stallions starts with a thorough reproductive evaluation, beginning with age and reproductive history for both genders. “Young, maiden mares typically don’t have a lot of problems,” observes Swyers. “What we are seeing a lot these days are older maiden mares. Owners are using their horses much longer before breeding them.” Just as with humans, older equine moms face more potential challenges. A nine or 10-year-old mare is considered “older” for breeding purposes, Swyers notes. An ultrasound exam of the internal reproductive organs along with a culture and cytology of the uterus are fairly standard procedures for any prospective mom-to-be. A uterine biopsy is a great tool for mares with a history of trouble either conceiving and/or carrying the foals to term. Many of the problems discovered in these pre-breeding evaluations can be solved, Swyers notes. “Certain bacterial infections can be managed and/or taken care of, and some conformational changes in a mare’s reproductive tract can also be corrected or managed.”
In addition to collecting and processing semen in cooled and frozen states, SMART For Horses offers training services for stallions, teaching them to be proficient and comfortable on the phantom mare used in the process. “It’s not automatic for them and
getting them comfortable with it takes some time,” Swyers explains.
Demand for SMART For Horses’ services has increased steadily, Swyers says. “In many cases, people are spending a tremendous amount of money on breeding and they want every opportunity for a pregnancy to occur quickly and efficiently as possible.“
For more information about SMART For Horses,
call William Swyers, DVM, at 951-658-2800 or visit www.smartforhorses.com.