California Riding Magazine • January, 2011

Eastern Assistance
Acupuncture and herbal medicines
better a mare's breeding prospects.

by Terri Van Wambeke, DVM, CVA, CVSMT

With breeding season right around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about getting your mare ready. This means more than merely choosing a stallion, it means making sure that she is at peak health and fertility.

Acupuncture and herbal medicines have been used for centuries to improve fertility in men and women. Human research indicates that the combination of Western medicine, along with acupuncture and herbs, appears to be the most effective approach to increasing fertility. Worldwide there have been many scientific publications demonstrating the effectiveness of this approach, even without the addition of more traditional western medical treatments. As noted by the National Institutes of Health, there are a few theories explaining how acupuncture might be working in the body to increase fertility. These include: altering blood pressure, flow and temperature, increasing endorphins, thereby decreasing pain and stimulation of the release of substances to increase the body's ability to heal itself. Modern women around the world commonly seek assistance from acupuncturists and doctors of oriental medicine to help them conceive and it's exciting to see our breeding mares also benefit from the integrative approach of both Western and Eastern medicine.

Acupuncture refers to the insertion of solid thin specialized needles into specific points on the body for the purpose of improving overall health and balance. These points lie along energy "highways" called meridians that flow around and through the body and organs. A problem on this "highway" can lead to imbalances, just like an accident during commuter hours can disrupt your entire day. Acupuncture and herbs help the energy to flow again, restoring health and general physical well-being.

Most fertility issues, with the exception of those that are structural, can be treated using acupuncture. It addresses imbalances in the system, alters blood flow, improves the function of the reproductive organs and allows us to use much smaller doses of hormones and other medications. Specifically, mares with hormone imbalances, cystic ovaries, uterine or vaginal infections, a history of miscarriage, short cycles or low egg production can benefit greatly from Eastern medicinal treatments. Acupuncture also helps to increase uterine clearance, improve cycling patterns and treat unexplained infertility.

Safe & Supportive

When performed by a properly trained and licensed veterinarian, acupuncture has very few side effects. Most side effects are local and as a rule, acupuncture is generally well tolerated and safe. Treatment should begin approximately three months prior to anticipated breeding date, and should continue through the first trimester, as this is when most early embryonic loss occurs. Be advised that many acupuncture points are contraindicated during pregnancy and these should be avoided after ovulation. Treatments are generally every one to three weeks depending on each mare's individual fertility issue. These techniques are particularly beneficial for the older maiden mare and the mare who has suffered repeated early pregnancy loss.

Many herbs used in Chinese Medicine are very beneficial in reducing the side effects of stress on the body. In times of stress the body produces hormones and metabolites that are counterproductive to becoming pregnant. Using acupuncture and herbs, along with good nutrition and healthy housing, decreases the body's stress response, allowing it to have the energy to put into reproduction.

Research in humans indicates that acupuncture treatment half an hour before and after introduction of embryos increases the chances of successful implantation as well as decreasing the chance of early embryonic loss. In part, this is due to increased blood flow to the lining of the uterus, which leads to a healthier environment for the embryo. Multiple inseminations and repeated breeding cycles are not only expensive for the mare owner, but also can lead to a further decrease in mare fertility.

Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are powerful tools the mare owner can take advantage of to get that perfect foal, maintain a healthy, fertile mare, and spend less time in breeding shed!

Author Terri Van Wambeke, DVM, CVA, CVSMT, operates TJ Holistic Inc. in the Sacramento area's Galt. For more information, visit or call 916-718-9872.