From the Foaling Barn


It Was A Long Cold Winter



We got our first significant snowfall December 9 with 20 wet, heavy inches. I awoke that morning with a splitting headache, sore throat, and fever--in short, I had the flu. The rest of the winter was more of the same--gray, snowy, icey and cold. Today is April 2 and as I sit here at the computer, I survey a still white world. All the pastures are still snow covered; the temperature the last three mornings has been around 10 degrees. My case of the flu dragged on through Christmas and was followed by a cold and bronchitis. With all the dreariness, we were really looking forward to the arrival of our first foal due February 2, an Einstein out of our mare Smart Sugar Pop. However, our new filly took her sweet time waiting til a fierce cold spell February 18. However, she's a beauty and well worth the wait.

Last year we named all our foals after Harry Potter characters.  This year we had another naming theme which we made into an online contest--the first person to guess the theme would get a Chatsberry Farm cap.  The first foal's name is Esther.  No one successfully guessed the theme until our second filly arrived four weeks later.  Our mare The Bun Is Dun had a gorgeous buckskin filly named Diane.


Ann Pulling was the first to correctly identify our naming theme as characters from the sitcom "Cheers".

Which Mare To Which Stallion: Part Two

Once I settle on a list of stallions I want to breed to, I begin the process of assessing the stallions and mares to determine the best crosses .The very first thing I do when trying to decide which mare to breed to which stallion is to thoroughly and truthfully consider my mare's strengths and weaknesses. It's nice to think you could breed any good mare to any good stallion resulting in a superlative foal. But that's just not the case; it's just not that easy.Here are some of the things I consider. If the mare was shown, was she hot in the show ring, or laid back? Did she have a lot of feel or was she dull-sided? Was she soft in the face?
Conformationally, is she long-backed, tight coupled, low-headed, short necked, slight in the hip, upright in the shoulder, pretty-headed, plain-headed, tall, short, stocky, small-boned,etc?

Then I do the same thing with the stallion--consider all his plusses and minuses. Of course this is a lot more difficult than assessing your own mare. This process takes a lot of investigation. In my next post, I'll tell you how I go about getting the stallion information I need to make a good decision. Besides the issue of the stallion's conformation, feel and personality, I consider a couple of other factors as well. Color is not too important to me, but I do know that flash sells, so it is a minor consideration. Given an equal choice, I'll try to breed for some color. Buyers seem to be crazy for splash overos, which gives me some pause. I wonder what we're doing to the breed when we overlook the fact that we are breeding so many deaf horses just because we like the flash.

Another thing that is really important to me is how easy it is to work with the breeding manager or owner. Several years ago I had a very bad experience trying to breed two mares to a popular stallion. The breeding manager was a nightmare--never returning my calls or even talking to me directly about the mares (she had an assistant handle everything). After four tries we got one mare in foal for a June baby. The other mare did not get in foal. Over a five-year period, this particular stallion was moved around from stallion station to stallion station, with a different breeding manager every year. I quit breeding to the stallion until finally he got into a more stable situation. I'm also wary of difficult owners, who put a lot of restrictions and regulations on the mare owners. There are a few owners out there who seem to forget they are selling a product.

That said, the vast majority of owners and breeding managers are great and really want you to get your mare if foal. I just bring it up because, a bad breeding manager or an impossible owner can wreck you breeding plans.

Finally, there's one more thing that is more important than anything I've said so far. Have your mares checked for genetic disease, and ask the stallion owners if their studs have been checked as well. Almost all the diseases that we can determine by DNA, are recessive. Which means you can still breed to a carrier stallion as long as your mare is not a carrier also. You just need to know.

When I'm trying to fit all the pieces together, it's never straight forward or foolproof. I usually have ot make some compromises. If I think the body-types will work well together, I may overlook the fact that the horses aren't quite as good together is some other way. Or if everything else looks great, I'll breed plain-headed to plain-headed. Really, when you get down to it, trying to find the perfect cross, is a little more art than science. For example, I have a really plain, long-backed Chic mare, who always out-produces herself every year.

Which Mare to Which Stallion

It's the quietest time of the year on the farm. The foaling barn is empty so no stalls to clean, no orphan foals to tend, no vet appointments at 7 A.M., no trips to the airport to pick up semen, no garden to weed, no pastures to mow--just lots of time to indulge one of my favorite pastimes--planning my breedings for next year. This planning takes me about three to four months to really firm up. I will change my mind repeatedly, before I finally decide which of my fourteen mares to breed to which stallions. I'll scribble lists of stallions and mares on the backs of receipts, on backs of napkins, etc. But this week I made my initial foray into the whole process.

I have a big whiteboard in the foaling barn. I have seven columns on the board. The first three columns are 1. the mare's name, 2. the stallion the mare is curently bred too, and 3. the stallions I'm currently considering for 2013. The fourth column is a list of held over breedings. Since I lost two mares and ended the season with three open mares, I have five breedings to start with next year, including Wimpy, Boomshernic, Conquistador Whiz, Smart Like Juice, and Gunners Special Nite. Then in the fifth list I have a list of all the proven studs that I would consider breeding to which include such names as Gunner, Einstein, Spooks Gotta Gun, etc.  Finally, I have a list of unproven studs (no foal crop to show) which includes Gunnatrashya, Walla Walla Whiz, Spooks Gotta Whiz, etc. After the names on the last three lists, in parenthesis, I'll tentatively put in mare's names.

In general, because I'm breeding to sell, I stick to proven studs, especially those who have produced offspring earnings in excess of a millions dollars. I do breed to several unproven studs each year, but always to high earners who have owners with enough money to promote the horses and first class breeding managers. It's always a gamble to breed to a new stud, because you never know what kind of a sire he will be and you don't know if his popularity will hold up.

Then as I clean the barn each day, I study my list and think about my mares. Every few days, I'll pull a folding bar stool up in front of the white board and play with the lists, adding names to my stallion lists, moving mares around. As I said, my mare's list will go through numerous iterations before I'm satisfied.

I have a lot of criteria I use to determine which stallion to which mares, and a number of ways I gather the information I need to make my final choices. I'll go into this a lot more in coming posts.

Case Study: MQF # 1

Today Dr. Brian was out to do fertility evaluations on our three open mares. In this post I want to focus on one of the mares whose breeding problems appear to be the most problematic.

Ozzie (Whizard of Oswald by Topsail Whiz) is a seventeen year-old mare, sound and in good health. She has been a fairly easy breeder until two years ago. After a normal pregnancy and delivery, when Dr. Brian ultrasounded her in preparation for rebreeding, he found signifcant changes in her uterus. She had developed numerous uterine cysts, at least two of them approximately the size of a fourteen day embryo. Brian was not overly concerned about the cysts. He said he has seen mares get pregnant with many more cysts. However, the shape, location and size of the cysts, made it difficult to determine pregnancy until there was a heartbeat. Unfortunately, during the last two years Ozzie never became pregnant, or, if she did, she lost the pregnancy before day 25. When Dr. Brian checked Ozzie today, he found that one of the cysts had grown substantially since he last checked her in June.

While cysts are fairly common in aging mares and often cause no breeding problems, if the cysts are large they can interfere with the embryo when it enters the uterus. The embryo needs to move around in the uterus in order to establish maternal recognition, so that the embryo is not rejected by the mare. Also, cysts may indicate problems in the lining of the uterus that would interfere with the attachment and nourishment of the embryo. To determine the health of  Ozzie's uterus, Dr. Brian took a small biopsy of the uterine lining which will be evaluated for infection or degenerative processes. Biopsys are graded I, II, and III. A Grade I indicates a healthy uterus with pregnancy odds of 75% or better; a Grade III uterus would have only a 10% chance of achieving a pregnancy.

Besides ultrasound, the two most important tests Dr. Brian uses in his feritlity evaluation are a biopsy of the lining of the uterus and a small volume lavage (SVL). The SVL is usually done to determine infectious pathogens in the uterus. A small amount of fluid is injected into the uterus and then drawn out and cultured. The SVL gives a better picture of the health of the uterus than a swab which only tests one small part of the uterus. Often the culture from SVL will show infection when a swab culture will be clean. When Dr. Brian did a SVL on Ozzie, he was only able to retrieve a very small amount of the injected fluid, which may mean that the large cyst is, indeed, interfering with normal uterine activity.

If Ozzie's biopsy comes back a Grade I or II, we could choose to have the three large cysts removed to vastly improve chances of pregnancy. However, with a Grade III Ozzie's breeding career would be over.

I'll keep you updated on the results.

Ozzie and Her Last Foal

Breeding Problems: MQFs (Mares of Questionable Fertility)


Next Thursday our excellent vet, Dr. Brian Dahms, is coming out early in the morning to perform a fertility assessment on my three open mares, Dry Sugar Rose, Smart Little Jewel, and Whizard of Ozwald.  Each one of these mares was bred multiple times last spring with differing but always disappointing results.  When Dr. Brian comes out next week, his basic work-up on each mare will include palpation, ultrasound of the uterus and ovaries, speculum examination of the cervix, uterine biopsy, and uterine culture by use of small volume lavage.  The biopsy will be sent out for evaluation and grading; the small volume lavage will be cultured for infectious agents.  After we get the results back, we'll decide how to proceed with each mare. 

During the next week, I'm going to write up a case history of each mare.  Then after the exams, I'll follow up and let you know what if anything we'll be doing differently to each mare before and during breeding season.

These three mares, at ages 19 and two at 17, are among my oldest mares.  Most mares' fertility begins to decline, sometimes precipitously, beginning around aged 17, so it isn't unusual to be facing breeding issues.  I'm willing to spend a little time and effort to try to get a few more foals out of each of these mares because they are three of my best mares.  They all have impeccable pedigrees, outstanding show careers, and/or have a strong  produce records.

The New Recipient Mares Arrive.

Our New Recipient Mares

Last week our two new recipient mares arrived from Royal Vista Southwest in Purcell, OK. We named them Michelle and Rosanne, after the owners of the stallions whose embryos each one is carrying. This way we keep it straight in our minds which mare is carrying which embryo--Michelle is carrying a Spooks Gotta Gun embryo and Rosanne is carrying a Smart Spook. We like to give them real names, because we treat them just like we treat our other mares. I hate it when recipients arrive with white plastic collars with their numbers emblazoned in black. I know this is a necessary evil at big farms, and most big time horse owners don't get so attached to their horses that they care about the anononymity of recipient mares. But we're small time and and relatively new to breeding horses. All our mares are well-loved and well-cared for, and we take care of them personally every day.

Both mares are big and handsome. I'm really interested to see the foals they produce, because our donor mare, Shin N In The Finals, is a short, stocky mare, and all of her foals so far have been small like her. I'm hoping these big mares will produce bigger foals. However, I've read many academic studies that all say there will be only minor difference in the ultimate size of the foals, no matter how big or small the recipient. Well, this should be an interesting experiment.

Michelle, a handsome, bay is pretty laid back. She leads well and is nice to be around. Rosanne, a sorrel who appears to be the dominant one, is head shy and we've been having a little trouble getting a lead rope on her. But both mares are in isolation for two weeks--in stalls at night and together in a small paddock during the day. We've been working with Rosanne everyday while we have her confined, and she's getting much better about letting us clip on the lead rope. She's fine once we have her and she leads quietly. She's very attached to Michelle, and wants to follow her, so she now comes to the gate immediately if I take her friend out. I'm sure she'll be just fine.

We isolate all new horses who come to the farm. When we send our own mares down to Texas to be bred, , they, too, spend two weeks in isolation when they come home, just to make sure they haven't brought back any diseases. I especially like this practice with recips, because it gives me a chance to get to know them and assess their personalities.

Arrivals and Departures: Recipient Mares



One of our wonderful recipient mares.

Tomorrow, our good friend Travis Hochstatter from The South Farm in Whitesboro, Texas, is bringing up our two recipient mares from Royal Vista Southwest. The new recipient mares are carrying two embryos from our mare Shin N In The Finals. Shiney foundered after treatment for a retained placenta. While she has recovered, she sustained some damage to one of her hooves which we will need to monitor carefully for the next year. We decided it would not be safe for her to carry her own foal this year. Because she is our most promising young mare, we also decided to try for two embryos. After some early difficulties we were successful with embryos from breedings to Smart Spook and Spooks Gotta Gun.

Both recipient mares have been checked for heartbeats and are now ready to come to their new home for the next year. While there are many great reproduction centers throughout the country, Dr. Brian likes to use Royal Vista Southwest in Purcell, OK. Royal Vista has one of the oldest and most respected ET programs in the country, and we have had an excellent relationship with them for the past eight years.This year we had two wonderful recips, who carried foals by Spooks Gotta Gun and Big Chex to Cash. They were both great mothers, easy to handle, and good with other mares and foals. The first to return to OK is a handsome black mare (the one in the rolling pictures at the top of the page). We have not weaned the foal off the other mare yet. She will probably be with us till October.

The new mares arrive tomorrow night. They will be in isolation for two weeks in stalls in the foaling barn. Once they are out of isolation they will join the other pregnant mares whose foals have already been weaned. While it is sad to see last year's mare leave, we are excited to have the new mares join us.

Our other 2012 recipient mare, the mother of Mrytle by Big Chex To Cash, out of our mare Dry Sugar Rose.

Updates: Shiney, Orphans, and Erhlichiosis

Now that foaling and breeding season is over, there's nothing too exciting happening on the farm, so I thought I'd update a few earlier stories.Shiney, our mare who foundered after foaling, seems finally to be out of danger. Since the crisis stage of the laminitic episode five months ago, Shiney has never been entirely sound. Last month her lameness suddenly became much worse as the result of a large abcess. We began to worry that the laminitis had returned. However, within a week, Shiney just as suddenly began to walk normally--she looks completely sound. We now wonder how long that abcess had been brewing. She no longer needs her Soft Ride boots, or the lilly pads, or any special shoes. She is barefoot and turned out in a small paddock. Dr. Brian does not want her to be out with the other mares until the damaged area of her hoof is completly grown out. He is concerned that the hoof wall below the damage is too fragile to stand much pressure and if it were to crumble we would have another crisis on our hands. So for the time being, she'll remain in the barn at night and turned out in her paddock with Jewel during the day.We had another case of erhlichiosis a few weeks ago, our second of the year. One of the yearlings (Finn) failed to come to his feed pan. When we took his temperature it was only slightly elevated, but we were still suspicious. We waited an hour and found the temp had gone up about a half a degree. An hour later, it was up again. So we called the vet and relayed our belief that we had another case of erhlichiosis. The vet came out, took some blood and gave Finn the first of five daily shots of tetracycline. The bloodwork came back positive. Usually, by July, the ticks have disappeared, but for some reason, the warm, wet summer perhaps, this year we are still seeing ticks on the dogs, horses and even ourselves.Now as to the Ophans--they look fabulous. In fact, I think they look better than the foals who've been nursing for five months on their dams. They are big and well muscled, with nice straight legs and beautiful, shiney coats. They turn three months next week, at which time we will wean them completely from the milk replacer. Right now they are only drinking about three quarts a day, supplemented with milk pellets, grain and supplement (we use Assurance Alfalfa Balancer). They are also offered all the hay they want. As soon as we wean the last three foals, we plan to put them and the orphans together.

Finally, Breeding Season Is Over

Windy (Whiz Chill Factor) is in foal to Gunner for 2013

Finally, we're finished breeding for the year. It was a tough year. Of course, the worst came in May when we lost two of our mares within five days shortly after they foaled. But even before this catastrophe, we were really struggling with our breedings. We had a lot of early foals--six by the end of Feb., but we just couldn't seem to get the majority of our mares back in foal. By April 1, I had only two confirmed pregnancies, Smart Sugar Pop to Einstein and The Bun Is Dun to Gunner. Two mares were in foal at fourteen days, but had lost the embryos by thirty days. We pulled a grade one embryo from Shiney, but it failed to live in the recipient. Ozzie, who was open, didn't come into heat until late May. We bred Jewel four times to Wimpy with no success and we finally gave up. After Dry Sugar Rose lost her first embryo, we bred her again, got her in foal, but when we checked her at 30 days, there was a vesicle but no embryo.

I felt like a black cloud was hanging over the farm, but, finally, as the spring progressed we finally and slowly began to make progress. The late foaling mares all got in foal easily, and we just kept after the other mares, succeeding in some cases, failing in others.

The final results for the year--we'll have nine foals for 2013, two down from our all-time high this year. We were successful in pulling two embryos from Shiney, one to Spooks Gotta Gun and one to Smart Spook. All the young mares are in foal. My Fertile Myrtle continues to be seventeen year-old Poppy (Smart Sugar Pop) who got in foal to Einstein on the first try on shipped semen. My oldest mare, twenty year-old Marilyn (Dunnits Shadow), is in foal after a false start. But the bad news is that three of my old girls, Dry Sugar Rose, Smart Little Jewel, and Whizard of Ozwald did not get in foal and each one seems to be exhibiting signs of significant breeding problems. I'm particularly worried about Ozzie because this is the second year in a row she has been open.

In September, Dr. Brian will do a work up on all the open mares, taking a uterine biopsy and a small volume lavage, to try to determine what problems we will need to deal with next year. I'll put the open mares under lights in November so that we can begin breeding them in February. Brian says that these older mares with reproductive issues are not necessarily hopeless cases--they just may take longer to get in foal.

But this year's problems tell me it's time to start adding young mares to my band. I'm planning on breeding two of my show girls and pulling embryos next year. And I'll start looking to buy a couple of more young mares.

The Foundered Mare: Breeding Implications

Shiney (in the AirRide boots) gets her first adult companionship since she foundered in February. She's sharing her paddock with Jewel.


Our eight year-old mare, Shiney, foundered as a result of treatment for a retained placenta. Besides the founder (laminitis), she suffered damage to her kidneys, which complicated her treatment. To control the pain of laminitis, the usual protocol is to give the mare anti-inflammatories, which has the potential to further damage her kidneys. Although at times during her illness we feared for her life, eventually she began to improve and today she is relatively healthy. After the crisis was over, we were able to evaluate the damage to her feet. X-rays show that there was no rotation of the coffin bone in either foot, but in the left foot the coffin bone had sunk on the inside, causing her varying degrees of pain. Some days she walked pretty well showing pain only when she was turning to the right. But at other times she was quite sore at the walk. Part of the problem was that the part of the hoof with the damaged laminae was growing very slowly compared to the outside of the hoof, so that unless she was trimmed every two weeks, her hoof developed a significant imbalance which in turn was the cause of her pain.

Her progress to health has been slow and halting. Several weeks ago we had a setback when she developed a large abcess under her frog, which caused her extreme pain. She was so sore we were afraid she was foundering once again. Even after the abscess broke open, she still seemed to be in pain. However, x-rays showed that the coffin bone was unaffected. Within a few days, she improved dramatically and is now walking better than ever. But my vet and farrier warn that until the damaged part of the hoof is completely grown out she will be prone to more abscesses.

Which brings me to the biggest decision I had to make about Shiney--should I breed her this year of not. At first my vet was encouraging. By the time Shiney would bear any significant increase in body weight, the hoof should be completely grown out. But as her recovery seemed to sputter, I decided that I didn't want to take a chance with Shiney's health. She is a young mare and has many years of foals ahead of her if she is returned to full health. Also, I did not want to risk investing in an expensive breeding if there was any chance that Shiney might not survive her illness.

Because she is a well-bred mare (Shining Spark X Top N Final X Topsail Cody) with good earnings, and because her first two foals are showing promise, I decided that it would be worth it to pull at least one embryo from her. We decided to wait until she seemed to be stabilized to breed her. We bred her to Smart Spook, and flushed a grade 1 embryo. Unfortunately,the embryo did not survive in the recipient mare. So we tried again, this time to Gunner; no embryo. We went back to Smart Spook, but again had no luck. During this time we were trying to find the best way to alleviate Shiney's footpain--special shoeing, AirRide boots, lillypads, etc.

After three unsuccessful breedings we decided to call a halt, and do two things before we tried it again. We weaned her foal at three months to reduce the strain on Shiney. And we made a greater effort to control Shiney's pain. Our farrier and vet consulted and we came up with a plan of monitor her and trim her more often and to go back to AirRide Boots. We let her go through another cycle and then tried again. I also decided to change studs, to a younger stallion who I know has very good semen. We bred her to Spooks Gotta Gun and got an embryo, which took (we should have a heartbeat on it by next week). Then we went back to our original stud, Smart Spook, bred her again and got another embryo.

I'm satisfied that we made the right decision not to breed Shiney to carry, but, if I were to do this again, I would wait longer to try to breed her, until after we had weaned her foal and her pain was under control. The stress of her pain clearly interfered with her ability to conceive.


Big Chex To Cash breeding breeding problems in mares broodmare death Chatsberry Farm dams with insufficient milk discounted breedings erhlichiosis foaling Gunner horse breeding infertility in mares laser surgery to remove ovarian cysts in mares milking out the mare NRHA Futurity nurse mares older mares orphan ovarian cysts pre-foaling vacinations recipient mares Reining Horses reining stallions south farm stallion selection Tickborne horse disease uterine infection varicose veins Air Ride Boots allogrooming Americasnextgunmodel Anaplasma phagocytophila angiosis BH Song and Dance bottle feeding foal breeding breeding decisions Breeding mares breeding older mares breeding problems breeding problems in mares breeding program Breeding Season Broodmare broodmares chatsberry farm death deciding of stallions to breed to Diet dripping milk dystophia embryo transfer Equine Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis extra expenses feeding the foal foal alert Foal Alert System foal heat Foal heat breeding foal rejection foal socialization foaling foals foals in cold weather Founder Gunner horse behavior horse breeding Infertile mares laminitis laminitus late term bleeding lost colostrum low IGG test maiden mare update Maiden mares mare death mare gestational length mare intertility mare loss mares mares of questionable fertility milk replacer minnesota Nursing nursing problems Ocytocin old mare older broodmares orphan foal orphan foals ovarian cysts ovarian cysts in mares pinching twins Placentitis proper maintenance Recipient Mares retained placenta rhino vacinations in mares rotavirus bacines in mares rotavirus in foals Royal Vista Scott Mccutcheon sinking of the coffin bone sire and dam auctions social grooming Soft Ride Boots stallion auctions treating breeding problem in mares treatment for rotavirus treatment for uterine infection uterine infections uterine inflamation weaning weaning foals winter young mares


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