Thursday, March 7, 2013

Amazing, Awesome Field Trip

I've mentioned it before, but I'm taking Equine Reproduction and really enjoying it. I've taken the precurser classes, Domestic Animal Reproduction and Applied Reproduction and loved them. I'm thinking it might be something that I want to continue to pursue as a vet. I didn't think I'd like it this much, but I find it fascinating and if everything goes well you get a cute foal (or other baby animal) at the end!

What really made this class great was this field trip. I was kind of dreading it because it meant our class spent the whole day in a van, from 9am to 6pm. Not my ideal way to spend a Saturday, but by the time we got to the second barn, I was happy!

We stopped at three barns that run a breeding operation. I didn't know what to expect, but these were all very high quality barns. The first barn bred miniature horses. It was really interesting because you found out the differences between minis and full sized horses. For instance, minis don't do AI very well and you have a high rate of dystocia. For full sized horses I think that statistic we got is something like 90% of full sized horses have "normal" births without needing assistance, while minis have a 40-50% dystocia rate where they need help having their foal. Crazy.

This farm was super cute because everything was customized for the minis - they had little stalls, little round pen, little trailer. They bred world champion minis and their sitting room was full to the brim with their ribbons and trophies. Since they don't do AI, they tend to sell their minis instead of breeding to outside mares, since they like to control the quality of mares they breed to. We got to see the marketing material that they use since that's where their sales come from, they make a yearly video and flyers.

Miniature sized foaling stalls. Really nice set up for everything here.

So that was interesting and the owners were both very down to earth and I liked hearing about minis since I've never owned one.

The next barn was AWESOME. A Thoroughbred breeding barn ran by a vet. He had a very "whatever" attitude which was amusing and had a ton of stuff for us to do. He had a mare that was due so he induced her with oxytocin before we got there. Basically we showed up and he was like "Oh good, go watch that mare have her foal." I got to watch a baby being born!!

Newly born colt

If you ever run across a foal named OSUFOURTHIRTYTWO... we were there for it's birth, lol. They said they're going to name it after our class, but I kinda hope not. That's a bit of a sucky name. Anyways, we got to clear the amniotic sac away once he was born, gave him a vitamin E/selenium shot, then when his umbilical cord broke we dipped it in antiseptic. The mare passed her placenta without a problem and we checked to make sure it was whole and had no pieces left behind.

Taking his first steps

We moved on to drawing blood from the foals that were a couple days old, I drew blood for an IgG snap test to make sure the foals had gotten enough colostrum and didn't need any plasma transfusions.

"My" foal was a superstar for his blood draw but it obviously tired him out!

The vet collected semen from their Triple Crown winning stallion and we examined it under the microscope, then froze it. It's interesting seeing the "behind the scenes" - you'd think that handling semen would be such a sterile, exact science, but it's not really. Sure you calculate the correct volume and amount of extender needed based on the sperm motility and concentration, and everything is kept clean, but the way that you get the semen into the 0.5 ml straw? Suck on the other end of the straw... It's plugged with a bit of cotton so no liquid can get through, but still. Once it was frozen we examined it again to see if it had survived the freezing/thawing process and there were still some sperm alive, but this stallion was a good example of one that didn't freeze well, at least with the extender that they were using.

Triple Crown Winner! Looking pretty awesome for being almost 20.

After that he brought out his "easier to handle" stallion and one of the other girls from the class got to collect from him. He also sedated a mare that had a uterine infection and we got to palpate her, do an ultrasound and uterine swab, then give her an infusion to counter the infection. So basically, it was awesome and he said we could come back any time to help. Definitely planning on taking him up on that offer.

Student getting ready to collect this stallion

We rushed off to the last barn on our tour. I know of the vet that runs this one, she did an embryo transfer on two of my friends' mares. Her barn was absolutely pristine. My roommate who is also in this class, ML, commented that the barn was cleaner than our house, and we have an OCD roommate, lol. She is a USDA approved facility though, so everything has to be perfect. She said she had just gotten in three stallions from Ireland in her quarantine barn. She gave us a short powerpoint on what she does. Basically she's the one to go to when your mare isn't getting pregnant or you have a stallion you want to ship semen for overseas. She does more of the specialty stuff too, like the embryo transfers - I want her job. She said that she found it was really rewarding and always interesting because research is always finding out new things that apply to reproduction. I found out she offers internships and has one available this summer so I'm planning on applying for it.

So basically I was super happy that we did this tour. It was really neat to get to see all of the behind the scenes type of stuff and actually get to do stuff at the second barn.


  1. Sounds super cool! Glad you had a good time and are finding things you want to focus on. :)

  2. What fun!
    As for semen collecting being a messy business... tell me about it. We once had to collect from Maestro and immediately inseminate a mare (she wouldn't let any stallion mount her). That was a very messy business. Between the urine used for teasing Maestro, and the semen collecting, lets just say I needed a good shower by the end.
    Lucky you getting to see a foaling too!

  3. Sounds like an amazing time. How cool!!