Collecting Ovaries From Deceased Mares for Embryo Production

Traditionally when a mare died, her gene pool often went with her. This isn’t always the case these days, however.
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Gardeners speak of heirloom seeds for the genetic preservation of a plant species. Horsemen selectively breed, thus preserving a mare’s bloodlines. But when the mare dies or must be euthanized, that genetic pool normally dies with her.

Scientific advances can now come to the rescue, though the cost—at least $1,975 up to when the egg meets the sperm—can be prohibitive for many owners. In layman-speak, this genetic rescue means the dead mare’s ovaries can be removed, then processed, an egg “bred” in a petri dish, then transferred to a recipient mare to carry the foal.

Jennifer Hatzel, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, is a theriogenologist—a veterinarian specializing in reproduction—at Colorado State University’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory, in Fort Collins. She explained to attendees of the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida, that a successful outcome depends on many elements, from the mare’s age and illness to the careful handling and shipping of oocytes.

Here’s the process. The clock starts ticking the moment the mare dies. The ovaries need to be removed ASAP and arrive to the assisted reproductive technology facility within six to eight hours for the best chance at success. With the mare on her side, the veterinarian makes an incision halfway between her last rib and her hip. Carefully avoiding the bowel, the veterinarian reaches into the abdominal cavity, finding each ovary and cutting it out

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Written by:

Maureen Gallatin is a freelance writer, founder of Horses on a Mission, and author of the inspirational devotional, An Extra Flake.

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