The ABCs of Artificial Insemination

AI is a relatively easy, safe, and convenient method of covering mares with stallions from all over the world. As with all techniques, it takes skill to make sure all the proper steps are taken to provide the best chance for pregnancy.

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The ABCs of Artificial Insemination
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
There are many reasons why you might decide to breed your mare by artificial insemination (AI). The most common is to allow you to use a stallion that is a distance away–even abroad–and so increase the scope of stallions available and reduce the risks and expense of travel for your mare. However, AI might also be chosen for reasons such as: To minimize disease transfer by using antibiotic extenders; to increase the chance of conception in mares susceptible to uterine endometritis; to reduce the risk of physical injury to humans and stock, especially if the mare or stallion is particularly nervous; or to breed difficult mares and stallions, i.e., those with physical abnormalities caused by accidents, infection, poor perineal conformation, psychological problems, etc. (Care must always be taken, however, to ensure that such problems are not heritable.) From the stallion owner’s point of view, AI might increase the number of mares covered per stallion per season, and hence increase financial return.

Before embarking on AI for the first time, it is important that you contact the relevant breed society in time to ascertain their regulations regarding the use of AI and obtain the necessary paperwork. Armed with this information, you can choose your stallion and discuss your requirements with your veterinarian.

As a mare owner, you are likely to only witness the insemination of your mare. However, it is good to have an understanding of what happens behind the scenes–how semen is collected, evaluated, and stored–so you can make educated decisions when arranging semen delivery and appreciate why things do not always go according to plan.

AI is based upon the principle of collecting semen from a stallion, adding a specifically formulated extender that allows for varying lengths of storage and/or transport, then inseminating the semen into a mare

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Written by:

Mina Davies Morel, PhD, is head of the equine group at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. She has particular interest in equine reproductive physiology and its application to stud management, and she is the author of a number of scientific papers and text books on the subject. She is a leisure rider and owner of Welsh Cob Section Ds.

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