Artificial Insemination (AI) – A process that involves depositing good quality semen into the mare’s uterus at the right time, taking all necessary precaution to reduce infection.
There are many reasons why I decided to plan my barn the way I did, there are many reasons why I decided to complete an Artificial Insemination course and there are many reasons why I choose to try for early foals but all my reasons are due to my own personal thoughts on breeding and what suits me.
I’m employed full-time, up at 6am and home at 6pm, the work load I complete on my own and would never complain, breeding is a passion, every day is a school day and everything must work for me as an individual. Therefore, the stallion and mares must be cooperative in all manners, you can’t have a mare trying to get out of the stocks when you have fresh semen ready to be inserted.
To start at the beginning we needed to control our mares estrous cycle which is affected by light, turning the barn lights on at 6am and off at 10pm has given the mares 16 hours of “artificial light” and sure enough come February the 5th we saw our first mare “show” to our stallion.
This year we have 4 seasoned mares and 1 maiden, the seasoned mares are faultless with AI but we certainly prepared our maiden well in advance, washing her vagina, bandaging her tail and teaching her to stand quietly in the stocks well before AI could take place.
We invested last year in a set of stocks, a dummy mare and an AI “kit”, we successfully inseminated 4 mares, the mares were not a problem but teaching our stallion was certainly a challenge. The aim is for the stallion is to “flower” or “called belling” (which basically means he reaches the point of no return before ejaculation), I won’t go into detail, but our stallion went from being unbelievably shy to being obsessed and overly keen with the dummy! All his actions have been noted for future reference as his mating behaviour certainly changes with individual mares (such as he flowers and ejaculates within seconds with one of our mares but takes 4 or 5 minutes to even get aroused by another one of our mares). His sexual response (libido) certainly has increased this year with a very mature and sensible attitude.
AI takes less than 5 minutes to complete, from collection to insemination but preparation takes nearly an hour…
Many factors affect collecting from a stallion with an AV, temperature, the tightness or pressure that surrounds the AV, some like it loose whilst others like it tight, we have not experienced a “non-collection” from our stallion so I guess either we are doing what he likes or he really isn’t fussy? The last reason is the amount of lubrication (Ky jelly) used, remember, you are trying to mimic a vagina, if the AV is too slippery or too dry many stallions won’t ejaculate, I think we have this lube sorted 😉
As soon as our stallion sees the AV, the screaming starts, to an inexperienced person the noise is quite frightening but to a breeder its music! We are ready, hard hat on, steel toe capped boots, mare ready and stallion ready. The stallion’s stable is opposite the dummy and we put the mare in the stable parallel to him, her stable is opposite the stocks. We watch and wait for the stallion to become aroused and just as we see the flowering, we open the stable door, timed to perfection within a few strides he’s on the dummy making love to the AV like it’s his right and duty!
Our stallion likes to have what I call “his cigar moment”, after ejaculation, he always turns his head to the right, as if he’s looking at the mare – “was that good for you?”. He climbs off the dummy in a daze and he’s returned to the stable! The mare is then walked into the stocks and inseminated…
We have collected many times during February, we are convinced we have at least three mares pregnant but two just didn’t feel right, we’ll soon find out at their 16-day scan. At this first scan we gain vital information, first a positive pregnancy, secondly the detection of twins and thirdly by the size of the oocyte (egg) we can work out when ovulation took place and therefore predict the foaling date.
As a qualified AI technician, I can only use fresh and chilled semen, I can not use frozen. I am only allowed to use my certificate within the UK as per the Veterinary Surgeons Act 2010 No 2059. I must adhere to all limitations of disease control, for this reason I do not stand my stallion at public stud and do not have boarding mares here at Redheart Appaloosas, it’s just too impractical.
It will be wonderful to have all mares confirmed in foal earlier in the season to enable our stallion to compete back under saddle for the 2020 show season without him loosing weight fretting over in season mares…