Charlie and Betty Land, #1 Breeding Mares

Preface- This is the first of 5 parts, they will be published, one daily this week.

#1, Breeding Mares; #2, At the Track; #3, Foster; #4, The Fish Pond; #5, All Bad News

D. E. Larsen, DVM

 I pulled the fingers off a plastic OB sleeve and pulled it on my left arm. After the fingerless sleeve on my left arm was in place, I pulled on a latex exam glove. Then I pulled on a second OB sleeve, also with the fingers removed. This would allow excellent protection from the ‘elements’ and still all for excellent sensitivity at my fingertips. I applied a good squeeze of KY to my hand and arm. I struggled to maintain a safe position behind this large quarter horse mare. She moved from side to side as I eased my gloved hand into her rectum. Standing at her right hip, I held her tail with my right hand and lean hard on my elbow firmly planted on her rump. It was apparent who had the most muscle as we danced from side to side in the stall.

 “How many times have you bred this mare?” I asked Charlie as I advanced my arm into her rear end.

 “This is the third visit for her this year. I had problems with her last year and didn’t get her pregnant. The owner really wants to get her in foul with Carbine,” Charlie answered.

 Charlie had related the problem when he stopped by our house on Ames Creek yesterday. I was out front with the kids, picking some corn in the garden, when Charlie pulled into the driveway in his old blue Chevy pickup. He was on his way home from work when he saw us out front.

 “Hi, I’m Charlie Land, I have a little horse ranch up the creek. I just wanted to introduce myself and ask if you had time to look at a mare for me this weekend,” Charlie said as he walked across the lawn with his hand outstretched.

 “Dave Larsen,” I replied as we shook hands. “We are going to be home on Saturday, I could run up and look at her in the morning. Not terribly early, I am not much of a morning person and like to sleep in when I get a chance.”

     “This is a mare that I have been trying to get pregnant for a couple of years,” Charlie explained. “I lease this big quarter horse stud, Carbine. He is a pretty valuable horse and has a great record on the quarter horse track. I generally have mares lined up all spring. This mare didn’t get pregnant last year, and I only get paid for a pregnant mare.”

 My hand reached the brim of the pelvis, and I swept from side to side to find the uterus. I carefully ran my hand along the length of the uterus, starting at the tip of the right horn and continuing to the tip of the left horn. 

 “Not pregnant, and the uterus feels pretty normal,” I said, almost to myself as I reached the left ovary. “Normal left ovary,” I said, returning to the right ovary. “The right ovary is normal, and a large follicle is present, this mare should be in heat very soon,” I said as I pulled my arm out and peeled the OB sleeve and gloves off.

 I breathed a sigh of relief as I pushed myself away from the mare. I was always told the only way to be safe around a horse was to be in the right place at the right time. To be in the right place at the right time, you have to be in the right place all the time. Doing a rectal exam on a poorly restrained horse was one of the most dangerous positions to be in, both for the horse and for the examiner. It is easy to receive a kick, and ruptured colons are also possible for the mare.

 “If she doesn’t get pregnant with this breeding, she goes home,” Charlie said. “What do you think we can do to get her pregnant?”

 “Well, Charlie, I will be honest with you. I am much more of a cow doctor than I am a horse doctor,” I said as I pondered the problem in my mind. “The horse guys like to culture a mare and treat any infection according to the culture results. That procedure takes almost a week to complete if we start today. She is going to be in heat in the next day or two.”

    “This heat is her last chance this year,” Charlie said. “She goes home after her next cycle.”

    “In the cow, I do a post-breeding infusion,” I explained. “The day after breeding, I infuse the uterus with an antibiotic that is easily absorbed by the uterine lining. This clears any infection in the lining of the uterus and gets it ready for the fertilized egg, which reaches the uterus usually 3 days following breeding. My guess is if you call a horse vet, he will shudder at that strategy. I don’t know why it might be a money issue. Their procedure runs up quite an expense. Might just be that they listen to the experts more. In the cow, we are working a herd, not an individual.” 

    “You make sense to me,” Charlie answered. “I will breed her when she cycles and give you a call. Or just stop by your house. I thought, how lucky can a guy get when you came to town, then I thought I had died and went to heaven when you moved in down the road.”

    “Whatever works, you are more than welcome to stop by the house anytime. We haven’t been in town too long, people are just now learning I am around, so I am not too busy just now,” I said. “The clinic won’t be completed until this fall.”

   Charlie pulled into the driveway on his way home from work on Tuesday. I recognized the old blue Chevy pickup and stepped out of the garage, where I had been putting things away.

    “I bred that mare last night after work,” Charlie said as I walked up the driveway toward his pickup. “I was hoping you could come up this evening.”

    “It will take me a couple of minutes to get things ready,” I replied. “If you get home and get her in a small stall, I should be there by then.”

 It didn’t take long, I just needed to make sure everything was in the truck. I ran through a checklist in my mind as I looked through the back of the vet box. Plenty of water, a vial of IV Ampicillin, infusion pipettes, tail wrap, OB sleeves, bucket, boots, coveralls, Betadine scrub and solution, and plenty of lube. I ran into the house and told Sandy that I would back before dinner. Charlie’s place was only a couple of miles up the creek.

    Charlie was waiting in the stall with the mare haltered when I stepped through the open barn doors.

   “Push her over against the wall on her left side,” I instructed.

    I wrapped her tail, and the did a preliminary scrub of the rectum and vulva with Betadine surgical scrub. After mixing the 3-gram vial of Ampicillin, I did another scrub of her rear end and then flooded the area with Betadine solution. I drew up the Ampicillin in a 60 cc syringe and stuck it in the chest pocket of my coveralls. I held the infusion pipette in my teeth as I pulled on an OB sleeve and applied ample KY.

    Again, standing on her right hip, I eased my left hand into her vagina. She tensed a little but tolerated the intervention far better than the rectal exam the other day. I moved more behind her now, took the pipette in my right hand, and directed the tip into the palm of my left hand. I advanced my left hand and arm into the vagina until I encountered the cervix. Holding the pipette steady, I attached the syringe to the pipette with my right hand. With my index finger in the cervical orifice, I advanced the pipette into and through the cervix. Then I slowly infused the Ampicillin solution into the uterus.

   That accomplished, I withdrew my arm and pipette, moving out from directly behind her as I did this maneuver. I rinsed her off thoroughly and removed the tail wrap.

    “That’s all there is to it,” I said to Charlie. “Now we wait to see what the next couple of months give us. Since there is no rush to make a pregnancy diagnosis, I would wait at least 60 days before checking her. Obviously, if she continues to cycle, she is probably not pregnant.”

 “I doubt if the owner will be able to wait that long before a check for pregnancy. But that is his problem, she is going home this week. I will let you know when I get the news either way,” Charlie said.

    “Everybody is in a hurry for an answer, but if it doesn’t make any plans change, time will give you the same answer as an early pregnancy exam,” I said as I loaded things into the back of my truck. “I will be as anxious as everybody to hear the news, you let me know either way.”

     It was just short of 50 days later, and Charlie’s pickup skidded to a stop in our driveway. Charlie jumped out and ran to the door, getting there before I could navigate the way across through the toys scattered around the living room.

    “Good news,” Charlie said as soon as I opened the door. “You are my hero now, that mare is pregnant, and the owner is happy as can be. I think I like the way you treat cows.”

    Charlie pulled a wad of bills out of his front pocket and peeled two bills off the roll. He reached out his hand with two 100 dollar bills. “This is for your good work,” he said.

    “No, Charlie, I am no damn lawyer, I charge for what I do, I don’t take from your profits resulting from my efforts,” I said. “You just call me next time, that is rewarding enough.”

   “Call you next time!” Charlie said, “I am thinking that next year we should be infusing every mare. You will make me a lot of money if we can speed up the process and get more mares serviced and pregnant.”

    “That might be overdoing it a little, but we can work out the details next Spring,” I said.

 As time went by, my relationship with Charlie grew with every mare we treated. This was a simplified procedure but worked well. Mares were seldom bred more than one time, and the pregnancy rate was very high. Charlie remained a happy and loyal client.

Charlie and Betty Land continued tomorrow, #2 At the Track

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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