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can be rather delicate. Exposing the frozen semen straw to conditions outside of the storage tank for as little as three seconds can begin to cause irreparable damage. It is crucial that the veterinarian on the receiving end be familiar with the protocols for handling frozen semen. Frozen semen is typically purchased by the dose.

According to the industry standards set by the WBFSH (World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses), a dose should contain a minimum of 250 million progressively motile sperm per post-thaw dose. Depending on factors like semen concentration, post-thaw motility, and the extender, this will result in a dose which will generally consist of 2–8 straws. It is not the number of straws which is most important; it is the number and percentage of progressively motile sperm in the dose after thawing. Post-thaw motility refers to how many sperm will be

progressively motile after the semen has been thawed for use. WBFSH standards call for post-thaw motility to be 35% or higher. The average is 35–75%. The standards of individual brokers may vary—Judy Yancey, for example, will only broker semen with 40% or higher post-thaw motility.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

There are many benefits to breeding with frozen semen, but it is not without its drawbacks. The timing for insemination with frozen semen is much more critical than with chilled semen. Mares should be bred within 12 hours before ovulation and 6 hours after ovulation, and the closer to ovulation the better. This requires close monitoring of the mares estrus cycle via ultrasound, which can make the process not only more complicated, but also more expensive. Karen and Seigi both agree the added expense and the more involved procedure are the biggest drawback to using frozen semen. Many mare owners find it is more economical to send their mares to facilities specializing in breeding with frozen semen. This can reduce the costs as many offer package deals. Judy cautions that not all vets are experienced or

comfortable with frozen semen, therefore it is also necessary to seek a veterinarian with the right experience and track record. Another drawback to purchasing the imported frozen semen is the lack of a ‘Live Foal Guarantee.’ Some brokers, like Karen, offer Live Foal Guarantees with their imported frozen semen, but most do not. Frozen semen purchased from stallions standing in the U.S. is more likely to include a Live Foal Guarantee. It is best to check with each broker or stallion owner.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Our experts were unanimous: the biggest misconception about frozen semen is that it is too hard to get a successful

Preparing a shipment of frozen straws in a dry vapor

shipper. (Lab photos courtesy of equinereproductioncenters.com)

pregnancy. Study results vary, but most show the success rate with frozen semen to be only 10–20% lower than with fresh chilled semen. Success depends on many variables which include the quality of the stallion’s semen and its preparation, the mare, the handling of the semen, and the veterinarian, all causing statistics to vary. Judy bred eight of her own mares in 2009 using frozen

semen from her own collection. All eight mares became pregnant from the first insemination. Success rates like this aren’t the norm for fresh chilled semen, and not all breeders are this lucky, but it demonstrates the potential positive results. Another common misconception is the belief that

frozen semen won’t work on maiden mares. Judy disagrees, and says she would “rather breed a young maiden with frozen than any other mare.” Seigi also disagrees with this misconception having bred several maidens successfully with frozen semen. There seems to be no scientific evidence to support the myth that breeding a young maiden with frozen semen should be more difficult than with fresh chilled semen. Getting an older maiden mare in foal can be more difficult, but this also applies to fresh chilled semen.

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