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By Liz Cornell


he first time I heard the equine term “ET” I was visiting Hilltop Farm in Maryland shopping for my next dressage prospect back in 1998. One of the

yearling colts they presented was an ET baby, and they were clearly very proud of this youngster. Not so versed in the cutting edge technology of equine breeding, I sheepishly asked what an ET baby was. “That’s a tech- nology where the embryo from the mother is removed and placed in the uterus of a surrogate or recipient mother,” they explained. “The recipient then carries the baby full term and raises it as her own. ET stands for embryo transfer. In doing this we were able to keep this colt’s mother in full work, never interrupting her training and show schedule.” At the time, it sounded like a very high-tech procedure that only the likes of a top notch breeding facility such as Hilltop could perform.

Fast forward to a decade later, and ET babies are now quite common at sport horse breeding farms. Embryo transfer offers plenty of advantages such as: 1) the ability to breed a top mare while she remains in work; 2) the ability to produce multiple babies in one sea- son from a particular mare; and 3) the ability to breed an older mare, a very young mare, or a mare who is physically unable to carry a baby full term.

transfers? Are there alternate recipient mares available to use? Having only one recipient mare at your disposal will lower your chances of success.

Warmbloods Today spoke with two farms that founded their breeding businesses on embryo transfer technology. Each farm began with a high-end performance mare, one a dressage horse and one a jumper. When crossed with excellent stallions, each has delivered numerous babies with exquisite bloodlines. Here are their unique stories.

“Dimaggio, the FEI World Breeding Champion, was available to select top mares for one season only in the U.K.”

However, like most everything, where there are advan- tages, there are also disadvantages. The primary disad- vantage is the costs that can be incurred rapidly when the implantation doesn’t “take” on the first try. Embryo transfer has been used extensively for cattle breeding for more than 30 years with very high success rates. When it comes to equine breeding, however, there are quite a few important factors that can cause the success rate to decline, according to veterinarian Dr. Quinn Gavaga in Pemberton, British Columbia, a specialist in equine embryo transfer. Dr. Gavaga states that the quality of the semen must be good and explains that frozen semen has the lowest chances of success. In addition, the recipient mare that you use should meet many important require- ments: Is she a proven broodmare? Does her cycle match the cycle of the donor mare? Is she about the same size as the donor mare? Has she been handled a lot so that she’s quiet and manageable during tests and

Dreamcatcher Meadows in B.C., Canada

For Canadian Jill Giese from British Columbia, ET was a godsend when breeding her premium Hanoverian mare Dreamcatcher Elite (her registered name is Daisy Dee) by Dream of Glory. In 1999, while living in the U.K, Jill bought Dreamcatcher as the top selling three year old from Germany’s Verden Hanoverian Auction. Once she was imported to the U.K, the mare began her training with Olympian Carl Hester. There she won various championships with both Carl and Jill, such as the Potential National Dressage Horse, Potential International Dressage Horse, Champion Warmblood, and Champion Hanoverian Mare (U.K. Breed Society) in addition to numerous regional and national wins through medium level in Britain.

Before moving to Canada when

Dreamcatcher was only six, her sire Dream of Glory had died young. Jill realized that his limited offspring would make her mare’s bloodlines very desirable. Plus in 2002, Dimaggio, the FEI World Breeding Champion, was avail- able to select top mares for one season only in the U.K. So while competing the mare, Jill decided to try embryo transfer in 2002 with Dreamcatcher. Here’s how it began.

On April 5th, 2002, she brought Dreamcatcher to an ET farm in Newmarket, where they soon determined that Dreamcatcher typically ovulated two follicles. That meant she might produce two embryos! Jill lined up two recipi- ent mares instead of one. (Luckily there was a pool of 40 recipients to choose from at this ET facility.) After insemi- nation, she competed Dreamcatcher on April 19th where she won two elementary tests (equivalent to first level in the U.S.).

Jill returned with Dreamcatcher to Newmarket on April 26th and they flushed out only one embryo, which was

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