All the Answers You Need
A pre-purchase examination or vetting, is an important step in the process of buying a horse.
It consists of a standard five stage clinical examination performed for an individual prospective purchaser with a view to assessing the horse in relation to the purchaser’s intended use of the horse. G.C.S vets are happy to carry out pre-purchase examinations on behalf of existing registered clients or on behalf of new non-registered clients.
WHAT DOES A 5 STAGE VETTING INCLUDE?
Stage 1: This is a thorough clinical examination of the horse at rest to detect any apparent signs of injury, disease or physical abnormality. It includes a thorough palpation of all the limbs, listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope and an examination of the horse’s eyes in a dark stable with an ophthalmoscope.
Stage 2: Observation of the horse walking and trotting in hand in a straight line on a hard, level surface, including flexion tests. The horse is normally also trotted on a small diameter circle on a firm surface to detect subtle lameness issues.
Stage 3: Observation of the horse performing strenuous exercise, normally under saddle. This allows further evaluation of the way the horse moves and assessment of the heart and respiratory systems’ response to exertion. If ridden exercise is not possible (e.g. if the horse is unbroken), this stage may be conducted by exercising the horse on the lunge.
Stage 4: A period of rest in the stable to give time for any stiffness induced by the exercise to become apparent. During this time the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are monitored as they return to their resting levels. The horse’s markings are normally recorded and the passport examined.
Stage 5: A second examination of the horse at trot in hand. This is primarily to check that the strenuous exercise has not exacerbated a subtle underlying lameness problem. Flexion tests or trotting on a small diameter circle are sometimes repeated at this time.
DO YOU TAKE BLOOD AT A PRE-PURCHASE EXAMINATION?
A blood sample will be taken which is stored for six months. It can be used if concerns arise after purchase and to test for substances such as sedatives, pain killers and anti-inflammatories that may have masked certain conditions at the time of the vetting.
HOW DO I BOOK A VETTING?
To arrange a pre-purchase examination either phone the office during office hours (8:30am-5pm, Monday to Friday), call Tim on 087 993996 or email
HOW MUCH DOES A PRE-PURCHASE EXAM COST?
Please contact our team at G.C.S Veterinary. We can advise on the best service to suit your needs and give you a competitive price.
WHAT CAN I DO IF MY MARE CAN NOT GET PREGNANT?
What happens if your mare does not get pregnant?
Unfortunately, getting every mare pregnant is not always plain sailing and this can be for a number of reasons:
Mare fertility reduces with age, particularly in mares that have not been bred previously.
The stallion is not very fertile (or is not very compatible with an individual mare) – the stallion can also be investigated if necessary.
Infection or inflammation within the reproductive system.
The mare can be investigated to try to establish the problem and involves some or all of the following:
A careful history of the mare will be taken.
Ultrasound examination of the reproductive tract.
Vaginal and cervical examination with a speculum.
Uterine swabs and endometrial cytology/culture
Endoscopy of the uterus
SHOULD I USE FRESH, CHILLED OR FROZEN SEMEN FOR MY MARE?
Fresh or chilled semen:
Ideally, the mare will be inseminated with fresh or chilled semen within 24 hours prior to ovulation (although many stallions will have semen which will survive for longer than this). This timing, achieved by regular ultrasound scanning of the mare’s uterus, achieves optimum conception rates. Good communication with the stallion owner/stud is imperative so:
Check which days they can collect and send the semen (often dictated by the post or courier service).
Ask the stallion owner if the stallion’s semen chills and travels well.
Check if there are transport costs.
NB. Semen coming from abroad must be accompanied by the relevant health certification.
Frozen semen can be kept for years and is thawed immediately prior to insemination. It has a short life span and so careful monitoring of the mare’s cycle is required to time insemination as close to ovulation as possible (within six hours either side of ovulation) to maximise the chance of conception. This often requires several ultrasound examinations (up to every six hours) so it is most commonly done with the mares in our hospital.
Despite conception rates being lower for frozen semen than fresh/chilled semen, frozen semen does offer the following benefits:
Using stallions from all over the world.
Using deceased stallions with previously collected semen.
Using stallions which are still out competing, and not retired to stud yet.
When looking for a stallion and purchasing frozen semen, we would advise the following:
Buy from a reputable stud.
Ask them about the semen quality and how well that particular stallion’s semen freezes and thaws. How good is the semen motility after thawing?
Ask how many doses/straws of the semen are included in the price.
Specialist transport of frozen semen is required, and the semen should arrive at our hospital in plenty of time prior to the insemination date. It will be stored in our liquid nitrogen tank. Ask about these transport costs.
Semen from abroad must be accompanied by the correct health certification/paperwork.
WHAT HAPPENS POST INSEMINATION?
After insemination, your mare will be re-scanned to check for ovulation and any post-breeding problems such as uterine inflammation or fluid. If problems are encountered, post-breeding treatment may be required e.g. a uterine flush. Scanning for pregnancy (and specifically to check for twins) is then typically performed at day 14-16 post ovulation, and then again at day 28-30 to check for a heartbeat. A 45-day pregnancy scan is also usually performed to make sure everything appears to be progressing normally.
IS ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION THE WAY FORWARD?
Once you have decided to put your mare in foal, you need to then look for the right stallion.
Artificial insemination is now much more common than natural cover for sports horses, and most breeds other than Thoroughbreds (natural cover is still a requirement for the TB industry). This is because:
It means that you can choose for a far wider range of stallions, including those abroad (or even deceased stallions if using frozen semen).
It reduces the risk of injury to the stallion and the mare.
The mare can be kept locally rather than travelling her long distances to stud.
Artificial insemination (A.I.) can be performed with fresh, chilled or frozen semen, and contraception rates are usually good. However, to achieve good contraception rates, the mare’s oestrus cycle needs to be monitored carefully to establish exactly when to inseminate her (as close to ovulation as possible) to achieve the best results. The mare will sometimes be given hormones to manipulate the cycle and ovulation time to give the best chance of success.
WHAT SHOULD I DO BEFORE I GET MY MARE IN FOAL?
We are here to offer advice if you would like to discuss the process of putting your mare in foal, and can offer support throughout, from pre-breeding checks to improving the chance of getting your mare in foal. We can also advise throughout the pregnancy, we will be on call if there is a problem at foaling and will perform mare and new foal checks.
Pre-breeding mare examinations:
This often involves:
Ultrasound examination (a scan) of the mare’s uterus and ovaries.
Vaginal and cervical examination using a speculum.
Pre-breeding swabs for diseases including Contagious Equine Metritis (C.E.M.), a contagious venereal disease.
Pre-breeding bloods for infectious diseases such as Equine Viral Arteritis (E.V.A.) and Equine Infectious Anaemia (E.I.A.).
Possibly an endometrial swab to assess the uterine environment.
Pre-breeding stallion examinations:
Pre-breeding swabs and bloods, similar to the mare protocol.
Pre-purchase examinations to check semen quality and potential fertility of the stallion for the future.