Caution-this post involves details of horse breeding/insemination. Parental Guidance suggested.
Last week started our push to get our German mare, Blonder Reflection (aka Fargo, aka Grandma) pregnant with Feather’s sire, Flagmount’s Freedom. Flag is an Irish Sport Horse stallion standing in Bryan, Texas. I have other articles about him in my blog if you want to ‘search’ his name for more information. This mating would produce a cousin to our yearling Betty Sue and a half-sibling to Feather. Some crazy times at our farm, for sure! Still those a pretty special relatives.
Even though I have seen others go through this ritual, I was not quite prepared for the science of getting a mare pregnant now. I hate to say it but back in my day, we turned them out in the pasture and got what we got next spring. Now, the equine reproductive process rivals that of any major human Fertility Clinic in the US.
Once I made the commitment to move ahead with this breeding of Flag and Fargo, and she had received a clean bill of reproductive health, we had several steps to go through. First, we had to get the mare to go into cycle-which involved an injection. Then we started tracking her follicles. To me they looked a lot like odd shaped balls but what do I know?
Several at the barn got embroiled in the Fargo follicle process and asked each day what size Fargo’s follicles were. Identifying the follicle size involves a sonogram (ultra-sound) of the horse’s reproductive parts.
By Thursday we were getting close but didn’t know if Fargo would be ready for baby-making on Friday or on the weekend. We asked Dr. Marden with Flag for a late Friday afternoon collection. I have to admit I did enjoy posting on FaceBook that my daughter and her friend were en route to College Station to get some sperm. I found that pretty funny until I got some blowback from the father of Lauren’s under-18 friend. But I am guessing he is telling the story at work so he can’t be too upset.
It was Lauren’s first time to see Feather’s dad in person. She also got to meet Feather’s full sister and brother. They are built a great deal like Feather but one is a bay and one a chestnut. Lauren retrieved the vials of precious cargo and headed back to the farm.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lynn Criner was checking Feather to see if we were ready to breed, but she was not. I was worried Friday as we stored the vials in the refrigerator until we could do another check on Saturday. I hoped this mare that I knew so little about did not out wait the semen. The semen in the best of worlds was good until maybe Sunday (or so I had been assured). I was terrified the mare would take her time and have the perfect follicle on Monday.
Saturday, the rains blew through hard, causing some downed limbs and another three inches of accumulation. All the horses stayed in their stalls. Lynn showed up mid-afternoon to check on Fargo.
I have worked for OB-GYNs off and on for many years. I know my way around the female anatomy and sonogram images. Not so much when I was reviewing the images on Lynn’s machine. But by this point in the process, I could id the follicles but not a lot else.
As an aside, one of the ladies at the barn needed a pelvic ultra-sound for her own reproductive issues and I volunteered Lynn and her machine. She choose to keep her appointment with the radiology team at the hospital. We would have cleaned the probe first. I promise.
Anyway, Saturday afternoon, the rains had stopped (for a while) the skies had cleared but no one but the two of us (the doc and myself) were at the barn. We got Fargo to assume the position for seemingly the umpteenth time. I said silent prayers for follicle readiness. And yes, glory be, we had lift off!! It was time to inseminate the mare!
The semen (I have typed this word more in the last two weeks than I ever have in my life) had been ‘cooled’ and it was time to warm it up prior to insemination. I was told to put the syringes filled with Flag’s magic power next to my skin. I asked, “Like in my pockets?” No, I was told, next to your skin.
Then it was soon time for Fargo to take the magic vials from their warming position and have them injected into her. This process required a lot of cleaning of mare parts and sterile procedures.
I swear Fargo brightened up remarkably as the syringe was emptied. When the tube was removed, Fargo gave a huge sigh of satisfaction. I wanted to ask her if she would like a cigarette or something.
Here’s to hoping we are on our way to lovely, kind, athletic, jumping-fool of a foal. We should know more in the next couple weeks. Keep your fingers crossed. Say a prayer. For those of you wondering, horses carry approximately 342 days. And you thought you had it bad.
Many thanks for riding along this journey with us!