Breeding Gone Wrong - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 58 Old 05-28-2009, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Breeding Gone Wrong

I thought this MAY be a good topic in hopes of letting some people new to breeding realize the dangers and costs that present themselves. Yes, many horses foal just fine, unassisted, but many also don't. So what are your stories of breeding just gone wrong? Whether it be bad conformation, deformities, or emergency situations that resulted in enormous bills or even worse - injury/death.

I worked at a large scale Dressage facility for about a year (old friend of the family, unfortunately her and her husband split up, he claimed the establishment and turned it into a polo barn), that also doubled as a Warmblood (Hanoverian/Oldenburg) breeding facility.

It was just my first real up close and personal (ROFL, REALLY up close and personal since she had me helping her collect the stud and inseminating mares!) at a proper breeding establishment, and all the costs that go into it even with the most basic of care. And the horrific things that can go wrong - Elaine had a young daughter and she invited her friends for a sleepover in hopes to see a foal being born. Well, they got to see a foal being born all right - and killed. Somehow, the mares pelvis locked and the foal got stuck halfway out and the mare panicked. She started thrashing and jumping around and sitting, ultimately crushing the foal to death. Elaine immediately had to call the vet on her cell phone to rush out to sedate the mare so they could pull the mangled dead foal from her. Obviously, none of these kids ever want to be present for a birth again. And everything was done RIGHT. However, the end result of this story had an aware and responsible breeder not been present would have been a dead mare along with the foal.

Anyway, that's my breeding nazi-ism at work! I briefly considered breeding my Arab mare, mostly because I'm an Arab person and the Arab community around here SUCKS - nothing worth my while for sale. So along with that, I won't breed to the crap that's standing around here. The cost of getting her properly inseminated from an outside source and mare care is simply out of my budget, so I bit the bullet and bought a cute Paint filly that looks Half-Arab instead

I understand why some people would breed horses that would be questionable as breeding stock. I mean, realistically, that's still your preference. But even a badly conformed Grade mare bred to a cheap stud deserves medical attention to both prevent things from going wrong, and in case things DO go wrong.

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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post #2 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 07:10 AM
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good thread idea... I have no breeding bad stories to tell but we had a professional breeder at our barn for a while (she had the divorce thing going too and lost her barn) One thing I observed is that she spent a ton of time at the barn and knew how to deal with everything that could possibly happen. My point is that a novice breeder should have truly studied before breeding. The breeding test posted on here is a good start. I would also suggest if you are thinking about breeding read the posts on this thread, as many as you have time for. You will learn a lot including mares and babies having to be put down, etc.

Also if you are going to post that you might want to breed your mare probably good idea to post as much information as possible. For instance conformation pictures of your mare, her bloodlines, etc. Also state your purpose for breeding, what are you trying to produce? Also for those experienced folks out there maybe an average cost associated with the entire process. Stud fee, ultrasound, supplements, complications, etc, so that novice breeders can truly decide if they can afford a pregnancy.
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post #3 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 09:19 AM
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Oh boy do I have stories. I breed Miniature horses.

My first foal due was the only foal that year. He was aborted full term, mare and an infection. Of course our dreams of a wonderful foal ruined, and had to deal with my poor mare's longing for her foal and her infection that required several vet visists for flushes. Pricey, and no foal. But other than the infection, my mare was fine and that was one of the lucky losses... if you can say a loss is lucky? It is compared to others...

Next year was much better. First foal born without a problem. But her normally sweet and loving mom (a maiden), decided she wanted us to have NOTHING to do wtih her filly. Her filly's eyelashes turned in towards her eye, creating an ulcer which required, of course, several vet visits and we had to medicate her eye every TWO HOURS around the clock... all this with a mare trying to kill us. NOT FUN. And pricey of course!

Two weeks later baby #2. Only one leg presenting!!! Had to get the mare up (she did NOT want to do that), hubby had to walk her to keep her standing while I located the missing front leg. Luckily it was easy to reposition, and the colt was born just fine.

Mare number three foaled the next night. No problems with her foaling (this was the mare who lost her foal the previous year), but it took the filly a bit to find the milk bar, luckily though her IgG was fine.

This year (er, last year FOR this year I mean) I bred my arab pony to a really nice Arab (halter/liberty winner, now finishing VERY well in endurance, a son of The Minstril), and boy was I excited for this foal. Mare didnt' take first go-round, so next month back at the stud's.... racking up the mare care and vet U/S fees of course. But that time she took. Unfortunately she aborted 6 months later. Foal's neck wasn't quite right (vet and I both agree on that), and the skin was decomposing, but vet not sure exactly what was wrong. I had LFG but I chose not to rebreed her after the heartache and costs that came with my next two foals due...

Next due was an experience mini mare. My first foal from her and my stallion, although they both had foals for previous owners. Both leopards, another highly anticipated foal (not just from me, but from other mini horse owners who were excited to see the offspring of these two nice horses). Then I get the call from a viewer that my mare is in labor (I have my horses on cam, online via marestare, so people help watch and call if something's up). I was actually on my way home, and hubby was there, so I got him to go keep an eye on her while I drove home. I thought it odd, must be a mistake... she wasnt' bagged up at all, no signs of foaling soon. When I got home, she sure DID seem to be in labor, so I called my vet, concerned. My vet thought she was probably colicking, but while on the phone, some of her "water" came out... I told vet I'd call her back. As I feared, since not much water (just trickles)... red bag! Broke it and immediately started trying to help get that foal OUT because the clock is ticking with red bags. Had two legs, but could NOT get the head repositioned. Called vet and she was on her way, but 45 mins away. The whole time waiting hubby was on the phone with a very experienced breeder friend (Norsire farm) trying to help me, but no use. Vet tried for a long time, then sedated her and continued trying, but still no go. We took her into the vet hospital (horsepital hehe) where three techs and three vets could NOT get that head into position. Anesthetised her, the whole works. Foal was long gone (I suspect he died causing the labor since she wasn't ready? BEAUTIFUL leopard colt) and we had to do a fetotomy. Mare's life was at risk, she speant days in the hospital, but thankfully her life was saved. Her breeding career was over due to damage to her cervix, but she is ok and enjoying being a spoiled pet at my friend's house now.

Baby number two was born about a month ago. His birth went fine, but he was a dummy foal (they just don't act right, and have a hard time nursing, caused by comprimised oxygen). He did not nurse for 24 hours. Had to have the vet come out and tube him wtih momma's milk. Then a couple hours later I tried bottle feeding him (since he still wasnt' nursing, even with our help), and although he seemed to be sucking on the bottle, nothing. So off to the vets to stay for 48 hours, tube fed, then bottle fed, then finally he nursed but had to stay there for treatments and to make sure he would be ok. His IgG was too low and he had to have a plasma transfusion.

So so far this year, just in these two minis, just in the birthing/after alone, not counting anything else (no stud feed, not counting pregnancy costs) I have speant $5000 and have my one foal (whom I adore). I could get a mini colt for a LOT less than that!

Breeding is NOT for the faint of heart, and you better have a way to pay for emergencies!
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post #4 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 09:55 AM
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great post cheyaut! wow you have been through a lot, good information for those that just think they want to pay a stud fee and have a baby
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post #5 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 10:04 AM
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I never bred myself (and have no plans for that even though my horses lines are pretty good). But friends of mine breed for number of years. And one year (actually the year I first met them) was just horrible.

First foaling mare died right there while foaling (foal died too). She was in foal several times before - never had an issue. And that was my friend hubby's favorite horse he got as a baby.

Then next mare foaled dead foal.

Then next mare died from terrible colic leaving behind 1 week old filly.

Just want to add that all those mares were in foal before, and they were all in good condition (nice, fat, and shiny).

I didn't even ask about vet costs - I imagine they were very high. But I was even afraid to call them, because almost any time I gave a call, they already had a new loss. It was just very, very sad........
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post #6 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 10:30 AM
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Anyone who says they want to breed to have a baby of their very own to raise and handle from birth has NO idea how much cost and work goes into it. IF you get past the risks, and have a healthy baby and mom, do you know how to halter break? What do you do when the baby tries to climb on/play with you? How do you discipline for kicking and biting and playing and teach a baby that humans are different than other horses? What happens if you just have ONE baby on the property? How do you handle that differently to ensure that they get the right help and stimulation? All things that most people don't realize or consider when it comes to "I want to breed my mare."

Great thread - thank you for sharing!

I recently bred my mare and she foaled this May 7th, and the baby is amazing, BUT he is a HANDFUL! I've had to work my butt off just to get him handleable and well mannered, and that's with a very nice mare!

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post #7 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 11:10 AM
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Good topic.

I have been breeding and raising foals small scale (0 to 6 foals each season, with an average of around 3 per season) for 15 years, and have also managed breeding/foaling for others at large barns. When you breed horses you WILL experience tragedies and emergencies-- its not a matter of if, but when.
Some of what I have experienced?

**WARNING-- Long post, and graphic descriptions of injury and gore to follow-- read on at your own risk.**

***Dummy/anoxic foal-- Client mare shipped u rom Texas early in her last trimester, in preparation to be re-bred to the APHA champion/Superior Halter stallion standing at the farm. This mare was monitored and attended, myself and their trainer were right there to assist, labor and delivery proceeeded entirely normally, but the foal was born not breathing. Trainer was able to rescuscitate the foal, however he remained only semi-conscious-- could not stand on his own, never nursed-- he was moved into their barn office on a mattress with full veterinary attention-- IVs, tube feeding, etc--where we attended him around the clock. He rallied a bit at about 12 hours old but died shortly thereafter. This wasn't my foal, but I would estimate the vet bill alone (10 years ago) was around $1000 with the outcome being a dead foal (no fault of the vet of course.)

***Malpresentation/mare rupture-- I had turned out a pregnant mare for the morning-- she was about 325 days, no signs, small udder, folded teats--ran to a soccer game and came back to find her down in the paddock, streaming milk, trying to deliver a foal. There was only one foot showing, and she had a yard of ripped and dirty intenstines protruding from her anus, and there were a couple pools of blood and tissue in the vicinity where she had apparently been up and down. I sent my daughter to get my husband and the rifle, as any vet would be at least an hour out and this was obviously not fixable and was quickly becoming a more dire and painful situation by the second.

While I waited and comforted the mare, I felt for the foals other leg to see where the hang up was (I assumed it was dead.) I found that the other knee was flexed so the cannon was folded back-- I straightened it and pulled and out came a very ALIVE bay colt. While I kept the poor mare down (she was going back and forth between extreme colicy pain and nickering for her foal and wanting to get up to see him) and waited for my husband to load the rifle, I again sent my daughter-- this time to get an empty gallon jug out of the barn. I was able to milk out about 30 ounces of colostrum from the mare before she was quickly euthanized by bullet.

I took the foal up to the barn and prepared a four oz bottle-- bottle fed him the colostrum every two hours for the first day/night, and the next day when the vet checked his IgG levels, amazingly they were in the normal range, so no plasma transfer needed. He had contracted tendons however, so he needded an IV tetracyclene treatment. I had another mare with a two week old foal, but the attempt to foster him was unsuccessful, so we corralled him next them so he could at least see other horses. Good foal milk replacer cost $90 for a large bag, and he went through three bags in his first two weeks of life. I taught him to drink from a bucket as soon as practical so I could have some relief from those every two hour feedings, and so he could have constant access to milk.

For his first two weeks of life this foal cost around $700 in vet bills and $300 in milk replacer, and this was an EASY orphan situation compared to many, since he had good immunity, no infection, took to the bottle/bucket, and etc.

There was no bill on the mare because it was obvious what needed to be done. however, had she ruptured and the "parts" remained inside as to not make obvious the extent of her injuries, we would have had a long painful and expensive vet experience with the mare and ended up with the same fatal outcome.

Foal was drinking close to five gallons of replacer a day when I gave him to an experienced horse/farm family who were looking for an eventual companion for their older gelding--they and their nine children were thrilled to have a second horse to raise and care for. They were doing a great job, but unfortunately when he got bigger and started failing to thrive, even with great feed and care, it was discovered that he had a heart defect and he was euthanized at six months old.

I will continue with a "part two" post--

Laura Lyon
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post #8 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 11:23 AM
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(Part two--Again, WARNING of graphic content---)

***Patent Urachus--Older experienced mare foaled without complications and the foal was up, healthy and bright-- but he started looking dull on the second day, and his muzzle was covered with sticky milk-- a sign that a baby is attempting to nurse but not getting the job done so the milk is dripping/spraying on their nose rather than getting into their mouth like it should. The foal had an elevated temperature and seemed a little bloated, and I THOUGHT I had seen him urinate, but I was second guessing myself now--

I called my vet, and (my mistake) wondered aloud about a ruptured bladder. They said they didn't even want to see him if there was a chance he had a ruptured bladder-- they recommended he go straight to MSU (an hour trailer drive to a very good but very expensive Veterinary Teaching College, Michigan State University). Luckily (in comparison LOL) before I hung up I witnessed the foal urinating--- BUT.... he was uriating out of his navel.

This is called Patent Urachus, and it means that a passageway that should be closed when the foal is born is open, or has re-opened. (when in utero the foal sends liquid waste back up the umbilical cord for the mom's body to take care of-- this ceases when the foal is born, the urachus closes, and new foal urinates out of the appropriate orifice.) The urachus can be slow to close, or it can be reopened by the presence of an infection in the umbilicus.

Patent Urachus needs immediate vet attention, but is nowhere near as serious as a ruptured bladder. Vet came out, we started him on 2X daily antibiotics-- I gave him pennecillin shots IM in the hip each morning, and the vet came out each evening to give him IV Zithromax. We also laid him down daily and the vet inserted a stick tipped with silver nitrate into the umbilicus to cauterize it--to speed up healing and closure. Each day the stick would go in less deep, meaning the passageway was closing. This vet had a couple days off over the weekend and sent out an associate vet-- when she inserted the silver nitrite stick I panicked as I noticed she pushed it up at least two inches further than we had been inserting it the previous two days!

We let the foal up and sure enough he started showing signs of extreme pain and distress-- I thought she had skewered and killed my foal. She went to her truck and called the other vet-- I couldn't hear the conversation but I could see her face and it was not reassuring. She said that the other Dr. said that she had just broken through the previously cauterized healing/scar tissue-- not to panic, but treat him like a colic, as it would be painful like that. We treated him with painkiller, tranquilizer, and anti-inflammatory, and she said she would be back in a few hours to check on him-- I sat with his head on my lap for the entire time bawling, but he came out of it OK. Vet bill for the week old foal so far? $2000.

***Dystocia (means foal not positioned properly to be born)-- I had been up all night the previous night with a mare dripping milk, and I saw thefoal moving around A LOT, and mare acted restless but no foal, and she quieted down around dawn. This is not too uncommon, as the foal has to move into position, and it seemed normal at the time. I watched her closely all the next day.

The next evening I witnesed her water break-- but no amnion bubble, no feet appearing after a few minutes. The mare was not distressed-- in fact she didn't seem to be having contractions. After 15 minutes I called the vet (45 minutes to an hour away) knowing that if there was a problem, it was likely we would lose the foal before the vet arrived. I scrubbed and went up into the mare shoulder-deep, and could feel NO foal anywhere. Vet arrived and also could feel no foal in the birth canal-- but thought he could feel the foal and uterus UNDER the mare's cervix. Loaded the mare up and off to MSU (see previous post about MSU).

Hour+ drive to MSU--The mare was still not having labor or contractions and was not even sweating. At this point, it was pretty clear we had lost the foal, but were figuring what to do to save the mare. C-section was a base price of $4000. If we thought the foal was alive, we would have opted for a C-section, but given the time that had passed, it was not realistic that there was a live foal. They could also attempt manual delivery under general anesthesia-- this would be considerably cheaper, (base price $2000) and cost unfortunately was a factor I had to consider. IF manual delivery failed, we could decide to go right to C section as she would already be anesthatized and prepped.

So she was anesthatized, laid on her back with her hind legs suspended, and several vets and students went to work. After considerable time and effort using OB chains and cables and vets switching off as they got fatigued, and some discussion of a fetonomy (fola is sectioned by a surgical wire saw and taken out in pieces-- can be dangerous to the mare if the wire slips or the foal pieces have sharp bone protruding) we were presented with a huge dead filly that looked just like her dam.

Filly had been laying on her back in the mare with her head and neck back and legs all folded in-- she had not turned so her head and forelegs could enter the birth canal, so they had to turn her and get all appropriate parts headed the right direction to get her delivered. Foal had probably died the night before when the mare was in labor but for whatever reason failed to positition and be delivered-- the labor at that time had caused placental detachment so she had no oxygen.

They then went back into the mare and to our extreme disappointment, found a huge tear in the mare's uterus. (at least football sized, they said). It could have been torn (or the tear could have started) by the strugglings of the foal trying to get born the night before, or it could have torn (or further torn) during manual delivery-- it was way to far forward to completely reach it vaginally-- from what they could reach, the tear was too large and had too many edges to even be able to find them all.

They gave me a less than 25% chance of the mare surviving, even if operated on and left with them in intenstive care. This would be due to the massive contamination that was already underway due to the uternine contents spilled into her abdominal cavity, as well as the size and seriousness of the tear and their inability to even reach it without full open abdominal surgery, not to mention the chances of secondary infections, colic, and complications during the long post-op period. We opted to euthanize the mare without waking her up-- she had apparently not been in distress whe she arrived and it seemed the kindest and most realistic option.

The vet college was both suprised and grateful that I asked if they wanted the mare and foal's body to use for further teaching and research-- I found out that they never ask for this, as they don't want to further upset a bereaved owner, and most owners opt for on site cremation or take home the remains to bury on the farm. I was grateful for their help and thought if the remains could help more upcoming vets help more people it was a fitting and dignified end for a great sweet mare and the filly who never had a chance to live. Vet bill for dead mare and dead foal-- $2500. Hauled the empty trailer home.

I have more experiences from both my farm and the farm where I worked-- angular limb deformities requiring surgery, dead twins, aborted fetuses, mares rejecting their foals, foal born with a cleft palate, rhino exposure prior to the five month vaccination wiping out five pregnancies.... but rather than more gory details, I think I will go out and hug my home-bred, home-raised yearling and two year old to cheer myself back up.

Laura Lyon

Last edited by Eastowest; 05-29-2009 at 11:30 AM.
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post #9 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 12:46 PM
Green Broke
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Eastowest, your posts scared the hell out of me. I don't think I'm going to breed my mare anymore... or, at least not for a LONG time...
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post #10 of 58 Old 05-29-2009, 01:21 PM
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Although these stories are sad (and I really do feel your pain and sympathise with you, I am sorry for the losses) it is a REALITY in breeding, one you have to be prepared to deal with.
Good topic.

The lovely images above provided by CVLC Photography
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