A Weekend in Avalon: Equine Reproduction Seminar

An Equine-reproduction.com LLC educational experience, reviewed by your editor/curator, Nat Masin

Last week, I had the great pleasure of taking the rather easy and short 5.5 hour drive up to Wynnewood, Oklahoma from my home base in the Houston area. Accompanied by my breeding partner-in-crime (aka: my mother) Lynn Masin, we set out for Equine-Reproduction.com, LLC  for 3 days of intense (albeit entertaining) equine reproduction education. It was a weekend we will never forget!

Logistically speaking, attending these courses is convenient. Equine-Reproduction.com, LLC  is conveniently located within 15 minutes of new major chain hotels, restaurants and amenities, with easy in and easy out access to the facility. In good weather or bad, Kathy and Jos are set up to accommodate effective classroom and hands-on learning experiences for their students.

Once on-site at Equine-Reproduction.com, LLC , you are immediately surrounded by some of the most notable North American stallions standing at Kathy St. Martin and Jos Mottershead’s facility. In fact, upon parking, I recognized some of the stallions associated with their own breeding program – Avalon Equine – Apiro, ES Toronto, ES Black Tie, and Pax Asgard af Pegasus (who, much to my pleasant surprise, had just arrived from competing in Florida). A casual stroll through the stallion paddocks rewarded us with introductions to the rest of the off-season on-site “gang”: Legaczy, Baatesh, Colorado Skrodstrup, Dracula d’Avalon, Sarkozy, Mannhattan, Sempatico, and new kid on the block Candola D. We were in stallion heaven!

Kathy and Jos hold these breeding seminars a few times each year, providing their students with complete course notes (published in textbook format with scientific citations throughout) to follow along and take notes in while Jos delivered a professional presentation on a large screen format in their lab (temperature-controlled for your comfort). Jos’s 30 plus years of research and teaching experience in equine breeding was apparent in his ability to break down complex scientific topics in the classroom (ie: the chemical and biological aspects behind those pesky hormone cycles) that he communicated with precision, clarity, and mindfulness to his audience. These classroom sessions were supported by hands-on mare and stallion labs, providing students with the opportunity to put their classroom instruction to application in both the mare and stallion barns. In typical fashion, the weekend was filled with levity, which was particularly appreciated when covering topics addressing common misunderstandings and missteps that nearly all of us breeders in the room had fallen victim to in our breeding careers.

The audience consisted of students with varying levels of experience, from those new to breeding and still exploring the field, to those with many years of experience looking to brush up on the basics and learn the current advances, to veterinarians and techs looking to polish their equine reproductive skillsets and pick up a few tricks of the trade. Participants were awarded the opportunity to network with their peers, and ask questions in a non-threatening atmosphere. This is truly a course designed for all breeders of all backgrounds and length of experience!

For us, though we are not likely to start inseminating our own mares anytime soon (and are likely not standing our own stallion any time soon either), we came away from the course with a much higher level of confidence around the management of our breeding program, while also becoming more empowered in our understanding of the stallion side of the equation.

I won’t attempt to reiterate to you the complete list of topics that we covered in this 3 day course, as that list is truly very long and I most certainly will not do it justice! However, I’ll attempt to give you the meat of it (and you’ll just have to fill in the gaps yourself by attending in the future).

The first two days comprised of Mare topics. The first day covered the non-pregnant mare. In the classroom, Jos walked us (carefully) through the key terminology, the mare reproductive structures, critical endocrinology (don’t worry, this was done cautiously and accompanied by helpful diagrams and tactful repetition to ensure we got it straight), breeding preparation (including conformational assessment, swabs, cytologies, sensitivities, and biopsies), diseases, and explaining ultrasounding. From this foundation, we were educated on breeding soundness exams, management/modification of the hormonal cycles, and the breeding process (live cover, artificial insemination, and troubleshooting challenges with “problem” mares). We learned about common causes of endometritis, prevention and occurrence of sexually transmitted organisms, and the diagnosis and management of numerous other conditions (including developmental and hormonal abnormalities). With every issue presented, Jos methodically walked through diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures using classroom props (breeding equipment, tools, and reproductive system specimens).

Perhaps the most comical (or embarrassing) part of this day was the topic of Breeding Myths! No doubt, every participant in that room had been guilty of believing or practicing at least one of these myths (and Jos did a great job providing the comic relief when the audience responded in awe on a few of the topics).

Kathy demonstrating ultrasounding of the mare.

The first half of the second day continued in the classroom on the topic of pregnant mares, once again touching on endocrinology and expanding to methods of pregnancy detection and dealing with twin pregnancies. Jos then covered the management of the pregnant mare through mid and late pregnancy, including nutrition, de-worming, immunization, and pre-foaling problems (including abortions and placentitis, among other more rare conditions). We then walked through the process of parturition and were provided with a detailed foaling equipment checklist. The classroom half of this day ended with dystocias, foaling complications, and post-foaling care for both mare and foal.

For the second half of the second day, Kathy took us out to the mare facility, where she explained rectal palpations, ultrasounding, and artificial insemination (“AI”). We were taught how to read ultrasound images of the uterus and ovaries, and some neat tricks for setting up a mare for success and safety in the breeding stocks. Each participant was then given the opportunity to practice an AI on a saintly mare under Kathy’s close oversight.

Day three was all about the boys! We spent the first half of the day in the classroom, learning about the stallion reproductive structures, reproductive conformation, and endocrinology. Jos discussed sperm production and the impact of exogenous hormones and medications on sperm production (which certainly raised a lot of eyebrows). My mother and I particularly enjoyed the discussion on healthy management and handling of stallions, covering such topics as housing, nutrition, and (*gasp*) masturbation. No topics was off limits if it was important to our better understanding of stallions and their breeding considerations!

Given Jos and Kathy’s extensive experience in handling and breeding stallions, we were gifted with a lecture on characteristics befitting successful stallion handling and the avoidance of common handling errors (what better way than to learn vicariously through their combined 60+ years of experience). We were then instructed on pre-season stallion breeding examinations, collection processes and protocols, lab and breeding equipment, and collection techniques. Jos walked us through dealing with problem stallions (including poor quality semen, low libido, high libido, ejaculatory dysfunction, testicular conditions, and diseases).

The second half of the third day took us to the stallion breeding shed. There, Jos and Kathy demonstrated the collection of a stallion on the phantom, and then walked us through the semen analysis in their well-equipped lab. We learned how to handle, extend, and store semen, including the analysis of a sample under microscope and CASA (computer assisted semen analysis).

At the conclusion of the weekend, we were presented with certificates of completion:

If all of that didn’t get your head spinning, I can tell you that Jos and Kathy were able to get through all this and more in three days, and we didn’t walk away feeling overwhelmed or confused. There were ample opportunities to ask questions, and both Jos and Kathy were welcoming and empathetic to our experiences. I highly recommend this breeding seminar to anyone looking to learn more or brush up on their skills. We came away with a wealth more knowledge and ideas for our breeding program, that we will happily discuss with our veterinarian, at length.

To stay current on equine reproduction and be a part of the discussion, follow Equine-Reproduction.com LLC online and on social media (FB: @EquineRepro).

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4 Replies to “A Weekend in Avalon: Equine Reproduction Seminar”

  1. Susan Forester

    Thank you so very much for sharing your experience and the information regarding what the breeding course entails.
    I’m very interested in knowing when you may expect to offer another course, as I would like to attend.

    Reply
    • Kathy Martin

      Hi Susan,
      We typically hold the short courses in the spring and the fall during the “off” breeding season. We are done with the short courses for this spring with the next ones probably being scheduled for sometime in October and/or November and then again in February/March of 2024. You can go to our website at http://www.equine-reproduction.com and watch for updates on when coursess will be held, as well as follow our facebook page. I hope that helps! Feel free to drop us an email as well at office@equine-reproduction.com

      Reply
  2. Kathy Martin

    Hi Susan,
    We typically hold the short courses in the spring and the fall during the “off” breeding season. We are done with the short courses for this spring with the next ones probably being scheduled for sometime in October and/or November and then again in February/March of 2024. You can go to our website at http://www.equine-reproduction.com and watch for updates on when coursess will be held, as well as follow our facebook page. I hope that helps! Feel free to drop us an email as well at office@equine-reproduction.com

    Reply

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