Artificial Insemination : A Breeders Perspective

By Paul Simmons

Photo: C. Morris
" Zayin Encantado and Sakeena Sky Zayin
Both conceived by Artificial insemination - Willesley Equine Clinic - and both foaled at Conkwell Stud - August 2003"

There has been a growing wave of studs who have started to freeze semen from their stallion as this opens up the international market for breeders to promote their sires. The idea is also favourable with people who have particularly valuable stallions who don’t want to deal with lots of strange mares through the breeding season, or risk their stallions being kicked or injured by nervous maidens. It also means that stallions who are still competing – for example in the endurance field can still cover mares.

I breed Arabian race horses and the majority of the top class stallions available from the two top studs – namely Shadwell and Umm Qarn Farms – are only available by artificial insemination. These studs send frozen semen to America, UAE and parts of Europe which is one of the main advantages of AI. In 2002 I sent three mares to Conkwell Stud to be covered using artificial insemination, it was the first time that I had embarked on the process and like most I was worried about the cost implications.

Sweet Simplicity (SES Pashas Mirat X Sky Scilla (Saab)) my race winner had given birth to her first foal in 2002 but sadly it didn’t survive. I decided to try again and chose the Argentenian sire Karmah (Dual Group 2 winner in UK and Champion Arabian in Argentina). Karmah (owned by Gerrado Serra) who was still in training in 2002 with Bill Smith so the only way to cover was by AI. Sweet Simplicity got in foal first time and Willesley Equine Clinic offered me an all in one package for frozen semen for £346 including VAT. This combined with the stud fee of £300 makes an approximate cost of £650 for the foal. The advantage of the all in one package is that you know the full cost from the outset and makes budgeting easier, the vets can then come out as many times as needed to scan, re-scan and check on the mare to make sure that they inseminate at the optimum time of fertilisation. It actually saves money in the long term as it eliminates the call out charges for every visit and scan.

Autumn Columbine (Sheruggi X Autumn Copper Beech (Zehros)) was already a proven broodmare, I chose Shadwell Studs new Straight Russian dual Classic winner Vasilisk (Strij X Vospitannica (Temir)). The semen was chilled and therefore the all in one package was slightly cheaper at £235 and Autumn Columbine scanned in foal at the first attempt.

So far so good but Aliesha (Fuego (Ghadames) X Talima (Falce)) at the age of twelve and a maiden was to prove more difficult. She first went to stud in 2001 to visit Chatanz but despite Lesley and Ray Dunn’s sterling efforts and Chatanz’s best attempts Aliesha wasn’t interested, she also turned down Chatanz’s son El Chenz (X Elita (Galeon) and finally the gorgeous Warrens Hill Destiny (Vert Olive X Dorikos (Klarnet)). I wrote 2001 off and we started again in 2002 and Liz tried to attempt Aliesha with Pogojii but again he failed to persuade her.

I chose Karmah to use on her via AI and the first round of treatment cost £346 (inc. VAT) and Aliesha wasn’t in foal. They tested her ovaries and ran a fertility test and there was nothing biologically wrong with her she just wasn’t conceiving. The second round of treatment was at a reduced cost of £146 (inc. VAT), once again she failed to conceive and I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that Aliesha wouldn’t get in foal. It was September and Liz asked me if I wanted to try again or call it a day. I decided to give it one last go as I was desperate to have a foal from Aliesha. The third set of treatment cost £88 (inc. VAT) and miraculously Aliesha was scanned in foal at 16 days. I left her at the stud for a couple more weeks as I like my mares to be scanned in foal at 32 days before I take them home and Aliesha was again scanned in foal at 32 days but the foal wouldn’t be due till end of July, very late but at least she was in foal.

Autumn Columbine foaled at home in 2003 and had a beautiful bay colt by Vasilisk called Zayin Vakaash. A tall, correct colt with substance and fantastic movement I was very pleased with him. He was gelded last year as a yearling and has since been sold to a racing home. I am so pleased with him that I am thinking about having Autumn Columbine covered by Vasilisk again in 2005 (using AI) with fingers crossed for a filly!

Photo: C. Morris
"Sweet Simplicity (SES Pashas Mirat x Sky Scilla (Saab X Silvretta Sky)
with her AI filly foal Sakeena Sky Zayin by Argentinian Champion racehorse Karmah"

Sweet Simplicity foaled a beautiful chestnut filly by Karmah called Sakeena Sky Zayin at Conkwell in June 2003, sadly as I feared after 2002 Simplicity didn’t take to motherhood at all and Liz Harrington did nothing short of a miraculous job with Sky from the day she was born. Fortunately, Sky survived but was having Aintree foal milk as well as her mothers milk via a bottle from the day she was born until she was six months old. The costs were exorbitant especially when she was put on the advice of vets on Equivite body builder pellets at 3 mths old (has extra milk and calcium for struggling foals). Simplicity wasn’t aggressive with Sky but she couldn’t stand feeding her, clearly not the mothering type Simplicity has now been sold as a hack to a friend locally which makes Sky all the more precious as she is all I have left from that dam-line.
My Spanish mare Aliesha in typical fashion foaled a week late at Conkwell on 1st August 2003 but was thankfully a wonderful mother and very proud of her handsome colt by Karmah who I called Zayin Encantado (Spanish for Charmed or Enchanted). A well conformed, good moving colt with plenty of speed from day one!

Photo: C. Morris
" Aliesha (Fuego (Ghadames) x Talima (Falce)
with her first foal begot by AI a colt Zayin Encantado by Karmah"

Aliesha was such a good mother that when Simplicity had finally decided enough was enough and wouldn’t even let Sky feed off her when she was held that she adopted Sky when the filly was three months old. She seemed to accept her new role as mother to the poor abandoned filly and even let Sky feed off her and I am sure there are not many mares who would let another mare’s three month old foal feed off them but Aliesha loved being a mum and raised both my Karmah foals for me in 2003.
Encantado was also gelded in 2004 and has now also been sold to racing home.

Photo: D. Simmons
" Zayin Encantado the yearling April 2004!"

Aliesha would never have been able to conceive without AI as she detestes stallions and if it wasn’t for AI there would be no Encantado and Sky wouldn’t have had a foster mum.

In 2004 I sent Aliesha off to stud again this time to be artificially inseminated with Dawwas (winner of the Qatar Derby and Heir Apparent Sword in UAE) using frozen semen. Peter Ravenhill from Willesley Equine Clinic seemed to think that as she had started being brought into season she should take again, we tried the first cycle and she conceived first time and is due to foal in April 2005. The cost for AI was £376 (inc. VAT).

My other race brood mare Jumah (Div (Peleng) x Samara Bint Samurai (Golden Samurai)) who won three races and was placed 12 times from 22 starts was covered by Conkwell’s The Wiking (owned by HH Sheikh Mohammed and winner of the Jewels of the East Diamond Derby and Drinkers of the Wind Fururity Stakes) naturally (she had previously had a foal by AI to Bengali D’Albret). Cost was £98 for pre covering tests (swab etc), £60 for 16 day scan and £40 for re-scan at 32 days. Total cost £200 approx.

In 2005 I will again be using AI as Jumah will be covered by Umm Qarn Farm’s phenomenal stallion Makzan. For mares like Aliesha AI is the only way that she could conceive and for people breeding racing Arabians it is sometimes the only way to use some of best sires. The difference in costs is actually probably only about £150 more expensive to use AI than natural, and with studs like Shadwell and Conkwell the stud fee’s aren’t due till October the 1st each year, which gives people more time to save up and helps to spread the cost throughout the year.

Umm Qarn charges 10 % up front and then the balance once the mare is in foal. In short I would have no hesitation in recommending Willesley Equine Clinic for AI as they have got my mares in foal every time of asking and on the first attempt with all bar Aliesha (on her attempt with Karmah) on four occasions (and all four foals were born healthy and strong). Conkwell is also excellently run by Liz Harrington and the two foals I bred before using AI were both by Conkwell’s resident stallion Pogojii, and my mares are always returned in the same excellent condition they left home in.

Photo: D. Simmons

"Yearlings conceived by AI - Zayin Vakaash (bay colt by Vasilisk (Strij) x
Autumn Columbine(Sheruggi)) and Sakeena Sky Zayin - April 2004"

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