Friday, May 31, 2024

Ultrasound, Rinse, Repeat: Part 3

This appointment was slightly less stressful, but only slightly 不 lucky for me, Ruby's reproductive system continued to cooperate, and she had ovulated - two follicles actually! But as anticipated, she had retained some fluid, so she needed a uterine lavage. Optho had both of the stocks in use so the first ultrasound was just in a stall, so no good photos of that because the vet told me she trusted me to hold Ruby more than any of the students, so I couldn't see the screen lol. 

"Again? *Sigh*"

For the lavage they really did need her in stocks (with drugs haha) so luckily one opened up and we got that done fairly quickly. The fluid coming out was slightly cloudy, but again, as expected, so nothing alarming. Also more really aggressive flatulence, which all the young female vet students were so mortified about 不不

The vet sent me home with more drugs to encourage Ruby's uterus to contract and prescribed light exercise to keep her system moving, and we had a "can't miss" appointment two weeks later to check for a black dot - and hopefully only one, because the risk with a double ovulation is twins, which means one would need to be pinched off. 

I took the vet's instructions very seriously, so Ruby got ponied while I did a conditioning ride for Emmy hahaha. 

Considering I have no idea if either of them has ponied another horse/has been ponied, and I was riding alone in the woods in a bareback pad .... Things went well 不 I struggled to juggle everything, but that's a me problem, not a horse problem lol. 

So. Now you're up to date on what has been going on with Ruby! I really hesitated to even post anything before we got to the heartbeat phase, because there is so much risk in breeding. Ruby is older than is preferable for a maiden mare. The semen we got was literally the stallion's first official shipped collection - he had been phantom trained/had evaluations and test cools/etc, but had no pregnancies yet. Ruby had some really weird cycles we couldn't get a handle on in the beginning. So many things could go wrong. And if they do - that's okay. It's not the end of the world. I've done this before, and I know the risks. Even if this doesn't work out and I'm just out a shit ton of money, those are the breaks. I won't identify the stallion until things are more confirmed, because if it doesn't work out, it's not any fault on his end - he is managed by a very experienced breeder and on their end they worked with a great repro clinic. Basically I'm just taking it a day at a time right now, but I do think breeding is such a cool journey to chronicle and I know Amanda does a really cool job posting about it on a more commercial scale, I also like sharing my own little rinky dink AA experience 不 at any rate, we'll be checking for a black dot (and hopefully only one!) next week, so cross your fingers for us! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Testing, testing

Apparently, in the fun "I hate blogger" saga I have going on, my posts are no longer showing up in Feedly, it's showing some sort of "dead feed" error, so this is just a test to see if randomly toggling things in the settings tab made a difference..... Plz comment if you can see this! 

Ultrasound, Rinse, Repeat: Part 2

When I woke up on *THE DAY*, I was irrationally nervous. And then the whole FedEx opening late. And then there was an issue with another shipment being picked up at the same time (not mine, but the vet had to sort it out before she could meet me). But then it was time! 

Today's the DAAAAAAAY

At pretty much every previous appointment, there were a gaggle of vet students helping, but the day Ruby got inseminated, they were on a different farm call - so I got to play assistant I fully recognize that might not be everyone's cup of tea but as a middle/high schooler I actually wanted to be a vet and spent a few summers riding around with several equine vets on farm calls and helping out (in retrospect this was sort of child labor but whatever I loved it 不不). And I've always been someone who loves to learn. So, once we confirmed Ruby was ready to breed (two big ol' follicles looking ready to ovulate imminently), we cracked open the "man in a can" (breeders got jokes lol) and got to work!

She had no idea this was gonna be different from the 5 thousand other ultrasounds lol

There were two doses of fresh cooled semen, at 50ml each. Because of the follicle size, my vet opted to inseminate with both - it was a high volume of semen and did increase the chances of Ruby retaining some fluid and needing to be flushed, but it was a calculated risk based on how close ovulation looked and I trust my vet's call. I held the little baggies open while she sucked everything up into the syringes, brought her supplies, swapped out the doses when one syringe was empty, etc etc. I feel really lucky that she trusted me enough to let me help! I have been using this particular university as my vet for over a decade, but the therio vets are new since the last time I had occasion to need one, so this particular vet has only known me since April, but I guess we have seen enough of each other that she doesn't think I'm a complete idiot lol. 

Ruby was not nearly as enthusiastic as I was haha

The center standing the stallion put the shipping label over the open latch which was a clever way to keep FedEx from fucking with it - I have heard nightmares about empty equitainers showing up!

Dr. Julia got everything prepped for the insemination, then went in with the tube to deliver the semen - poor Ruby. As a maiden, the vet really struggled to get everything where it needed to be, and I have literally never heard a horse express so much aggressive gas in my entire life 不 but everything ended up where it was supposed to be, and then the vet asked me if I wanted to watch her do the initial semen evaluation - um, absolutely! 


To do the evaluation, she took a small sample from each of the doses, mixed them together, and then examined them on a slide under a microscope. She did email me a formal semen evaluation to send on to the stallion owner, and that's not the internet's business 不 but it was super cool to see all the little swimmers bopping around on the slide! 

When I got home I managed to perfectly line up the jack with the block again, which felt like a good omen haha
Out with all her friends the evening after the deed was done! 

The vet sent me home with some drugs to induce ovulation just in case Ruby wanted to keep being a weirdo, and the next step was an appointment the following day to confirm ovulation/check for fluid. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Ultrasound, Rinse, Repeat: Part 1

This story really starts nine years ago - an Andalusian breeder whose program i really have a ton of respect for bought a new colt. I was intrigued. They have a great eye, and they do amazing work raising babies and turning them into very solid citizens. Cinna was having her first few rides in late 2015 and I was casually thinking long term about the next generation, so I made a note to keep an eye on him. 

The first of many of these photos.... 

Over the years, I followed along as he grew up, and learned all about being a riding and driving horse. His owner is an incredibly talented CDE competitor (on the FEI's developing athlete list!) and she works with great dressage trainers. The stallion matured and started doing things. He got even nicer. He moved to the top of my list for Ruby "down the line". He basically WAS the list 不

DH got to be involved one day the appointment fell on a state holiday. 

Since Ruby was my main competition horse, breeding was always on the backburner, but I really did want her to produce my next generation of riding horses. I am a firm believer than anything that reproduces should be DO things first. Unfortunately in the Iberian breeds, some people basically just breed them based on in hand class results and having lots of hair, and that doesn't do it for me. Ruby definitely met all my criteria of being a well-rounded, super fun amateur horse with a great brain, good conformation, and more talent than I knew what to do with, but I was having so much fun doing stuff with her the idea of taking the better part of two years off to grow then raise a baby sounded like it was going to interfere with a lot of show plans 不 so I kept thinking "well maybe next year".

Another photo, a different day in stocks lol. 

But then I got Emmy. And I was splitting my riding and lesson time between them. And then I started really focusing on getting bronze scores on Emmy. And of course Cinna was still around to ride. Which freed Ruby up to take a little time off. And then .........

Alright so time to tell you about the time the vet almost gave me a heart attack 不 at like the 3rd ultrasound, the vet was like "well that's weird, that almost looks like a testicle" 梗梗 it was not, just a weird quirk of the contrast/tissue that day, I made her check on every subsequent ultrasound, but god did she take like 5 years off my life lol. 

Last fall, I got a message from the stallion owner. I had been VERY vocal about keeping an eye on him for Ruby down the road. He was heading down to Florida for the winter season, and as long as things went well, she was tentatively planning to stand him at stud in 2024 and needed to get some breedings set up to make sure he collected and shipped well before she offered him to the public. And I realized Ruby would turn 13 in January 2024 and as a maiden, we would be getting a pretty late start and it might not be the easiest to get her in foal. So. We started making plans. Very tentative ones. But he had a great Florida season. And he came back home. And she wanted to know if I was still interested - YES!

There were a lot of ultrasounds. I took Ruby in a week or so before the stallion started phantom training, just for a touch base and to make sure everything looked okay/normal/heat cycles had started for the spring/etc. Once the stallion had been trained to collect and was ready to start shipping, I hauled Ruby back up for an ultrasound to try to coordinate a breeding. Of course we had *just* missed ovulation. So the vet sent me home with drugs to short cycle her, and we went back for another ultrasound. And back. And back. And back again. The university is about a 45 minute drive for me, so I had a LOT of 1.5 hours round trips listening to the Tortured Poets Department on repeat 不 Missouri's weather also conspired to send horrifying death storms like EVERY TIME RUBY HAD AN ULTRASOUND the first few weeks. It was nerve wracking. 

The amount of ultrasound photos I have on my phone at this point is unreal. Ruby didn't read the book and her follicles kept doing weird things. They'd grow, they'd hang out at an awkward size for too long, and then bam, they were gone. But finally, we were close. I filled out shipping paperwork and authorized the repro clinic to charge my credit card. We scheduled daily ultrasounds and the stallion owner and I were in practically hourly contact 不 bless her heart she was so patient with my neurotic ass, haha. So was the vet. And finally I got to send the official "SEND SWIMMERS" text. And then obsessively refresh tracking. And then hurry up and wait because FedEx opened late the morning the swimmers arrived. But then.... It was time!

There are two vets in the therio department - Dr. Fabio (that's literally his name I'm not being funny haha) did Ruby's initial ultrasound and one of the follow ups, but the majority of Ruby's repro work was done by Dr. Julia. Both of them are lovely people! 


This is so ridiculously long we need a part two 不 stay tuned! 

Saturday, May 11, 2024