Okay, it's time for a new “rant page” here - (another one?!) I have reached critical mass in response to a variety of things being said about both studs and shipped semen.
I’ll start with an anecdote – a vet once told me about handling a shipment of semen that had been placed directly into a small soup-thermos and sent to his client. (Some casual provision had been made for chilling the thermos externally.) Especially considering that it was an elderly mare in poor condition in every respect, he supposed that it was a contemptibly foolish waste of time. He inseminated the mare anyway, and informed his client that “a little more technology” would be required for conception. A few weeks later he found the mare in foal.
Some studs’ semen is ill-suited to shipping, some produce semen that you can't kill with a stick, and most are somewhere in between. (I strongly suspect that some of those accused of having bad semen only need to have more thorough experiments done with processing.)
There are a few elements of processing that need to be carefully observed, but this is definitely not an "exclusive" high-tech endeavor. Reality check: There were a few vets and some "civilians" working with semen and shipping it long before the AQHA even considered the question.
(I, by the way, do not have remarkable background in this – but I have spoken at length with a few of people who do, and encouraged them to talk about their observations. This offers some perspective. )
Others choose to imagine, or at least, to present it as a "sophisticated technology". As to the exclusivity implied by that sort of characterization - if you can read this you can acquaint yourself with the related research, some of which is legitimate and useful. Likewise, you can find plenty of info about the techniques of collecting and processing the semen, which is hardly rocket science. In other words, you can know just as much as anyone else if you want to - easily. (Well, it’s not real hard, anyway.) Colorado State has a series of really good books related to reproduction - these are better than others I have run across - the information is thorough and good. The campus bookstore has a .pdf order form that includes numbers for phone and FAX orders. (That page was down recently - if a problem try http://www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/bms/arbl.html ) However a person might be involved with breeding, one or another of those books would prove very useful.
A nice microscope and some Equitainers are 70% of the total cost, including a dummy, provided you build that yourself.
Incidentally, most horses ship quite well in containers similar to the Bioflight - we know this about Twice Royal, Pablo, and Lucky C from past experience, but prefer the Equitainers for several reasons - in part because these make it harder for people to lay blame at our door in case an insemination is not successful. Many other advantages are discussed at the manufacturer's website. (Some exploration there is rewarding - interesting info.)
I have heard that one Equitainer per four bookings will suffice, and I strongly disagree - one Equitainer per three mares is probably safe enough coverage - but even then it can get uncomfortably close. Without enough of these you have to be really pushy about getting them back "right now" with extra-fast shipping, which costs the client more, and adds an element of unpleasantness to the interaction. Anyway, the main point is that practically any person who really wants to can set up as well or better, and do good work. Actually, there are people who do a top-quality job and get excellent results with much less.
That business of Equitainers is another rant item - treating the client like a criminal, demanding exorbitant deposits, (I have even heard of some who charge a fee for its use) and then riding them hard to return it ASAP - along with chute fees, handling fees, had to halter the horse fees, and needed to scratch my butt fees. After all, in a worst case scenario there is that little matter of a breeder's certificate - the client wants you to sign one when the foal is born, right? Especially with that "bargaining chip" in reserve, there really is no justification for the lack of civility concerning the container. On the whole this used to be a friendly business, and I really dislike things that go against that.
Getting back to the dummy, (I will not call it a "phantom") there are some design issues to consider. Some are equipped to hold a Colorado A/V, which offers several advantages that seem very nice until we consider the one real flaw: If the stud dismounts while still fully erect this is likely to suction semen up from the collection bag/bottle, exposing it to the considerably higher temperature inside the A/V. The collection might not be ruined entirely, but quality on the whole would likely suffer significantly.
So, a hand-held setup seems called for, as the handler can follow the
horse back off the dummy until he softens enough to break the seal that
develops between him and the A/V after ejaculation. (Yes, there are
safety issues in that case, and the person doing it had better know
horse-handling pretty well, or Darwin's rules could come painfully into
The rear is scalloped not just for convenience, but to avoid bending
the... part in question... ("family values" here) at
sharp angles when erect. These things get soft when not in use so that
we don't break them. I recall an interesting documentary involving a
microsurgeon specializing in erectile dysfunction. Injecting a dye of
sorts in the bloodstream to allow x-ray viewing of the circulation,
and giving a shot to induce erection, we could actually observe the
blood escaping through the damaged circulatory "plumbing",
and so, preventing full function. He would inquire of the patients how
they thought this damage might have occurred, and they invariably came
up with incredibly lame and unlikely answers.
Anyway, it became pretty clear that these should not be folded, bent, or mashed around roughly, (dare I say - "manhandled"?) else they may eventually malfunction. So, it seems better to use a design that allows operation at natural angles. Or close to - after all, that part is somewhat flexible, it just shouldn't be mashed violently to the side, as with the old style "hotdog" shaped dummies.
Well, continuing with the undiplomatic. Several people have actually "informed" me that I can't do what I do with ease any time I damn well please, day or night – collect a stud without assistance, and without a cycling mare within miles of him. Well, I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. These are the self-appointed experts who think that “horsemanship” is learned in classes given by dubious "authorities" and in Disney movies, and that “stallions” (they always call them “stallions”) are collected by a squad of grim faced and desperate looking kids wearing crash helmets and hockey pads. (Truly – I have seen photos!) Safety is better achieved by understanding and competency than by swaddling inadequacies in protective gear.
First you get easy with horses, know how to read them for real, how to interact comfortably and effectively, (and safely) then everything else falls into place without much inconvenience or risk to life or limb. This way, the stud will not be ruined, therefore he will not be a timid breeder or a savage beast, therefore we will not be needing the mare in heat or the crash-padded attack squad to get the job done.
- Doing The Deed -
As to learning to do it yourself, it is helpful to see it done, as there will always be questions that are not answered exactly by the books and papers on the subject. Opinions and approaches differ slightly, so encouraging various different people to talk about it can be useful too. If you are in California, Christy Gieseke trains both horses and their owners to do this, and I recommend her without reservation.
There are also people sharing good observations online, such as "Shipped
semen: Insights from the professionals" provided by the people at The
Pleasure Horse Journal - that is a super page - they compress a lot of
valid info into a very small space. Equine-Reproduction.com
is the site I like best overall - they have lots of good info about all
sorts of related things.
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