Photo by Erin Gilmore
PBEC’s reproductive specialist Dr. Katie Atwood.
Photo by Erin Gilmore

The process of breeding sport horses is ever changing. Whether in an effort to produce the healthiest, most talented foals, to prolong the competition career of a mare, or make the most of a stallion’s longevity, reproductive science in horses has come a long way from the days of the traditional breeding shed.

Dr. Katie Atwood joined Palm Beach Equine Clinic, based in Wellington, FL, in June and brought her passion for reproductive work with her to the winter equestrian capital of the world.

“I like the creating of life,” said Dr. Atwood, who is a Florida native and University of Florida graduate and currently pursuing steps to become a board-certified reproductive specialist. “Equine medicine is intriguing, but you’re dealing with sick, unhealthy animals. With reproduction, I am working with healthy animals and making their babies, which I love!”

Embryo Transfer

The most popular wave of advancement that has hit the horse sport industry over the past several years is the process of embryo transfer.

How it works:

A donor mare and stallion, who hold the genetics of the future foal, are bred.
At seven or eight days of pregnancy, the embryo is flushed out.
A catheter is placed through the vagina and cervix, and an inflatable cuff on the catheter provides a fluid-tight seal.
A lavage fluid with surfactin (added to reduce the “stickiness” of the embryo and allow it to be extracted easily) passes down through a tubing system into the uterine lumen. As the fluid swirls throughout the lumen and drains back out through gravity, it collects the embryo, which is swept back out. The fluid and embryo pass out through the tubing system into and through an embryonic filter.
When the embryo is identified under microscope, it is removed into a more enriched medium until the time of transfer. Photo by Erin Gilmore.