The timing couldn't have been better, but it certainly wasn't planned. On April 30, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Manager's Club invited an equine reproductive specialist to speak at its June meeting. The following week, Central Kentucky was gripped by mare reproductive loss syndrome.
On Tuesday evening in Lexington, Dr. Michelle LeBlanc did discuss ways to get "tail-enders"-older mares with reproductive problems-in foal. She also briefly discussed the foal-loss situation as it relates to the reproductive health of mares that lost foals. The problem isn't new, but it certainly has been magnified locally given the foal-loss situation.
Older mares, or those who have had many foals, can accumulate fluid in the uterus that can force them to abort. In older mares, the uterus may sag, and thus collect the acidic fluid. LeBlanc discussed the use of hormones and medication to alleviate the condition, which is tied to arterial damage in the uterus. She also recommended giving mares more time before they are bred again after foaling.
"I don't believe there is a major bullet," she said. "You have to treat each mare more as an individual."
LeBlanc said eight biopsies connected to mare reproductive loss syndrome had a common thread: The lining of each mare's uterus was ulcerated with deep inflammation. At times, the lining of the uterus was gone. Now, the plan is to collect data and see if there is any connection to conditions believed to have brought about mare reproductive loss syndrome.
"With mares that have lost (foals), handle them with kid gloves," LeBlanc said in light of the fact there still are many unanswered questions.
In a related matter, KTFMC president Steve Johnson said he's pleased with the manner in which the club worked to spread information and get answers regarding the foal-loss crisis. He said there are no plans at this time for the club to offer financial assistance to affected members.
"That hasn't been presented or discussed," he said. "We do give away a lot of money each year, but that one would be a hard call to make."
Efforts continue on the state and national level to obtain financial aid for breeders and owners impacted by the foal-loss crisis. "It's incredible if you look at what this industry has done (to deal with the situation)," Johnson said.
Tuesday's meeting was a joint effort of the KTFMC and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Rusty Ford of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture was honored for his many years of service to the equine industry.