From the University of Pennsylvania
Champion and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner War Emblem is responding well to therapy for a breeding behavior dysfunction, according to experts at the University of Pennsylvania.
"He has had fertile sperm, but for several years has remained selective about which mares he would cover," said Dr. Sue McDonnell, a specialist in stallion behavior and breeding management at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center. "With intensive therapy by our international team, in recent weeks the stallion has begun breeding well and is showing promise of full recovery."
Since mid-May, War Emblem has bred one or more mares each day. He is now responding normally to most mares presented.
War Emblem's problem involved strong preferences, with a near normal response for a small number of mares and lack of interest or aversion with most others. As a result, the stallion sired only a few offspring from his five previous breeding seasons.
"When his first offspring to race showed extraordinary talent, interest in rehabilitating this stallion was renewed," McDonnell said. "His therapy program, which commenced in early spring, consists of a combination of changes in housing and management to naturally build maturity and breeding confidence, changes in breeding-shed handling techniques to maximize response, and carefully managed hormone supplementation as needed to boost libido to reduce his mare choosiness while his confidence builds."
Therapy has been conducted in consultation with War Emblem's owners, the Yoshida family of Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido, Japan. Shadai's stud veterinarian, Dr. Nobuo Tsunoda, and War Emblem's grooms have been implementing innovative methods researched and pioneered by McDonnell at Penn Vet specifically for helping stallions to overcome such difficulties.
Dr. Nicholas Mills, of Kent, England, an equine reproduction veterinarian, facilitated the Shadai-Penn Vet connection. The team also includes Penn's stallion handler, Jim Morris.
In addition to the 2002 Derby, War Emblem won the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
"This has been and remains an extraordinarily challenging case," McDonnell said. "I am grateful to translator Maki Watanabe and the entire team. It is especially satisfying to watch this fine stallion respond to therapy. Shadai, as well as all of Japan and the world, love War Emblem, and we are confident that he has turned the corner to becoming a normal breeding sire.
"I sure don’t know how horses think about these matters, but observations of his behavior indicate that War Emblem appears to be quite enthused about his new direction."