Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology


R. Smith A , K. Vernon A , J. Gibbons A , D. Kelley A , J. Anton A and C. Mortensen A

Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 22(1) 250-250
Published: 8 December 2009


Athletic mares are commonly utilized in an embryo transfer regimen during the breeding season, which allows owners to continue to train and compete with these animals. Exercising mares in a hot and humid environment has proven detrimental to embryo recovery rates. However, the effects of exercise under milder temperatures have not been examined. Our goal was to compare embryo recovery rates and embryo quality scores of mares under mild environmental conditions of 2 differing exercise regimens v. a single control group (n = 5). One treatment group (full exercise) consisted of mares (n = 5) exercised 6 days a week throughout the duration of the project. The partial-exercise group (n = 5) was exercised throughout the duration of the project 7 days a week, with full rest from day of detected ovulation to the proceeding embryo collection attempt. This was to limit any deleterious effects exercise may potentially have on the mare and subsequent early developing equine embryo. Exercise resumed the day after an embryo collection attempt for the partial-exercise group. Exercised mares were given a 1-month training period prior to the beginning of this project and were moderately exercised for 30 min in a mechanical exercise pen (free exerciser). Control mares were managed similarly as the other groups, however were not exercised. Mares were bred via artificial insemination and embryos were nonsurgically collected 7 d post-ovulation. Mean environmental temperature during the duration of this study was 27.1°C with average 60% humidity. Immediately following completion of exercise, mares in the full exercise group had a mean temperature increase of 1.0°C and partial-exercised mares increased 0.9°C. Exercise had a significant effect on embryo quality (P < 0.05, Table 1) but did not influence embryo recovery rate. The mean embryo quality score for the control group was 1.1, whereas the full-exercised group was 1.85 and partial-exercised group was 2.5. It appears from these data that exercise has a negative effect on embryo quality, thus lowering the availability of transferable embryos. Embryos of lower quality (≥3) have been shown to result in poor pregnancy rates in horses. Additionally, rest from ovulation to an embryo collection attempt did not improve embryo quality.

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