WSU offers expanded equine care and advanced techniques

A mare undergoes a procedure at a new equine facility in Pullman.
Ultrasound is used to evaluate the reproductive stage of a mare on Thursday, May 16, 2024, at a newly repurposed facility in Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine near campus in Pullman (College of Veterinary Medicine/Ted S. Warren).

Equine reproductive services are expanding at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital to offer new procedures and options for horse owners throughout the region.

The expanded service, which will take advantage of a newly repurposed facility and pasture on Terre View Drive, will be dedicated to clients seeking equine reproductive care and will nearly double onboarding space for mares, foals, and stallions at the hospital. The facility will provide long-term boarding and improved management for equine reproductive patients at WSU.

“Just as in humans, equine reproductive medicine comes with challenges that require experienced, skilled veterinarians who specialize in the area,” said Dr. Raelynn Farnsworth, director of WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “This expanded service will allow us to care and accommodate more of those horses and their owners throughout our region, which has been a need for quite some time.”

Just as in humans, equine reproductive medicine comes with challenges that require experienced, skilled veterinarians who specialize in the area.

Dr. Raelynn Farnsworth, director
WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital

Dr. Babiche Heil, assistant professor and WSU equine theriogenologist who will help lead the expanded service, said she is excited about the availability to provide more long-term boarding for mares and stallions at WSU.

“This allows us to provide routine reproductive care like artificial insemination, semen collection and cryopreservation of semen, as well as a greater capacity for investigation of infertility in mares and stallions,” Heil said.

Heil said additionally, to meet the need of clients, more advanced reproductive techniques are now offered. Most notably among new procedures that will be offered is ovum pick up (OPU), which allows for collection of oocytes (eggs) from the mare for fertilization with a stallion of choice in the laboratory via Intra-Cytoplasmatic Sperm Injection (ICSI). This technique can be used to achieve offspring from mares that can’t carry a foal themselves due to their athletic career, health concerns or infertility, or because the stallion of choice is only available via ICSI.

Heil said currently she knows equine owners traveling as far as Oregon and Utah for such services.

She said postmortem oocyte collection from mares and sperm collection from stallions is also being offered as part of the expanded service.

“Expanding this service is not only a win for horses, their owners and our referring veterinarians, but also a win for veterinary students at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine because this expansion increases the educational opportunities, we can provide them, and prepare them well for the needs of their future clients once graduated,” Heil said.

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