Breeding

Tuesday’s Legacy

A tornado left hope after tragedy.

A tornado about a mile wide ripped a 35-mile path of northern Colorado on May 22, 2008. A small herd of horses housed in a pasture gathered behind a shelter for cover. Like most run-in sheds in the region, this one faced southeast, away from the origin of a majority of storms. Unfortunately, the tornado came from the southeast. Winds estimated at 111 to 165 mph blew the shelter over, and an 11-year-old mare named “Tuesday” was severely injured.

Tuesday was transported to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University, where she was stabilized and her condition was assessed. Radiographs revealed that she had a fracture of a lower hind leg. The owners were subsequently given the heartbreaking news that the mare would have to be euthanized. The hospital medical staff had the foresight to inform the owners that there was a possibility that a pregnancy could still be obtained from Tuesday if her ovaries were recovered at the time of euthanasia.

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Early the next morning, the mare was anesthetized, her ovaries were surgically removed, and she was quietly put to sleep. The ovaries were immediately transported to the equine reproduction laboratory and handed over to a team of personnel from the assisted reproduction service. A total of 20 eggs were incubated for approximately 24 hours in a special solution. A semen sample was collected from astallion selected by Tuesday’s owner and brought to the reproduction facility. The next day, 14 oocytes were of sufficient quality to be injected with a single spermatozoon, and the waiting began. Meanwhile, veterinary staff from the equine reproduction laboratory traveled to the farm to perform reproductive examinations on mares owned by Tuesday’s owners and neighbors to find candidates to serve as recipient mares for the embryos that developed from the injected oocytes. Four surrogate mares were identified. At 48 hours after injection, four of the 14 oocytes had cleaved (i.e., the single-cell oocyte had divided into two cells).

The early embryos were placed back into the incubator and another waiting period passed. Four days later, four morula- to early blastocyst-stage embryos were present. The following morning, seven days after Tuesday was euthanized, embryos were transferred nonsurgically into the uteruses of three of the four mares and one mare from the university. Pregnancy exams were performed one week after transfer of the in vitro-produced embryos. Two of the four mares were pregnant with an embryo from Tuesday. Subsequent pregnancy examination at 25 and 31 days revealed that both of the recipient mares were still pregnant, and an embryo with a heartbeat was observed in each mare. Tuesday gave birth to two foals when she was alive. Now through the assistance of advanced reproductive medical technologies, her legacy lives on. The two pregnancies were carried to term by the two surrogate mares. One of the surrogate mares, Katie, gave birth to Thursday, a buckskin colt who looks remarkably like his biological mother on April 25, 2009. The other surrogate mare, Friday, was named in honor of Tuesday. She gave birth on April 29, 2009 to a cremello-colored colt, named Windsor. Tuesday’s family, the Mears, are enjoying Tuesday’s legacy through the twins.

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