Page 42 - August 2019
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                                  Think about how technological advances have changed every aspect of your life: how you shop, travel, consume media, and so much more. The world of horse breeding is no different.
Although it’s been around for several years, the practice of breeding using frozen semen samples is on the rise. Case in point: the story of Cody Swilley DVM. A veterinarian based in Mississippi, Swilley celebrated the birth of a female Paint foal back in the spring – bred by combining a frozen sample from the late Paint Champion Easy Jet Too with a Thoroughbred mare with Champion bloodlines of her own.
It was a painstaking, expensive and, as Swilley put it, “nerve-wracking” experience.
Why go through it all? For Swilley, it all goes back to fond memories from his childhood, spending time on the farm of his uncle, Terry Swilley, who owned racing Quarter Horses. Cody’s favorite horse, however, was a Paint stallion his uncle purchased at the Heritage Place Sale – Catch A Jet – who was sired by Easy Jet Too.
“I loved that horse. And I always said he bought him just for me,” Swilley said.
More than two decades later, Swilley had completed veterinary school at Mississippi State and was looking to get into the horse industry himself. He wanted to honor that beloved former horse, though, and find a horse connected to Easy Jet Too. Only one problem: the stallion had passed away in 2006.
As both a competitor and a sire, Easy Jet Too stands out in the annals of Paint racing lore. Making his first start in 1983, he won
nine of 10 races to be named the 2-Year-Old Paint Champion that year. All told, Easy Jet Too compiled an 11-2-1 record in 17 starts for more than $35,000 in earnings. As a sire, Easy Jet Too kept producing winners – and Champions. His progeny include 17 Champions and five World
Champions, and he became the first Paint sire to surpass the $1 million milestone. He remains the #6 leading Paint sire of all time.
Swilley assumed he’d never have a chance to produce a horse from a sire who’d been deceased for more than a decade – until he saw an ad on the APHA by happenstance. The estate of Bill Maher was offering to sell some samples of frozen semen that had been collected from Easy Jet Too.
Swilley saw his chance. He also had a Thoroughbred mare picked out for the breeding: Give It My Best Shot, who was sired by Afleet Alex, who won two-thirds of the 2005 Triple Crown: the Preakness and the Belmont.
Looking to safeguard his investment, Swilley turned to his connections at Mississippi State to perform the actual insemination. Specifically, he reached out to Dr. Heath King, a theriogenologist at Mississippi State who was on the faculty while Swilley was going through vet school.
Theriogenology is a specialized branch of veterinary medicine, focusing on reproduction, managing reproductive disorders, and using reproductive technologies. To be recognized as a theriogenologist, a veterinarian has to pass
an exam after completing either an approved residency program or practicing for six years under an approved mentor in the field.
Swilley didn’t want to take any chances – with only so many straws from a long-dead sire, his chances to breed a horse were limited. That’s why he insisted on having a theriogenologist involved.
“Frozen semen, the reality is, once it’s gone, it’s gone. We can’t dig him up,” Swilley said. “So, I wanted to make sure whoever was handling this really had their ducks in a row. The reality is it may not work, but if it didn’t, I wanted to make sure we tried all the best things possible.”
As it turns out, Give It My Best Shot was inseminated successfully on the very first attempt by a team led by King, which also included Drs. Kevin Walters and Darcie Sidelinger.
Dr. King observed that, when working with frozen semen, timing is crucial. “The best pregnancy rates are achieved when the mare is inseminated in the window of 12 hours prior to ovulation to 6 hours post ovulation,” King said. “Predicting exactly when a mare will ovulate is still difficult, clinically. Therefore, when the quantity of frozen semen is limited, mares are inseminated immediately after ovulation is detected.”
From there, Give It My Best Shot was sent to Swilley’s family farm in Mississippi. She got moved to Oklahoma State University about a month before her due date, so she could foal out there. The reasoning? That way, the foal could be registered as an Oklahoma-bred Paint when it came time for her to race.
Paint Champion Easy Jet Too
‘F rozen’
by John Moorehouse
  40 SPEEDHORSE, August 2019
photo courtesy Cody Swilley

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