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HYPP in Pregnant Mares

I have been raising, breeding, training and showing horses for about 25 years. I started with appys and moved into QH's and paints just about the time the whole HYPP can started to open up. In the beginning of the controversy, few people took a stand against breeding these horses because we still knew very little about the defect. I started out with a couple of really good mares, in foal to a son of Mr. Impressive.

One of my resulting 
babies was a dark liver chestnut filly who was possibly the toughest, meanest mare I ever owned. But...I loved her. She went on to win several futurities as a weanling and got attention everywhere she went. She grew up to be a beautiful, 15.3, 1300lb mare. I broke her, rode her everywhere. She did well as a snaffle bit horse and went on to be an excellent junior horse. 

Last year I took her Moose hunting and she packed wild game for the first time. I brought her and my moose home on a Friday and Saturday she stood Grand at one of our local QH shows. Some mare, huh? She suffered from a few very mild episodes over the years but never anything treatable. Finally, I made the decision to breed the mare. This decision was based on the fact that the mare had so many good things to pass on, she was one of only two mares of breedable age I owned and I was standing an own son of Kid Clu who was N/N.

I tossed and turned over the decision but when you are a small breeder with only limited resources and a limited number of mares that you didn't go out and seek for their HYPP status, sometimes you are left with the choice of either no breeding or income or you roll the dice. Well, I rolled the dice. Twice, in fact. I have a full sister to that mare that is twice the mare with twice the attitude but, unfortunately also N/H. So I bred them both. I placed the older of the mares with someone who wanted to use her for some lessons and board her. She was just down the road but was being cared 
for by a "professional boarding facility".

At the end of December I was told by one of the employees of the barn that the mare had been consistently water deprived for periods of 24 to 48 hours over the past month. I made plans to bring the mare home, unfortunately it was too late. Two days later my 
girlfriend called me from the barn in tears telling me that she had just arrived there and found my mare lying dead in her stall. It was this water deprivation, in my opinion, that led to the ultimate death of the mare.

N/H horses have a greater need for hydration in order to leach the potassium in the event of even a mild episode. The mare was dehydrated and 8 months in 
foal. So, this was my first bad experience with HYPP in the 10 years since we'd started testing. But, I was standing by my gun, these, horses can be cared for and kept as healthy and trouble-free as any other horse with "proper" care. On February 28th, the other mare was a bit dehydrated and acting a little off. She was 5 weeks away from foaling. I called out a vet to treat her with some fluids. In the meantime while waiting for the vet (who lives just 8 miles from my house yet took 45 minutes to arrive at 7:00 am on a Saturday, go figure) I treated her with corn syrup and injectable acetazolamide to prevent any problems.

When the vet arrived she gave the mare fluids and drew blood. The mare went down shortly after the fluids were administered. When the mare was not up an hour later she said she just didn't understand and she was going to the clinic to look at some books (red flag!) 7 hours and 3 treatments with fluids later, the mare was still recumbent. After four hours on the ground I started rolling her over every hour to keep her from doing any more damage to her muscles. The mare was calm and alert, simply unable to move.

Finally, the vet gave up and went 
home telling me there was nothing more she could do and I needed to make the final call. The mare was eating out of my hands and appeared comfortable so I started rolling her every four hours. I rolled that mare every four hours for 8 days. It wasn't until I had a sling built for her that I could use to pick her up with my backhoe that she finally stood on her feet again. She suffered huge amounts of muscle atrophy and each shoulder and hip was entirely consumed by pressure sores. Her eyes swelled shut from contact with the ground and she was virtually blind for 10 days.

Yet, that mare never quit eating or gaining baby weight. She tolerated being rolled and picked up and starting taking little 10 foot walks with me. I picked her up for 8 days 
with that sling before she finally got up on her own. She was a sight with all those sores and no hair. But I couldn't give up on her because she never gave up.

Three weeks later she delivered a totally healthy, beautiful chestnut stud colt. Now she's out to pasture with the rest of the horses and she's my biggest trouble maker. It was not until I received the bill from my vet that I found out what REALLY happened. Remember when I said red flag? Well, we live in an area where most of our vets treat cows and very few know anything about HYPP. The fluids she gave the mare 4 times that day contained potassium. She put the mare in a hyperkalemic crisis. The mare never had a chance to come out of the episode as long as she was being treated.

She runs and bucks and plays more than the rest, maybe she has more value for life, who knows. She's still got some muscle atrophy, nerve damage and small scars but she remains the most devoted, sweetest horse I have ever seen. Her muscles have begun to rebuild, 6 months later. Her colt? He is also N/H. He went on to win one of his futurities and be reserve in the other this 
fall. He's probably the best colt I've seen in a long time.

Now, those of you who are so against the breeding of these N/H horses are reading this and saying "Well! Thank God, at least she's learned her lesson!" Well, here's where the flames come! I learned some big lessons, it's true. And I probably know more about HYPP and critical care than a lot of the vets in my area. 

However, I am still that little breeder with limited resources and a limited number of mares. I know the risks and I know how to manage my horses. Rosie has more than just HYPP to pass on to her babies. I couldn't earn the money in 5 years of working to replace that mare with an equal quality mare. Yes, she will be rebred, to my non-impressive bred paint stallion. And, next year probably to the Kid Clu horse again or a reiner favorite of mine.

But, I'm going into it armed with a great deal of research from several Universities who are studying HYPP in pregnant mares. I'm due for an N/N baby out of this great mare and I know I will get it! I can only hope it is a filly that is worthy of replacing her so I CAN quit breeding her.
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