The breeding soundness examination (BSE) of the mare is a complete reproductive exam that should be performed by an experienced equine veterinarian in a systematic, accurate and thorough manner. The complete BSE should always include the following procedures:
Reasons to perform this exam include:
Additionally, a BSE should be performed in mares whose owners plan to invest in expensive assisted reproductive procedures, such as embryo transfer, or in mares to be bred with expensive transported (cooled) or frozen/thawed semen. A complete BSE need not be performed routinely in maiden mares entering a breeding program, unless pre-breeding palpation or ultrasound exam of the uterus reveals an obvious abnormality.
The BSE is NOT a test for fertility, but only a thorough exam that will allows speculation of the likelihood for a mare to become pregnant and/or carry a foal to term. The only true test for fertility is to breed a mare under good reproductive management conditions to a fertile stallion, and monitor if she becomes pregnant and delivers a healthy foal 11 months later.
Breeding Soundness Exams
A breeding soundness examination (BSE) should never be performed in a mare that cannot be accurately identified by branding, lip tattoos or breed registration records.
The breeding and foaling history should be carefully recorded since it is an essential tool to help ascertain if or why a mare is having fertility problems:
Physical Examination and Perineal (Vulvar) Conformation Evaluation
The mare breeding soundness examination (BSE) should always include a complete physical exam. Undernourished and obese mares may have problems becoming pregnant, carrying to term or foaling. Mares with physical problems, especially those causing severe pain such as laminitis (founder) usually have cyclicity problems and seldom become pregnant. Endocrine diseases, such as Cushing's, may affect reproductive cyclicity or predispose breeding mares to uterine infections.
Perineal conformation evaluation is especially important in older mares. A competent, tightly closed and properly shaped vulva will protect the reproductive tract from ascending infections. In older and undernourished mares, lack of muscle tone and fat around the perineal area may result in the upper part of the vulva being sunken forward, instead of perpendicular to the ground. This defect predisposes to problems such as fecal contamination of the vestibule or vagina, air sucking and urine pooling. Poor vulvar conformation may also be linked to incompetence of the vestibulo-vaginal sphincter (ring of tissue that separates the vestibule from the vagina), predisposing these mares to vaginal or uterine infections. Such problems can be corrected with relatively simple surgical procedures suited for each specific defect.