Ever since I first began to study and learn about the Thoroughbred racing industry I always questioned why Artificial Insemination (AI) was not allowed to take place. According to The Jockey Club, only a foal produced by a live covering can be registered to race, any foal produced by AI cannot. I understand that AI would be a big step in a new direction, and like with everything, there are risks, but from what I can see, the benefits far outweigh those risks. Both Standardbred racing and Arabian racing both allow AI and are no worse for wear. I see no reason that Thoroughbred racing could not make the transition as well.
One huge benefit of AI is that it is much less stressful on the mare. In the breeding shed the risk of injury is high, even when the breeding is monitored. Some stallions, such as Dynaformer, are known for their roughness in the shed. It is because of their roughness that maiden mares are not included in their books. When in the shed many mares will either be twitched, hobbled, or booted for control. Imagine if the mare fought back. The risk of injury to both would be high which is why restraint is necessary, because not every mare is ready to have a hot blooded stallion mount her from behind. Many horsemen will tell you that breeding is a stressful experience for a mare, especially one that is a maiden. If AI were to be implemented, the stress would be greatly reduced as would the chance of injury to two very valuable horses.
AI would open the door for genetic diversity. Yes, would breeders elect to breed to the sport’s most elite stallions, yes, but those stallions could be from all over the nation and possibly top sires in other countries. A breeder in California could easily ship over a tube of semen to the owner of a mare in Florida, while the mare stays comfortably in her stall. This would also eliminate another stress factor on the mare and cut shipping and boarding costs for her owner.
As mentioned above, AI would allow for breeders to breed their mares to the most elite stallions for years to come. With horses like Tiznow, Hard Spun, Curlin, Street Cry, and Medaglia D’Oro out there, how can that be a bad thing? They are known for their toughness, speed and durability. They are known for producing quality offspring that will last. Who is to say the US would not expand their horizons to Europe, should they be willing? Can you imagine the US having foals by the likes of Galileo?
Another benefit that I think would come from the use of AI is our star horses staying around longer. I know many think it is impossible for a stallion to do, that they would lose concentration. However, when one thinks of the racing season for a top three year old, their season will likely end in November and pick back up in March. That is a five month gap, where the stallion could return to the farm, have semen extracted and then rest up and return.
I understand that AI would be a big move away from what has been a big tradition in Thoroughbred racing, but no sport, no business can rely solely on the past. We need to move forward and try new things. Are there risks, yes, there are risks to everything in life. But if the good outweighs bad then there is no reason to move forward.