War Emblem gelded to comply with state, federal import regulations

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TwinSpires Staff

February 24th, 2016

Champion and dual classic winner War Emblem, who returned from Japan to the United States last fall to live out his days at Old Friends Retirement Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky, has been gelded. Old Friends founder Michael Blowen released the following statement explaining the decision:

When a stallion is imported into the United States from any foreign country, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has various "import" regulations, including a requirement that says the stallion must do a "test breeding." The reason behind this is to determine if the animal is infected with, or a carrier of, the very serious disease known as Contagious Equine Metritis or CEM.

CEM is a highly contagious bacteria which has more or less been eradicated in the U.S. and can be spread during live breeding, artificial insemination, or through contact with contaminated objects. CEM-positive horses that show no signs of illness (called "carriers") can cause outbreaks at breeding facilities. It is highly contagious among horses and can be difficult to detect and control.

While it is clear that War Emblem, as a retired resident of Old Friends, would never be called upon to breed, the USDA is still obligated to consider that an intact stallion carrying CEM could get loose and inadvertently breed a mare or dispel the disease via human interaction with infected semen. If the disease should again became widespread in the United States, the horse industry could suffer considerable economic losses.

Following his importation into the United States from Japan, War Emblem, whose reluctance in the breeding shed throughout his stud career was well documented, was placed in quarantine at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. There, a team of veterinary reproduction specialists diligently worked with the 16-year-old stallion to help him test breed the required two mares and clear import regulations. Despite their best efforts, and with one month of attempts, War Emblem did not breed a mare during this time.

After much deliberation with the USDA, consultation with several veterinarians, and with all other options exhausted, it was decided that the stallion War Emblem be castrated to comply with Kentucky and United States Departments of Agriculture (USDA) import regulations.

Every precaution was taken to insure a successful surgery. The procedure was performed on the farm to decrease War Emblem's stress and allow him to recuperate in familiar surroundings. Dr. Bryan Waldridge, Old Friends's resident vet, called upon his mentor from Auburn University, Dr. Hui-Chu Lin, to administer the anesthesia. Dr. Lin is considered the most prominent equine anesthesiologists in the country, and she brought along her associate, Glen Sellers. The surgery was done by Rood & Riddle's Dr. Brad Tanner with assistance from Rood & Riddle's Dr. Colt Daughtery.

War Emblem has responded like the champion he is. He is fully recovered, and we are hopeful that gelding him will allow him lead a more relaxed and peaceful life in retirement, one that he so richly deserves. Old Friends wishes to thank all the veterinarians whose combined expertise resulted in a safe, successful procedure and subsequent recovery.

(Photo courtesy of Rick Capone/Old Friends)