Equine Reproduction Advancement Gives Hope for Morgan Horse UVM Promise Progeny

A photo taken in 1966 of a dark brown, tall and strong Morgan horse known as UVM Promise standing in a field during the fall.
UVM Promise

Thanks to the advancement in equine reproduction through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), the UVM Morgan Horse Farm is thrilled to announce that after 30 years since his last registered foal, a Morgan mare is confirmed in foal to the late, great UVM Promise.

Born in 1966, UVM Promise, (UVM Highlight x UVM Empress), was one of the most successful horses ever produced in the 70-plus years of the UVM Morgan breeding program. He had many world champion titles, significant influence in the brood shed, and is a household name in the Morgan world.

After an illustrious show career, UVM Promise was donated back to the UVM Morgan Horse Farm (MHF) in 1988 at the age of 32, to retire as a breeding stallion. UVM Promise’s semen was frozen in the early 1990’s by Josie Davis and Katie Ballard, and has been maintained in the MHF frozen semen tanks for decades.

Recently, UVM Alumna Margaret Gladstone of Newmont Morgans in Bradford, Vermont, contacted the MHF with interest to breed to UVM Promise.

Because of his advanced age at the time of freezing, UVM Promise’s semen is not ideal quality. The MHF has limited inventory and considering how special UVM Promise was, traditional frozen semen breeding was not an option as his post-thaw motility was poor.

The team decided with Gladstone to attempt an ICSI breeding. Through ICSI, only a single viable sperm from one straw of frozen semen is needed to manually fertilize an oocyte harvested from the donor mare, (similar to IVF). Once an embryo is produced, it is transferred into a recipient mare who will continue the pregnancy and raise the foal as her own. With this method, many embryos can potentially be produced from a single straw.

Gladstone’s mare is stationed in Missouri at Equine Medical Services, where many horse owners utilize ICSI. In early February 2024, they conducted a successful ICSI procedure with Gladstone’s mare and the UVM Promise semen. The pregnancy is now three weeks old with a due date of January 2025.

Gladstone, the MHF, and the Morgan community around the country are ecstatic over the news that UVM Promise’s genetics are crossing back into modern bloodlines. The MHF maintains frozen semen of some twenty UVM Morgan stallions as a genetic archive, ensuring the Morgan breed has access to foundation bloodlines now and in perpetuity.

Aside from being a stupendous athlete with incredible natural ability, UVM Promise represented the best of the old UVM and Government Morgan Farm breeding. His progeny are well represented in the current UVM herd, and they cannot wait for his future direct-descendants to hit the ground thanks to ICSI.

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