I've read all the posts and its good to hear some animated discussion
My 2 cents worth....
The reason the TB industry doesn't allow AI is to protect the income of the big players who control the boards. If any horse industry were to go the way of cattle, where there is widespread AI, based on sound scientific evaluation of genotype, phenotype, and their relationship, its the TB world.
As stated by another poster, the big studs are set up with massive infrastructure, where they can charge a mint for breedings (eg>100,000k per mating). They don't want to risk any change in the status quo, eg if another stallion owner of comparable capacity started charging 10,000k per mating.
Obviously, there are concerns with excessive concentration of the gene pool using AI: it comes down to good breeding selection, and possibly breed guidelines to prevent overconcentration of undesirable genes.
I can't see any possible reason why AI (per se) should result in inferior offspring, simply because the semen is divided. We've all heard of stallions who fall off and the mare seems to get little semen, yet still gets in foal: do you think they would be likely to be somehow deficient becuase there were only 100Million sperm instead of 10000Million Sperm?
Only a tiny proportion end up coming any where near the egg anyway. In AI, sperm are normally deposited very close to the egg (In sugical AI right next to the egg), and the numbers are still mindboggling.
Thats not to say that shipping or freezing don't potentially damage sperm, potentially resulting in deformity, but that should be able to be identified statistically. To my knowledge, this hasn't occurred.
Hansi's refrain that horses now aren't what they used to be seems so universal, that it can hardly be blamed on AI. Instead, its likely due to breeding selection (or lack thereof) or environmental conditions: including training, husbandry and climatic factors.
Years ago, many horses were worked out of necessity: on stations, for transport etc. The youngstock were often raised in open country, where they grew hale and hearty. The majority of high profile arabians seem to be creatures of comfort: more at home in the show ring than riding in the mountains. Many foals grow up in a small paddock and stable: never having a chance to build that all-important bone. Again, not AI's fault.
People have asked why use AI, and why use frozen semen.
AI allows you to use any stallion you desire who has semen available: you don't need to risk transporting your mare. The cost is often less when you consider the time and effort and expense in moving mares to the stallions stud. You reduce the risk of injury and disease transfer.
In Australia, even within the country distances are vast: I'm 2000km from the nearest "horse area" Brisbane, and 3000km from Sydney: I'd never consider subjecting a mare to that trip unnecessarily (although I'd buy a mare down south and transport her up in foal). With AI, theres no need to travel: my mare could stay in her paddock and the stallion in his. This is especially convenient wrt last seasons foal.
Because of our supposedly
strict quarantine, importing horses is very expensive, and naturally, Aussies, like everyone else want to be using the worlds best horses. If some of the worlds to stallions are available as quarantined frozen semen, then that becomes much more acheivable.
Crucially, Australia wouldn't be having to deal with the massively costly EI outbreak if TBs allowed AI like the rest of the horse world. Shuttle stallions are carted around the world because AI is prohibited, sometimes carrying nasty germs that no-one wants.
Equine AI will likely never get to the routine level of cattle AI: Why?
Technically, timing AI in horses is more difficult and risky.
In cattle, a whole herd can be synchronised, an AI tech can come and inseminate 100s of cattle in one hit, and the pregnancy rate is very high. The risk of serious rectal tears and other complications is very low, so it doesn't require a vet.
In horses, the window of insemination is shorter, detecting the fertile period is harder, needs to be checked more often, is riskier, chemical synrchonrisation is less effective, and the resultant pregnancy rate is lower.
Also, people have herds of several, or dozens of horses, instead of hundreds or thousands of cattle. And guess what, they want a seperate stallion for each of their 3 mares quite often.
The efficiency of scale is just not there.
To me it becomes a puppy mill dependant on the breeding management, planning and intentions rather than the technology used.
The most efficient puppy mill for horses is a stallion with 30 mares in a paddock. Incidently a fairly natural and stress free environment for the horses. So theres no ideal solution. We need to be open minded and thoughtful in our decisions.