War Emblem, 17, gelded; USDA regs cited

War Emblem takes a stroll at Old Friends. Photo © Rick Capone

War Emblem takes a stroll at Old Friends. Photo © Rick Capone

Following the decision to castrate 17-year-old multiple graded stakes winner and Eclipse Award 2002 Champion 3 Year Old Colt War Emblem, Michael Blowen of Old Friends Kentucky released a statement explaining the reason the older champion was gelded.

Citing USDA requirements concerning the disease Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM), and failed efforts to extract a sample from the great horse— who was recently imported back to the U.S. from Japan, and was required by law to be tested, Blowen explains in this statement the efforts made on behalf of the champion:

“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 submit to “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.

War Emblem
Sire: Our Emblem
Dam: Sweetest Lady, by Lord at War (ARG)
Foal date: Feb. 20, 1999
Earnings: $3,491,000 in 13 starts
Highlights: 1st Kentucky Derby 2002, 1st Preakness 2002; multiple graded stakes winner, Eclipse Award 2002 Champion 3 Year Old Colt
“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 become 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.”

If you are interested in more information about CEM please visit:

12 responses to “War Emblem, 17, gelded; USDA regs cited”

  1. Susan Kayne

    It is too bad that Old Friends doesn’t geld more of their non-breeding retirees. Benefits far outweigh the perceived risk.

    1. colmel

      It’s my understanding that most of the stallions who are at Old Friends still belong to ownership groups. It’s not Old Friends’ call on whether to geld or not. The situation with War Emblem was precipitated by USDA and Kentucky regulations. I guess it’s kind of like – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    2. Jane Hendron

      I agree. I think once the horse retires the connections should consider gelding. It would allow the geldings to be together as groups for companionship. Horses are herd animals.

  2. Ruth

    Thank you for the information and for the great work you do!

  3. Rush Cole

    Tough decision made with compassion. Kudos to all involved.

  4. Judith Ochs

    Never easy to make a decision like that BUT all things were considered and extraordinary precautions observed. Again – class act organization and people.

  5. Janine

    Least he made it out of Japan alive. So many racehorses end up being slaughtered there for their flesh.
    Live long War Emblem.

  6. Zig Pope

    I have no issue with this. Maybe he can learn to relax and take in the love folks have for him.

  7. Cheri

    I am glad the boy is here, too. I have always admired him so and kept an eye as best I could on him while in Japan… I would not call 120 foals an unsuccessful stud career. Thank goodness there were only 120. He is and always will be selective. Bless you, War Emblem!

  8. Mary McLeod

    High hooves and three whinnies for the courage and skill of Michael Blowen and his excellent staff at Old Friends, Dr. Bryan Waldridge, Dr. Hui-Chu Lin, Dr. Brad Tanner, Dr. Colt Daughtery, those who patiently and caringly worked with War Emblem in the breeding attempts, and to all others involved in this delicate undertaking.

    War Emblem, you have a lot of fans who can hardly wait to meet you. I know you will love life at Old Friends.

    Thank you to Michael and everyone who worked so diligently to bring War Emblem back home!!!!

    Love to All,
    Mary in Boone

  9. tiggy1998

    I hope War Emblem who isn’t young) has a great 20 more years! Gorgeous Horse and always a personal favorite of mine.

  10. colmel

    Kudos to Michael Blowen, Old Friends, and everyone involved for making the smart decision to geld War Emblem and put the horse first. War Emblem wasn’t really happy at stud, ever, so now perhaps he can just relax and enjoy his old age and all the attention without anyone worrying about CEM. I know I’m looking forward to seeing him soon.

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