Oocyte cryopreservation is a potentially valuable way of preserving the female germ line. However, the developmental competence of cryopreserved oocytes is presently poor. This study investigated whether the morphology of the cumulus complex surrounding an immature equine oocyte and/or the oocyte's stage of maturation affect its cryopreservability. Compact (Cp) and expanded (Ex) cumulus oocyte complexes (COCs) were vitrified either shortly after recovery (germinal vesicle stage, GV) or after maturation in vitro (IVM); cryoprotectant-treated and -untreated non-frozen oocytes served as controls. In Experiment I, oocytes matured in vitro and then vitrified, or vice versa, were examined for maturation stage and meiotic spindle quality. Cp and Ex COCs vitrified at the GV stage matured at similar rates during subsequent IVM (41 vs 46% MII), but meiotic spindle quality was better for Cp than Ex (63 vs 33% normal spindles). Vitrifying oocytes after IVM resulted in disappointing post-warming spindle quality (32 vs 28% normal for Cp vs Ex). In Experiment II, oocytes from Cp and Ex COCs vitrified at the GV or MII stages were fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and monitored for cleavage and blastocyst formation. Oocytes vitrified prior to IVM yielded higher cleavage rates (34 and 27% for Cp and Ex COCs) than those vitrified after IVM (16 and 4%). However, only one blastocyst was produced from a sperm-injected vitrified-warmed oocyte (0.4 vs 9.3% and 13% blastocysts for cryoprotectant-exposed and -untreated controls). It is concluded that, when vitrification is the chosen method of cryopreservation, Cp equine COCs at the GV stage offer the best chance of an MII oocyte with a normal spindle and the potential for fertilization; however, developmental competence is still reduced dramatically.