To Clone or not to Clone?

We will deviate from the articles I have been writing for this month to inform you about the first commercially produced horse clone in the world.   Next month, I will continue on the thought that we were on.  The next month’s article will talk about the difference in training and practicing. 

Today, I was privileged to be at the unveiling of the first commercially cloned horse in the world.  The foal was presented to the media and several experts where on hand to answer questions for reporters.  The major networks were there to cover this story as well as many horse magazines and local television news coverage.  Among those present were:  Dr. Jim Bailey DVM of the hosting Royal Vista Southwest in Purcell, Brad Stroud DVM, Milt Bradford, Jim Ware and Rob Hendrickson of Encore and two owners of cloned horses, Elaine Hall and Lindy Birch.  They fielded questions from the media.  Also present was the donor of the first clone, the legendary mare – Royal Blue Boon.  She was brought up from the Hall Ranch in Texas to be photographed with her clone, Royal Blue Boon Too. 

Royal Blue Boon is the all time leading Dam in National Cutting Horse Association history. She is owned by Elaine Hall.   Her foals have won over 2.7 million dollars.  She herself won over $350,000 according to NCHA records.  She is without a doubt the most famous cutting mare in the world.  And now she has an identical twin, with exact verified DNA, separated only by 26 years in time.    Royal Blue Boon Too was born February 19 at Royal Vista Southwest near Purcell, Oklahoma.  She will remain in Dr. Baileys care until she is 60 days of age.  At that time, when she is pronounced healthy and normal, the final payment of the $150,000 will be paid and she will go to Weatherford, Texas to live her life on the Hall Cutting Horse Ranch.  Elaine Hall cloned her great mare only for the purpose of saving her gene pool for the cutting horse industry and giving her famous mare a chance to continue living on and producing.   She has no reasons to ever show this mare and feels that it would be pointless to do so.  She said that the mare would never leave her ranch. Royal Blue Boon has not produced a foal since 1996. 

Elaine said that she gave much prayer and thought to this decision.  She was approached by Encore- a Texas based business that works as a middle man between ViaGen – the cloning laboratory and the people with legendary horses.  She considered the fact that some people might not believe in cloning and would be angry or negative where it is concerned.  She said that this part was hard because she loved people and always wanted them to feel the same about her.  She said that reading Psalm 8 and Genesis 1 reminded her that God gave man dominion over all the animals.  God has shown man the way to cloning and she sees it as a way to preserve the gene pools of a superior animal who was both a great performer and producer.  She sees it as an opportunity to cross that same gene pool of Royal Blue Boon on a battery of new stallions 26 years later. 

Lindy Birch is a legend herself.  She was the first woman to win the National Cutting Horse Association futurity.  Her lifetime earnings are near 3 million dollars.  She has been inducted into 4 Hall of Fames and is the only woman who was president of the NCHA.  She has trained cutting horses for 40 years – moving to Texas in 1991 to be closer to the NCHA futurity and action.  She has two clones that are due at any moment.  She has ordered two clones from Bet Your Blue Boons – a daughter of Royal Blue Boon.  Lindy and Bet Your Blue Boons won the NCHA cutting futurity and together won $350,000 before she retired the mare.  Bet Your Blue Boons is also a strong producer.  One son, Bet On Me 498 has been syndicated for 2 million dollars.  When asked why she has cloned her great mare, she replied, “I can’t wait to ride them and show them.”

Lindy will make history as the first person to ever ride and train a clone.  It will be very interesting to see if she thinks that they are similar in mind and moving to their twin – Bet Your Blue Boons.  She was the sole trainer of the great mare, so she will be in the position to see how much clones are actually like their donors. Lindy says that it has been 16 years since she trained the donor mare and she has learned a lot in those years that should help her to train these two even better.   Both Elaine and Lindy stressed that the technology is here to clone superior horses and that we should take advantage of it.  They see nothing negative about the process and believe that it is the future.  They feel that you either change with the new scientific methods or be left in the dust.  There is a DNA registry in Yukon, Oklahoma that registers foals from embryo transfers or clones. 

I stated that most people think that cloning animals is the first step toward cloning people and all present agreed that they are against cloning people and also against genetically altering DNA.  Clones are not genetically altered, but are a perfect DNA match of the donor.  There is a possibility that the markings on a clone may not be the exact markings of the twin due to the way that skin grows on a horse.  All else is an exact duplicate. 

The public has been told that Dolly – the first cloned sheep- died because her cells aged at a very fast rate.  Dr. Brad Stroud explained that this was not true – but that Dolly had lived her life being photographed and was kept on cement most of the time and was not allowed to be a regular sheep.  There are several clones of Dolly that are alive and thriving.  He sees no reason why horses will not be totally normal.  Both of the owners stressed that these cloned horses will live the life of a horse in their Weatherford, Texas respective ranches. 

The cloning process itself was explained by Dr. Jim Bailey and Dr. Brad Stroud.  A patch of skin is removed from the animal that is being cloned.  That piece of skin – which is about the size of a pea – is then sent to the laboratory to be grown in a Petri dish.  It is fused into an egg which becomes an embryo (like a fertilized egg).  The embryo is then sent to Dr. Bailey and the day it is received, he places it into a recip mare.  Nature does the rest.  The recip mare carries the foal until it is born. 

Think about the possibilities of cloning and what it could do in the future of barrel racing.  I asked the question if we could clone from the buried animals and the answer was “No, the DNA has to be living.”   There are some legendary horses still living that would sure enhance the gene pools of the barrel racing industry.  I had heard a rumor that Bozo and Scamper had been cloned, but when I asked that question, their answer was that they could only comment on the ones that their company ( ViaGen ) had cloned. 

This gives us all lots to think about.  I sure would like a clone of 3 of my favorites – World Champions War Leo Dude and Man O War Leo and sure would love to have another Solar Powered (Cracker). They were all three geldings and two of them are deceased.  It is fun to dream, but this dream is becoming a reality to Elaine Hall and Lindy Birch.  Cograds to them and Happy Trails to all of you.  I leave in the morning for Israel and will be writing again after we return.

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Last modified: January 05, 2014