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The Topic of Equine Cloning Takes Stage at Horse Expo

If you have an opinion about equine cloning (who doesn’t?), you’re not alone. At this year’s Western States Horse Expo, June 8-10 at Cal Expo in Sacramento, experts from industry leader ViaGen will speak about the science of equine cloning and answer questions about the subject.

ViaGen, a livestock cloning company in Texas, in partnership with Encore Genetics (also in Texas), created the first commercial horse cloning operation in the United States. In 2006, the legendary cutting horse Royal Blue Boon became the first mare to be commercially cloned; the foal was named Royal Blue Boon Too. Shortly after that birth, a clone of the famous cutting horse mare Tap O Lena, owned by Phil and Mary Ann Rapp, was born. Both foals were born on a farm in Purcell, Oklahoma.

With the creation of Royal Blue Boon Too, ViaGen and Encore Genetics have partnered to preserve some of the greatest genetics in cutting horse history. Royal Blue Boon, the donor mare, is the all-time leading producer of cutting horses in the world with personal lifetime earnings of $381,764, with her offspring earning well over $2.5 million. At 26, the mare is seeing the end of her long and prosperous career and her productive days are well behind her. With that in mind, the owner of Royal Blue Boon, Elaine Hall of Weatherford, Texas, made the decision to clone her cutting horse champion.

Another famous champion was cloned with ViaGen’s help. Scamper, the legendary barrel racing gelding owned by Charmayne James, has a clone named Clayton, born August 6, 2006.

Charmayne James’s father bought Scamper for her when she was only 11. In 1984, at age 14, Charmayne rode Scamper to win the World Championship in Barrel Racing. The pair went on to win the next nine World Championships, making Charmayne the all-time leading money earner in Barrel Racing, the first million-dollar cowgirl, and the holder of more world championships than any other woman in professional sports.

In 2006 Charmayne decided to clone the 29-year-old Scamper and hired ViaGen to do the cloning work. Clayton was later born in Texas. “If there was ever a horse to be cloned,” says Charmayne, “Scamper’s the one.”

The cloning process used with these horses is called nuclear transfer, in which DNA from a donor animal (like these mares or the gelding Scamper) is gathered by taking a small tissue biopsy from the animal to be reproduced. This sample is shipped to ViaGen’s laboratory where cells are grown in a culture. Then DNA from the donor’s cells is transferred into eggs that have been stripped of their own genetic material. The new embryos are grown in an incubator for several days and then implanted into recipient mares. After a normal gestation period, the cloned foals are born.

“From the time I transferred the embryo into the recipient mare, these pregnancies were normal in every way and the births followed suit,” said Jim Bailey, DVM, who oversaw the process with Royal Blue Boon and Tap O Lena. “The resulting foals were born normally and immediately stood to nurse. They bonded well with the recipient mares and continue to grow and play in the sun.”

Whether or not you agree with cloning, come to the Horse Expo to learn from the ViaGen experts. Topics will include the cloning process, genetic preservation, and cost.

This year’s Western States Horse Expo promises a bounty of clinics and seminars, a juried show of stunning equine-related art, dynamic demonstrations by the top horsemen and horsewomen in the nation, hundreds of horses of various breeds, a Young Rider Park for kids, shopping galore, acres of trailers and trucks, and heart-stopping competition that includes the Magnificent 7 stock horse contest. Finals for the Magnificent 7 are held Friday night, and the entertainment during the Saturday Evening Showcase is bound to delight one and all.

Visit http://www.horsexpo.com or call 800.352.2411 for more information and tickets.


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