Let’s Discuss: Cloning

News broke recently that the famous Irish stallion, Cruising, has not one, but two clones on the ground. If you are not familiar with Cruising, you probably know his prodigy- Mr. Medicott, or Flexible, for instance, to name a couple. The clone 2 1/2 year old stallions (nicknamed Rooster and Booster), are to be made available at stud to select mares this year. Personally, I was shocked to hear this news.

The late Cruising meets his two clones

The late Cruising meets his two clones / PC: Horse and Hound

When we sold our farm, it was purchased by a man with a vision to breed Irish horses (after going through breed books with my parents over the kitchen table, no less). He went to Ireland, purchased himself one grade-A stallion and 10 purebred mares, and imported them to the States. He then bought 40 Belgian draft mares (some halter broke, some not), and started an embryo transfer practice using the draft horses as the recipient mares. For some time we continued to live in the house while he took over the farm, and a little piece of my heart broke seeing half the barn turned into a laboratory. The Irish Draught registry must have felt similarly, and had an absolute shit-fit. They determined that only one foal by a mare/stallion combination could be registered per year. So, if one Irish mare donates 3 embryos that year that become live foals- which one gets registered?

Crusing

Crusing

I’m sure this rule was at one point overturned (this having happened in the late 90s), but the Irish Draught Society still ruled with an iron fist over their registry books. Getting an Irish horse registered is no joke, including hours of preparation, grooming, and training in hand before going to the inspection in your region. And even then you are not guaranteed approval- we were told to represent one full Irish mare the next year because she wasn’t fully matured in her back end. The approval of Ivan as a registered stallion, an even more rigorous test, then was a huge relief.

ivan_inspection

Ivan at his stallion inspection

 

So, knowing as I do that the Irish Draught Society errs on the conservative side, how did such a prestigious stallion come to be cloned, and the news stay secret for so long? Is it right of them to allow cloned horses into the registry books? What about the multiple clones, such as in Cruising’s case? Personally I’m not fully decided. But I do think if there’s to be a clone for breeding purposes, maybe it should just be one horse and not two, so as to keep the integrity of the breed by not ‘polluting it’ with one genetic line by having it available for the space of three stallions’ lifetimes.

Read the Horse & Hound’s article on the clones here.

Weigh in! What do you think of introducing cloned horses to the genetic pool, and how do you think this will set an example for future generations?