PDA

View Full Version : Cloning . . . Modern Marvel or Elitist Advantage?



ACMEeventing
Jan. 18, 2010, 05:06 PM
So, whilst perusing my latest batch of mailbox-stuffing equine journals, I started to notice (really notice) the ads for equine cloning. And it got me to thinking . . .

What does this mean to the future of our various disciplines? Religious and ethical dilemmas aside, are we further propagating the “designer horses” that have become the mainstay of competitors who can afford them, or are we paying tribute to the unforgettable partners that have shaped the history of equestrian sports.

Have we evolved into a collective that has become so enamored with success that we now dispute Mother Nature’s pesky little claim to what most of us refer to as a life span, or are we merely resourceful individuals taking advantage of the brilliant minds that have managed to engineer a feat so impressive that it leaves most of us scratching our heads in amazement.

No question that we all have empty voids left from the loss of a horse, whether it is because we lost a friend or because we lost a chance at success (whatever your definition of success is). But does it mean we should recreate them? From a strictly competitive point of view, it does beg the question of “will the person with the most money win?” Of course it takes a good rider to finish first, but I think you get meat of the message.

Just curious what your thoughts are. I’m currently between opinions.

Discuss . . .

Highflyer
Jan. 18, 2010, 06:12 PM
Honestly, I feel like so many other factors (luck, training, soundness, luck, personality, luck) besides natural talent go into making a top event horse, cloning would be the least of my worries. The people who can spend $100k on a clone are already spending $100k on a fancy horse someone else has brought along, so, no I don't think cloning will have much impact that way.

Ajierene
Jan. 18, 2010, 07:19 PM
To me that's like saying anyone who can afford a nice, made schoolmaster or well bred young horse with potential are exhibiting elitist advantages.

deltawave
Jan. 18, 2010, 07:47 PM
You still have to rear, break, train and keep the critter from wrecking itself.

I think it's OK for keeping genes in the gene pool that would otherwise have been lost to gelding, but personally would say "no" to a clone.

Wee Dee Trrr
Jan. 18, 2010, 07:53 PM
I agree that the environment plays a significant role in how horses are produced, and unless you are raising identical twins the chances of producing the same horse are virtually nil.

In fact, I watched something (I think on animal planet) about a man who let a university clone his bull. The bull was a family pet, friendly, loving, etc. etc. His clone has so far trampled the man twice. Sent him to the hospital. Twice.

Ethics aside, I personally believe that there are so many talented horses out there already it's a waste of money. I could potentially buy 3 OTTBs and most likely ONE of them will go prelim. Seems silly to spend 100k on gamble.

deltawave
Jan. 18, 2010, 08:07 PM
The guy with the bull was WEIRD!!

bornfreenowexpensive
Jan. 18, 2010, 08:15 PM
I think it has its place for breeding. Taking a super talented gelding (like Gem Twist) and letting us have access to that genetic combination for breeding.

But personally...no matter how much I love my beasts...I can't see spending the money. And while they have same genetics.....the clones are not the exact same animal.

ACMEeventing
Jan. 18, 2010, 10:16 PM
I think it has its place for breeding. Taking a super talented gelding (like Gem Twist) and letting us have access to that genetic combination for breeding.

But personally...no matter how much I love my beasts...I can't see spending the money. And while they have same genetics.....the clones are not the exact same animal.

Interesting point. I, for instance, have identical twin daughters. Two "nearly teens" with the exact same DNA structure and two very different personality traits. So, as BFNE states, why spend the money on such a gamble?

Maybe I just don't get it.

Foxhall
Jan. 18, 2010, 10:21 PM
Is it legal within the governing bodies (USEF, FEI) to compete a cloned horse?

Because really it is the same horse, maybe trained differently but still the same horse.

ex-racer owner
Jan. 18, 2010, 10:41 PM
Anyone ever watch "Multiplicity" :lol: This discussion always makes me think of that movie.

I think it is awesome that they technology exists to "make a copy" of your beloved pet, but I can't help but to think it just isn't going to be the same. I loved my first horse and it would be cool to have "him" again, but you know what? It wouldn't be the same because I couldn't recreate all his life experiences that made him who he was. Genetically, he'd be the same, but behaviorally, no.

I understand why people are doing it with fantastic geldings, for the genetics, but what if being a gelding contributed to their success? For the record, I grew up watching Gem Twist and loved him and I always thought it was nice that he was a gelding. I don't object to recreating the geldings as much as the potentially sticky situation of cloning an already existing breeding stallion, which I believe has already happened with at least one Arabian stallion.

subk
Jan. 18, 2010, 10:55 PM
Is it legal within the governing bodies (USEF, FEI) to compete a cloned horse?
I don't think that's an issue yet. I believe that currently clones have a fragility--as well as significantly shorter life spa--than the original models. Most everything I've read about those who are cloning is that they are doing to access breeding material not for creating competitive horses.

NeverTime
Jan. 18, 2010, 11:05 PM
Ronald Zabala (in this week's COTH) tried to clone his four-star horse. Both clones died in utero, but Ronald had said the FEI would recognize and register them, so I guess it's not a problem... yet at least.

Reynard Ridge
Jan. 19, 2010, 12:58 AM
In fact, I watched something (I think on animal planet) about a man who let a university clone his bull. The bull was a family pet, friendly, loving, etc. etc. His clone has so far trampled the man twice. Sent him to the hospital. Twice.

The bull also died. Quite a bit younger than the original animal. Really interesting (and as DW points out, weird) story around these people and the choices they made. This American Life did a radio and television segment about it. Link here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=291

JER
Jan. 19, 2010, 02:34 AM
Humans are playing with time. We've got the LHC at CERN (which may have been disrupted by forces from the future :cool:), cloning, genetically-modified everything and...

... in Italy, they're trying to back-breed GIANT CATTLE (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7011035/Giant-cattle-to-be-bred-back-from-extinction.html) (aurochs, actually, which was also a pet project of Goering's in the Nazi era). Carpaccio, anyone?

I would like to have a carbon copy of my favorite horse, who is now 31 and still devoted to a life of mayhem. But then I realize that Amos might be the 'good' version of his DNA. :winkgrin:

deltawave
Jan. 19, 2010, 07:56 AM
I understand why people are doing it with fantastic geldings, for the genetics, but what if being a gelding contributed to their success?

Of course that's another whole piece of the puzzle. But "what if" is awfully tempting, isn't it? "What if" there could be another Barbaro, another Gem Twist, another Ruffian, another John Henry, all taking their rightful (??) place in the gene pool? This kind of speculation isn't just science fiction any more, and the discussion deserves to be held as to whether or not it is "right" or "wrong".

ACMEeventing
Jan. 19, 2010, 06:07 PM
Of course that's another whole piece of the puzzle. But "what if" is awfully tempting, isn't it? "What if" there could be another Barbaro, another Gem Twist, another Ruffian, another John Henry, all taking their rightful (??) place in the gene pool? This kind of speculation isn't just science fiction any more, and the discussion deserves to be held as to whether or not it is "right" or "wrong".

Exactly.

I do get a humorous visual of a field with 25 Barbaro "attempts" all running in circles chasing their tails. Lets see, was that BB to Bb, or Bb to BB . . . hmmmm

jawa
Jan. 19, 2010, 06:20 PM
Here's a question, what if the quest to attain "perfection" as we knew it keeps us from looking at the possibilities of what can be had with new combinations. The expression of genes is not understood enough to know what contribution environmental factors have. The genes can be present but not expressed to the degree of the original because the environmental conditions weren't exactly the same. That being said, I think we can all think of a horse we have had or ridden in the past that we say "If only I had them now."

Christa P
Jan. 19, 2010, 06:45 PM
Of course that's another whole piece of the puzzle. But "what if" is awfully tempting, isn't it? "What if" there could be another Barbaro, another Gem Twist, another Ruffian, another John Henry, all taking their rightful (??) place in the gene pool? This kind of speculation isn't just science fiction any more, and the discussion deserves to be held as to whether or not it is "right" or "wrong".

Just a little point about genetics. Because the stallion only contributes his nuclear DNA, the mare used as a egg donor for his is irrelevant for his future breeding, though it could make a difference in the clones performance. This is because the mare contributes the mitocondrial DNA.

Therefore for a MARE to be cloned and pass on the exact same genes as a the original you would need to use an egg from a mare with the same mare line as the original for the cloning.

This difference could also be why there are performance differences between the original animals and the clones.

Christa

Who has no personal interest in cloning

Pferd51
Jan. 19, 2010, 08:25 PM
Just imagining---if you could strong arm the Jockey Club into accepting clones, then you could form syndicates to make multiple clones of the most successful racing TBs. Since some of them would inevitably wash out, the eventing world could be flooded with clones of Triple Crown winners!

CookiePony
Jan. 19, 2010, 08:39 PM
"What if" there could be another Barbaro, another Gem Twist...

There is another Gem Twist-- he was cloned and "Gemini" was born in 2008.

millerra
Jan. 19, 2010, 08:51 PM
I would say no to cloning. If it becomes prevalent, it could be disastrous for horses a species.

It goes something like this (details are a bit fuzzy)
DNA in somatic cells (non reproductive cells) ages - the long repeating sequence of the DNA chromosomes are slowly clipped of as the cell ages. So as a cell ages, the age is "recorded" in the DNA. Somatic DNA is used for cloning - hence it is aged when it used to make a new pony. PLUS all of the inherent errors in the DNA that spontaneously occur due to living are also there - and will get passed down to the clone. So, in effect - you are burdening the new animal w/ aged, potentially somewhat damaged DNA. The possibilities of defects therefore are increased. This is why the clones tend to have a shortened life spans.

Using the clone for breeding is a slightly better option. But if I was going to use the animal for breeding, I would want to make sure the animals reproductive cells have normal length (new/fresh) DNA. The inherent mutations that may have been passed on, however, will be still there.

In my opinion, it is playing w/ fire and not something I would do to an animal... or a species

vineyridge
Jan. 19, 2010, 09:11 PM
What would happen if JHodkin used Juswith Genoa as the egg donor/recipient mare for a clone of Winsome Adante?

Would eventers be panting to breed to a stallion with those genetics?

Tuckertoo
Jan. 19, 2010, 09:15 PM
In my opinion, it is playing w/ fire and not something I would do to an animal... or a species

:yes:


In my opinion, people know just enough about this to be dangerous. There is so much to cloning that we don't know, and, I think, so many unforseen consequences. Genetics are so complex, and we've just scratched the surface...

Besides, let's take care of the abused and neglected horses we have in this world now before we "create" more, they don't turn out to be what the people wanted (there are so many aspects to each individual animal besides its genetics, like life experiences, environmental factors, the whole nature-nurture debate, etc.), and are a disappointment.

ACMEeventing
Jan. 19, 2010, 09:22 PM
What would happen if JHodkin used Juswith Genoa as the egg donor/recipient mare for a clone of Winsome Adante?

Would eventers be panting to breed to a stallion with those genetics?

This is kind of my point. Equestrian sports are (to me) starting to trend towards this nirvana of designer breeding. Not that I would turn down a Winsome Adante colt if it showed up on my doorstep in a basket, but, I'm a die hard fan for the underdog stories. Less science and more heart.

Besides, what happens to the "nearly got it right this time" clones? A buy-one, get-one free sale? Cheeky, I know.

JER
Jan. 19, 2010, 09:59 PM
What would happen if JHodkin used Juswith Genoa as the egg donor/recipient mare for a clone of Winsome Adante?

Would eventers be panting to breed to a stallion with those genetics?

'Those genetics' mean what, exactly?

Winsome Adante had some unusual physical traits that would have made him an unlikely choice for remaining intact. Most specifically, he was rather straight behind and, due to hind limb issues, he was retired at age 14 (http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/397/155520.html).

I wouldn't be willing (never mind 'panting') to breed to a stallion with that history unless he was proven to outbreed himself in terms of conformation and soundness.

Now if you're talking about cloning the long-gone Welton Gameful (http://www.allbreedpedigree.com/welton+gameful), then I'd be interested. :)

vineyridge
Jan. 19, 2010, 11:39 PM
JER, I've never been quite so sure that the injury was the only reason he was retired. After all, it happened just when KS and Linda W parted company.

He was so good for so many years at the very top levels that I don't think his conformation was all that limiting.

JER
Jan. 20, 2010, 12:49 AM
viney, from the article (http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/397/155520.html) I linked to above:


Winsome Adante suffered a strain to a hind suspensory ligament. A sound horse throughout his career, Kim attested the injury to his "rather ordinary confirmation" and his own wish to retire.

Kim was interviewed for the article; I'd like to think she was being honest.

vineyridge
Jan. 20, 2010, 12:48 PM
I read the article.:)

But you have to remember that he started running and winning 3*s (Blenheim) when he was only eight. He won his first Rolex the next year. Not saying that had anything to do with his retirement, but I still don't think his hind conformation is the full story. He had a hard working life. No wonder he was getting sour, and might have worn out early.

JER
Jan. 20, 2010, 01:13 PM
I read the article.:)

But you have to remember that he started running and winning 3*s (Blenheim) when he was only eight. He won his first Rolex the next year. Not saying that had anything to do with his retirement, but I still don't think his hind conformation is the full story. He had a hard working life. No wonder he was getting sour, and might have worn out early.

One of the major reasons for sourness is pain.

You're talking about WA as stallion material. There are proven eventing stallions out there who stayed sound, had long careers (and lives), did not get sour and had solid conformation. Welton Crackerjack, Fleetwater Opposition, Jumbo, Catherston Dazzler, Dutch Gold, etc.

Who knows, maybe Juswith Genoa's recent crop of foals will turn out to be as good as WA. But given their breeding, they may also have better conformation.

But I still don't see WA as an ideal breeding stallion.

deltawave
Jan. 20, 2010, 01:26 PM
With all due respect to "Dan" and his breeder, I wouldn't choose him as a stallion either. Especially for an eventer, the intangibles are so much a part of success, and we have NO CLUE if those are genetic in origin, much less consistently inheritable. So I for one would only use a cloned horse for breeding that was physically exceptional, not one that succeeded in spite of its flaws.

subk
Jan. 20, 2010, 01:28 PM
Kim was interviewed for the article; I'd like to think she was being honest.
A hind suspensory injury is a pretty common injury for a straight hind end. WA is the poster child for that conformation fault! :) My own UL horse had the same conformation fault and subsequently the same injury--it is difficult one to reliably come back from. Mine also had the same building of sourness over time even though he passed all soundness checks. After the injury he did comeback technically sound, although he wasn't happy in his work so I too retired him.

Point being that having been through something similar her story rings very true. He could possibly come back. To come back to the ULs with an injury so related to a conformation fault would be irresponsible in my book. Like my horse he's really too difficult of a ride on a day to day basis for a Novice or Training level rider to enjoy. So what would be the point?

ACMEeventing
Jan. 20, 2010, 06:07 PM
With all due respect to "Dan" and his breeder, I wouldn't choose him as a stallion either. Especially for an eventer, the intangibles are so much a part of success, and we have NO CLUE if those are genetic in origin, much less consistently inheritable. So I for one would only use a cloned horse for breeding that was physically exceptional, not one that succeeded in spite of its flaws.

So, DW, I'm curious. Do you think that a physically exceptional horse with a sketchy performance history is a better choice for cloning than an average or above-average physique with an illustrious career?

IOW, how much personality and competitive spirit are carried in the horse's DNA? Seems like such an expensive gamble.

NeverTime
Jan. 20, 2010, 06:17 PM
This is kind of my point. Equestrian sports are (to me) starting to trend towards this nirvana of designer breeding. Not that I would turn down a Winsome Adante colt if it showed up on my doorstep in a basket, but, I'm a die hard fan for the underdog stories. Less science and more heart.

Besides, what happens to the "nearly got it right this time" clones? A buy-one, get-one free sale? Cheeky, I know.

Cloning may be a trend or new technology, but "designer breeding" as you call it is hardly new or a trend. Hasn't (good) breeding always been about manipulating nature to combine genes that will give you the best possible outcome (ie, forcing two particular horses to breed rather than turning a bunch out in a field to see what happens)? I'd rather see that "trend" continue than breed the crappiest horses we can find to see which ultimately succeeds beyond its humble beginnings to produce the best underdog story! Cheeky, I know.

What happens with the not-quite-rights? I imagine the same thing that happens with the thousands of not-quite-rights people breed already. At least cloning comes with a financial threshold that forces owners to REALLY think about what they want and be very calculated, rather than just creating new horses because they have the stock available.

All that said, the cloning idea kinda skeeves me out.

deltawave
Jan. 20, 2010, 06:44 PM
Do you think that a physically exceptional horse with a sketchy performance history is a better choice for cloning than an average or above-average physique with an illustrious career?

Forgive me if this sounds like waffling, but I'd say that neither of the horses above ought to be cloned. For how much it costs, and the crapshoot that's involved even with "normal" breeding, I'm not sure it's worth cloning anything but a physically near-perfect individual who ALSO has an impeccable/outstanding performance record. Which means that precious few horses get cloned, if any. And that, perhaps, is how it ought to be. :yes:

ACMEeventing
Jan. 20, 2010, 07:18 PM
Exactly.

And Nevertime - good point. I don't know how long the breeding has been so focused, or how long the prices for these youngsters has been so high. I'm only in my forties (hah! I said only) and although I drooled over the articles of "the greats" when I was a kid, I don't know if these horses were the result of focused breeding, or diamonds in the rough that someone saw that it factor in.

I have noticed that there are less life time partnerships (as in made from scratch and stayed together) now then there seemed to be then. Of course, maybe I was just a disillusioned pip-squeak.

I'm probably just jaded against the "I can afford it and I want it now!" population. You know, the Verunca Salts of the world (and their demanding parents). okay, i'm done.

ThatScaryChick
Jan. 20, 2010, 08:49 PM
Humans are playing with time. We've got the LHC at CERN (which may have been disrupted by forces from the future :cool:), cloning, genetically-modified everything and...

... in Italy, they're trying to back-breed GIANT CATTLE (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/7011035/Giant-cattle-to-be-bred-back-from-extinction.html) (aurochs, actually, which was also a pet project of Goering's in the Nazi era). Carpaccio, anyone?

Very interesting article. Thanks JER.

poltroon
Jan. 21, 2010, 12:13 PM
Gem Twist was an excellent individual to choose for cloning because he was an exceptional performer, purpose-bred for jumping, and represents bloodlines that are not very common and not very available. Perhaps if Gem had become a superstar while his sire was still alive, the situation would be different. It will be very interesting to see how his clone develops.

I cannot think of any eventing (or dressage) geldings that fit that criteria in the same way.

I have to say, I don't think you'd have an advantage with a clone. Cloning makes expensive horses, not better horses.

ACMEeventing
Jan. 21, 2010, 08:37 PM
I have to say, I don't think you'd have an advantage with a clone. Cloning makes expensive horses, not better horses.

Very interesting point.