Five Million More Quarter Horses? AQHA Will Host Open Forum on Cloning Option

by Fran Jurga | 13 January 2009 | The Jurga Report on

Did you receive that nice triangle-shaped green brochure in the mail recently? I did, and I expect most or all AQHA members did. It was from a company called ViaGen and I wondered how I had gotten on their mailing list. Today, I found out.

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) is planning to host an open forum on the subject of cloning at the group’s annual convention next month in San Antonio, Texas. The forum is scheduled for Friday, March 6, 2009 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

According to the AQHA’s announcement, this forum’s panel will include representatives from equine industry and educational research institutions.

Whether they are watching from the audience, or participate directly in the forum, representatives of ViaGen have a lot riding on that forum. Since the closing of slaughterhouses, ViaGen had to move its lab to Canada to be close to slaughterable mares to harvest uterus parts, but they know that a nod from the AQHA to allow clones of the world’s Quarter horses to be registered would be the answer to the company’s prayers. It would be the first breed association to take that giant step. Add that the AQHA is the largest and most influential breed association in the world, and you see all that could be at stake here for ViaGen and the next generation of the ready-to-blossom equine reproduction technology field.

Within the past couple of years, commercial cloning of a number of horses, including American Quarter Horses, has been well publicized. Racing mules have been cloned, but most of the clones you hear about are high-end international-level show jumpers, like Gem Twist. The western horses have been primarily cutting horses or rodeo event horses, so the fact that the horses were not AQHA-registered was not a significant factor; cutting and barrel racing organizations allow any horse to compete.

Under Rule 227(a) of the AQHA Official Handbook, a rule that became effective in 2004, American Quarter Horses produced by any cloning process are not eligible for registration.

At the AQHA’s 2008 Convention, the Stud Book and Registration Committee (SBRC) received the first-ever proposed change to Rule 227(a); it was tabled then and has been brought back for 2009; the change would allow a live foal produced via a particular type of cloning to be registered if its DNA matches that of a registered American Quarter Horse.

Currently, the AQHA is not naming which particular procedure would be approved, but after seeing all the ViaGen ads cropping up on internet sites lately, it’s not a tough guess.

In 2008, the SBRC recommended that any decision regarding the proposed change be postponed pending further study to be undertaken at the direction of the SBRC. As a result, on October 15, 2008, representatives from Colorado State University, Texas A&M University and ViaGen met with the SBRC in Amarillo to discuss the topic of cloning.

The proposed change to Rule 227(a) will be on the SBRC agenda in March in San Antonio. In an effort to make the most recent information on equine cloning available to AQHA members, AQHA has scheduled the open forum. The AQHA anticipates the forum will include presentations by panel of speakers from the equine industry and educational research institutions.

This forum will be open to all interested AQHA members. Save me a seat.

The SBRC meets on Monday.

The Superman Foal ? 2009 Fran Jurga, created with Puppet Tool Software




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