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Pink Flamingos or Pink Horses?

Tom Reed

To be published in Horse Sport International

First a bit of history before we get to the lawn ornaments...

At the General Assembly in 2007 the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) issued the following statement regarding cloning:

“The competitive equestrian couple of horse and rider are both acknowledged as athletes by the FEI. The cloning of either with a view to competing at international level would be unacceptable to the FEI. The FEI opposes cloning for it goes against one of the FEI’s basic objectives: to enable FEI athletes “‘to compete in international events under fair and even conditions.’”

As a follow-up in the summer of 2009 I wrote an article for a European equestrian magazine, entitled “Beware of the Clone Traps”, in which I called on the FEI to establish clear rules concerning the eligibility of cloned horses to compete in international sport. Since by now the first sport horse clones have reached the age where they can compete in national-level sport I decided to revisit clones for this column. And so I wrote to Ruth Grundy, FEI Manager of Press Relations, with two questions: 1) Today if I were to apply for an FEI passport for a clone would the FEI passport be issued?, and 2) Today if I were to apply for an FEI passport for a progeny of a clone or a horse with a clone in its pedigree would the FEI passport be issued?

Here is the answer I received from Ruth and her answer is noteworthy: “The FEI is monitoring cloning and all the associated issues of progeny and descendants of clones closely, so that it can fully consider the necessary rules that would need to be introduced to protect fairness in the sport. Based on its current policy, FEI passports cannot be issued to horses in order to allow them to compete if they are declared as clones or progeny and descendants of clones.”

This policy, which I fully support, has massive implications for the entire community of people who breed, compete, own, sell, and register horses: If you own a cloned horse it cannot compete in international equestrian sport under FEI jurisdiction; if you own a horse sired by a clone or is out of a mare that is a clone it cannot compete in international equestrian sport under FEI jurisdiction; and if you own a horse that has a clone anywhere in its pedigree it cannot compete in international equestrian sport under FEI jurisdiction. And do not think you can avoid the issue because your horses do not compete in international (CSI, CCI, CIC, CDI, etc) sport. A number of national federations closely align their rules governing national-level sport with FEI policy for international sport so in some countries, even at this moment, a clone and its progeny and descendants may be prohibited from competing even at local and regional shows.

For breeders, even those who would never seek to own a clone or a progeny or descendant of a clone, extreme care must be taken to avoid buying or using in a breeding program a horse that is a clone (for example, a cloned stallion or mare) or otherwise has a clone or a progeny or descendant of a clone in its pedigree. While a few studbooks have embraced clones other studbooks, including the one for which I serve as breeding director, have strict policies excluding clones and their progeny and descendants. So if you want to breed a horse for sport make sure the stallion you use and the mare you use has no clones or progeny or descendants of clones in its pedigree.

And owners and riders also must practice extreme due diligence. You would not want to spend a lot of money on a super young prospect for sport and then find out that he is forever ineligible to compete at any level because his dam-sire’s sire‘s dam is the Ratina Z Clone instead of Ratina Z herself.

If you are not careful, you will have suffered the ultimate “clone trap” and your front yard will be filled not only with pink flamingos but also with pink horses -- my name for horses that cannot compete in sport or be used in breeding because their pedigrees contain clones. If I had to have either a pink flamingo or a pink horse as a lawn ornament I’d go for the flamingo: at least plastic birds don’t have to be fed and mucked.

Tom Reed is the owner/founder of Morningside Stud in Ireland and the Breeding Director of the Warmblood Studbook of Ireland. He may be contacted at tom@morningside-stud.com

Copyright © 2011 Thomas Reed, All Rights Reserved