I'm sure many of you are aware of the clone wars that have ensued recently between the American Quarter Horse Association and owners/breeders of cloned horses. If not, you can read about it here
, but it brought back memories of my own sport horse clone encounter.
Shortly after being weaned, my homebred Hannah went to live in the big back field at my trainer's north Houston area farm. Although not a breeder himself, he happened to have three similar-aged weanlings in his care that year and suggested turning Hannah out with them to mature physically and socially. In this baby herd were two tall, outgoing bays bred for future show jumping stardom. Then there was flashy chestnut Hannah and her liver chestnut buddy Gem--the more passive runts of the pasture that quickly bonded. The two of them were always in tandem, and calling Hannah to the fenceline for a neck scratch or a carrot meant doing the same for Gem.
Hannah, Gemini, and one of their bigger bay pasturemates in Texas.
Photo: Alexandra Beckstett
Giving Hannah a pet or a treat inevitably meant doing the same for Gemini.
Photo: Alexandra Beckstett
One day, the barn manager off-handedly referred to them as "Hannah and the clone," causing my eyebrows to go up. The clone?
"Yeah, didn't you know? That's Gemini, the Gem Twist clone," he said.
Apparently New Jersey-based breeder and trainer Frank Chapot, who had the world champion show jumper successfully cloned in 2008, was a long-time buddy of my trainer's. Surreptitiously, he sent the weanling clone to Texas to do the same thing I was doing with Hannah--throw him in a field with other youngsters for a while to mature. Other reasons likely included keeping the high-profile foal out of the public eye. My trainer talked about having Gem in the back field as if it was some big secret, and maybe it was.
Nevertheless, I was both shocked and awed by my discovery. Shocked because I never would have guessed this gangly brown colt was the genetic replica of the stunning gray champion; awed because here I was nonchalantly feeding carrots to a piece of equine history.
Several months later, Gemini headed back north to Chapot's New Jersey farm. Hannah showed obvious signs of separation anxiety, but as a low-ranking herd member she quickly joined forces with the other two weanlings and was no worse for the wear.
That was five years ago, and I've since read stories and seen photos of Gemini starting to gray, learning to jump, and siring his own offspring. His adorable little face hasn't changed much, however.
So there you have it--Hannah's (and my) brief brush with equine fame!
What are some of your most memorable equine encounters?