In My Boots: Clone wars

As we reported last week (“Cloned quarter horses get victory in federal court“), a challenge to the American Quarter Horse Association’s ban on cloned animals has resulted in an overturn of the rule. Kristen Kovatch weighs in.

From Kristen:

Cloning has been a hot-button issue for years—is it ethical? Is it worth it? What kind of laws and rules should govern cloning? In the past week, cloning moved into the spotlight in the horse world with a federal court ruling that the American Quarter Horse Association’s prohibition of the registration of cloned horses violated state and federal antitrust laws. The lawsuit was originally filed in April of 2012 by Jason Abraham and two of his companies, specifically concerning around 20 horses in the racing side of the Quarter horse industry.

With the jury reaching its decision on July 30th, nothing concrete has yet been set in motion: the AQHA can still appeal the decision and is not currently required to make any changes to rules or is forced to admit the cloned horses into the registry. However, the court decision raises a few troubling questions about the authority of the Association:

  • AQHA, the largest single-breed registry in the world, is not the only association to prohibit the registration of clones—other well-known registries include the American Paint Horse Association, the Jockey Club and the American Kennel Club. With the AQHA’s rule deemed in violation, will other associations be called into scrutiny?
  • 86% of AQHA members reported that they supported the prohibition of registration for clones. Does this court decision undermine the rulemaking process of the AQHA and other registries?

Abraham and party argue that the AQHA is acting as a monopoly to bar cloned and unregistered animals from participation in shows, effectively lowering those animals’ value by 70% or 80%. The AQHA argues simultaneously that cloning is not considered breeding and is therefore not moving the Quarter horse breed forward. The entire cloning issue includes other arguments as well: can a cloned animal ever be as good as or better than the original? By making “copies” of certain horses, will we be narrowing the gene pool and intensifying genetic diseases or weaknesses? Other points of view argue that because the cloning process is so expensive (upwards of $150,000) it’s a non-issue—so few horses will be cloned that it shouldn’t matter.

The only thing obvious right now is that nothing is obvious—there doesn’t seem to be a clear solution.

What do you think, HorseNation? Weigh in!


About Kristen: Kristen was an English major at Alfred University and was then hired on after graduation as the western teacher and trainer at the university’s Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center. She would joke on that irony but her students don’t find it very funny any more. Kristen coaches the varsity western team, teaches classes in western riding and draft horse driving, and keeps several of her own horses in training on the side. She shows reined cow horse and also shows western pleasure and horsemanship for fun. Between her horses and her students, Kristen is never short on stories to tell. Some of these stories can be read at her blog at She has also been published in Today’s Equestrian and Take the Reins.