If you read our last blog, you know that polo pony cloning is not going away. So here are some things that we as a polo community need to be thinking about:
Breeding could get a whole lot simpler! But making money as a polo pony breeder might get a lot tougher in the future, too, if everyone starts buying clones.
Great horses could be easier to come by. Right now clones of superstar polo ponies are uber expensive but who knows? If the practice continues, larger supply may push down prices. Exact replicas of the ponies of the world’s top players could trickle down to average folk who play polo on the weekends for fun.
That isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, though. There are only two major companies in the business of cloning polo ponies, and the practice is still very experimental and expensive. Also, it’s likely that owners will limit the number of clones produced of any given horse to avoid flooding the market and lowering prices.
If prices stay high and you can’t afford a cloned pony, will you be less competitive?
Plus, much remains to be learned about clones. Will they have health problems, like Dolly the Sheep did? Some scientists have surmised that they are born with the genetic age of their progenitor. Polo pony clones have shown more serious health problems at birth and have also seemed to know things when born that typical foals wouldn’t know—like their genetic “parent’s” memories have been passed down. What does that mean for the game? There are all kinds of ethical considerations here.
We get to keep the best polo ponies around for, well, practically ever! Cambiaso first turned to cloning to replicate his beloved stallion Aiken Cura.
Nonetheless if cloned ponies become commonplace, a certain element of mystery, chance and opportunity evaporates. You mostly know what you’re getting. Training, handling, conditioning and care play a role in a horse’s performance and there’s still the variable element of rider skill. But, still.
What if two different players are riding two clones of the same horse? What if everyone on the field is riding clones of the same horse? What if your whole string consists of carbon-copy equines? Seems utilitarian but also a bit dull, no? Would that make the game less interesting for spectators?
Every horse has strengths and weaknesses, just like people. It’s great to ride many different horses to hone your own skill as a horseman or horsewoman. So if you’re a developing player with a string of horses that are all identical, you might miss out on that learning process.
Plus, with cloned ponies you lose the excitement, possibility and challenge of finding and training up new talent. Some of the best polo ponies we’ve seen have been surprises—successes built of as much heart and love for the game as innate talent. And there’s a feeling of elation that accompanies discovering and “making” such a horse … not in a lab but in a training ring.
That said, there’s so much about cloning we don’t know! What role do experiences have in changing DNA? We don’t know! We don’t understand yet the interplay between genes and training.
All in all, it’s an exciting time for the sport of polo. Cloning is a crazy cool opportunity and also an important, difficult challenge. So let’s keep talking about it.
What do you think about polo pony cloning? Tell us!