Clone of Nick Skelton’s famous jumping stallion Arko born

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Arko III’s clone was born in August 2021. © Gemini Genetics

A clone of top showjumping stallion Arko III, who died earlier this year, has been born in Britain.

By the world-famous Argentinus, out of Unika, Arko III was the No.1 showjumper in Europe in 2004, 2005 and 2006, ridden by Nick Skelton. He is also the sire of many world-class horses including stallions Argento and Aristio. Arko III died in January 2021 at the age of 27.

His clone, who was born in August 2021, is the result of the combined efforts of UK-based genetic preservation company Gemini Genetics and cloning company ViaGen Pets and Equine.

Arko’s clone was generated from a small skin sample from Arko that was genetically preserved by Gemini Genetics. Founded and sister company to equine semen collection and distribution centre, Stallion AI Services, Gemini Genetics is a newly established company specialising in regenerative genetic banking.

Once preserved by Gemini Genetics, the valuable tissue sample was shipped to ViaGen Pets and Equine, which completed the cloning process.

Genetic preservation and cloning can enable the revival of once-in-a-lifetime horses and other performance animals, in addition to breeding from geldings and preservation and regeneration of females. Other famous horses to have been cloned include Cruising, gelding Gem Twist and eventing stallion Chilli Morning. The technology can also be used to support rare breed populations as well as being available for cat and dog owners.

Arko’s owners, Pat, John and Lisa Hales of Shaw Farm stud, said it was a sad day for the family when they lost Arko. “He was truly a horse of a lifetime. The birth of his clone was very emotional. We believe it is not only exciting for our sport worldwide but especially for the future of Great British breeding for years to come. We look forward to breeding many more champions from this wonderful bloodline.”

Arko and Nick Skelton at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Arko and Nick Skelton at the 2004 Olympic Games. © Jacob Melissen/Gemini Genetics

The Hales family are internationally renowned for their successes with Arko III and his influence on equine sport and breeding. They have been awarded numerous accolades over Arko III’s career while Arko himself was crowned British Equestrian Showjumper of the Year on an unprecedented five occasions.

Gemini Genetics manager Lucy Morgan undertook the preservation and said the company was thrilled at the successful birth.

“A much-loved stallion in terms of his outstanding performances and his unique and full-of-life character, it is brilliant to have enabled his cloning so that his outstanding legacy can continue. Gemini Genetics is privileged to have facilitated this amazing revival of Arko III via his genetic twin,” Morgan said.

Morgan said since Gemini Genetics was established in 2018, it had worked with ViaGen Pets and Equine to develop its protocols and services to enable animal owners to have access to the breeding technology.

“It is a service we are passionate about. We all have that special animal, that once in a lifetime cat, dog, horse or pony, and being able to facilitate their revival is truly amazing.”

Arko’s clone was generated from a small skin sample from Arko.
Arko’s clone was generated from a small skin sample. © Gemini Genetics

ViaGen Pets and Equine president Blake Russell said that over the past 15 years, more than a thousand healthy, cloned foals had been delivered to clients.

“Each project is truly special. Each foal represents a unique story, and each project brings unbelievable joy and enthusiasm.

Arko III’s “genetic twin” was born in August 2021. © Gemini Genetics

“The ability to play a part in reproducing a phenomenal genotype like Arko III is what makes our effort worthwhile.  We are very excited to see him grow and develop and make his footprint on the industry,” Russell said.

Since 2002, Arko III has been available at stud via Stallion AI Services.

Gemini Genetics also works in association with charity Nature’s Safe to enable genetic preservation of engendered wild animals.

Arko and Nick Skelton at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Arko and Nick Skelton at the 2004 Olympic Games. © Gemini Genetics

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