Mary Walker, 60, cloned prize-winning bay gelding Latte twice (Picture: SWNS)

A woman who cloned her horse twice is planning to get two more copied foals. Mary Walker, 60, cloned prize-winning bay gelding Latte to create Ditto in April 2016 and Junior in January 2019. She was so thrilled with her genetically identical horses she and husband Byron, 61, have arranged for two more cloned foals, expected in January 2020. Mary, from Ennis, Texas, hopes to have ten cloned horses in her stables one day. She said: ‘I would love to have as many as I possibly can. I love Latte. I love everything about him. I’d like to have ten but that’s probably not feasible. ‘If I could get two or three more, I would be happy.’

Caption: (L-R) Junior, Ditto, and Latte (Picture: SWNS)

Ditto, Latte’s clone, with surrogate mare Blueberry (Picture: SWNS)

Mr Walker bought Latte for his wife after the couple lost their only child Reagon, 21, in a car accident in April 2011. On Mother’s Day that year, Byron presented Mary with a new horse, Latte, whose racing name was Perculatin. Mrs Walker said: ‘After my son had his accident, I had to step back and decide what to do now. ‘Horses seem to take away a lot of sadness because they understand your feelings. Latte was always my go to when I had a sad time. ‘I’d ride or just go talk to him. He meant a lot to me. He’s the coolest dude in the world.’

Mary Walker meets Latte’s clone Ditto (Picture: SWNS)

Junior, a clone of Latte born in January 2019 (Picture: SWNS)

Mrs Walker began barrel racing with Latte, a rodeo event where riders race their horses around barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. But on June 9 2011, Latte fell and Mary suffered severe injuries including a crushed pelvis, two broken vertebrae and two broken toes. Luckily Latte escaped the fall with no injuries and the horse became the motivation Mary needed to get better and his return to barrel racing with Mrs Walker proved successful. She was named World Barrel Racing Champion in 2012 and took home $146,000 (£111,000) in prize money. At the time, Mrs Walker was the oldest woman to win a world title in barrel racing.

Mary Walker, 60, and he husband Byron, 61 (Picture: SWNS)

Byron Walker, the late Reagon Walker who died in car accident in 2011, and Mary Walker (Picture: SWNS)

For Mrs Walker, the decision to clone her champion was sentimental. The couple reached out to ViaGen Pets and began the cloning process for Ditto, who was born in April 2016 to a surrogate mare called Blueberry. To clone a horse, ViaGen requires at least two skin samples to collect DNA. The samples are then packed in ice and sent to a laboratory where they are placed in an incubator and cells start to grow. Within two to four weeks, there are millions of cells and they are harvested and placed in vials which are frozen in liquid nitrogen tanks. In the next step of cloning, a donor egg is taken from a donor animal.

The nucleus of the egg is removed so there is no DNA and it is replaced with one of the millions of cells that have been grown in the laboratory. Melain Rodriguez, client service manager at ViaGen Pets, said: ‘The egg and the cell are fused together in our patented cloning process. Essentially the egg is tricked into thinking it’s been fertilized by a sperm.” The embryo is implanted into a surrogate mare who gives birth to foals genetically identical to the original horse after a gestation period of just under a year. Mrs Walker said despite being a clone and looking identical to Latte and Ditto, Junior has his own personality but she admitted she could still see astonishing similarities between all three horses. The couple have an endorsement deal with Texas cloning company ViaGen Pets which usually charges customers $85,000 (£65,000) to clone a horse.

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