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Clayton Native Has Her 29-Year-Old Horse Cloned for $150,000

By Polly Summar
Journal Northern Bureau
    SANTA FE— Charmayne James isn't the first cowgirl to want her horse to live forever. But the Clayton native, who won 10 world championships in barrel racing while riding a feedlot horse named Scamper, had the money— $150,000, to be exact— and the technology to clone the 29-year-old gelding.
    James, 36, who runs a breeding ranch in Texas, announced Wednesday that Scamper had been cloned— via DNA from inside his lip— and the resulting colt, born Aug. 6, is a healthy 3-month-old.
    Like many nervous parents, James waited until young Clayton— named in honor of her hometown— was thriving before she sent out a birth announcement.
    "Clayton is smart and strong— he's an unbelievable foal," James said.
    Already, he's ornery and bucking on the way from the stalls to the paddock, just like his dad, who was known as a renegade who easily bucked ranch cowboys.
    Clayton is like his father in every way, it seems, except for his white markings, but it's not unusual for a cloned animal to differ in that way, said Irina Polejaeva, chief scientific officer with ViaGen Inc., in Austin, the company that performed the cloning. "The cells migrate around the fetus during fetal development," Polejaeva said.
    And the mare who carried Clayton?
    James' husband and business partner, Tony Garritano, was a bit dismissive of her. "It was just a mare at the reproductive farm, just an incubator," he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with the genetic makeup of the horse."
    James, who said she had been researching cloning for six years, said the cost was not excessive.
    "Just your middle-of-the-road barrel horses are from $1,000 to $5,000 a breeding, and they breed 50 mares a year," said James, making breeding fees range from $50,000 to $250,000 a year. "This is a number that computes on a business level.
    "I just knew that Scamper was a one-in-a-million kind of horse."
    And unlike Thoroughbred racing, most barrel racing competitions allow clones to compete.
    It's a long way from Scamper's humble origins at Clayton Cattle Feeders.
    "That's where Scamper and me got our start," James said. "When we first met, Scamper was a working horse in my father's feedlot.
    "One day my dad said, 'Why don't you go get on that little bay horse?' He said, 'Don't gallop him; just lope him.' But I kicked him up to a gallop and it was an instant bond."
    Over the next three years, James honed her specialty, barrel racing. At 14, she brought home the world championship at the 1984 Women's Professional Rodeo Association in Oklahoma.
    She won a 1984 Dodge pickup, and her mother had to drive them home in it. "But growing up in New Mexico, most kids are helping their families, hauling equipment around, so they know how to drive," James said.
    So she wasn't surprised when, at the Texas-New Mexico border, her mother suddenly said she was tired and asked James if she would drive the rest of the way, knowing the State Police were waiting to escort them.
    "The whole town had a party for me in the old Safeway parking lot," James recalled. "It was so great."
    James went on to become the all-time leading money earner in women's barrel racing.
    "I've won close to $2 million in my career," said James, who now does barrel racing only in local jackpot competitions and during her instructional clinics.
    These days James is concentrating on a more private breeding project: her first child, Tyler, now 2.
    "He's got the instincts, I think," said James, "and he loves horses."

E-MAIL writer Polly Summar