Project X

by Kit Young Knotts
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Videos open in Windows Media Player
     

When we lost Neapolitano Pegasus in 2007, after a while I wanted another horse to ride. A nationwide hunt failed to turn up anything I really wanted, since what I really wanted was another Marc, my 30 year old Lipizzan stallion Pluto III Marcella. We embarked on a project to create one.

Newman Equine associate Dr. Adam Eicherberger looked into the equine cloning being done by world leader Dr. Katrin Hinrichs at Texas A&M University on my behalf. We began with collecting and banking Marc's genes. Fascination with actually being able to do this led us to enter into a research agreement with TAMU and a journey that has been the wildest roller-coaster, learning experience, and source of joy and heartache anyone could imagine.

A foal almost made it to term in 2009 in Texas but was still-born. This is the story of Mouse, who lived to three months. A third foal we called Monkey was lost near term in July, 2010. The surrogate mom Missy was with us for several months before the loss. See The Tale of Monkey.

However you might feel about the cloning of animals, I can tell you from personal experience it is a miracle. To see a miniature version of a beloved partner before your eyes and to watch him develop into his own person, based on his own life experiences, is positively amazing! The science is equally fascinating. The research has contributed tremendously to many advances in reproduction, including the human kind.

Mouse was the fifteenth live horse clone foal in the world that can be verified by published scientific data. Others are claimed in the popular press and anecdotally but remain to be proven.

Having never had human children, I now totally understand the extreme anxiety, effects of sleep deprivation, having to make hard decisions, fear that they might be wrong, bliss when they turn out OK, virtual obsession with watching eating, sleeping, elimination, playing, with each event a milestone, that a child brings with him or her. That mine had four legs makes these feelings no less real.

For more information on the cloning of horses, Google Dr. Katrin Hinrichs.

The Story of Mouse
     


Dr. Adam Eicherberger takes
cells from Marc October 2007
at Newman Equine Clinic.


Young Ho Choi, me, Dr. Katrin Hinrichs at Texas A&M
June 2008.


Mouse as a six day blastocyst,
June 17, 2009

     

Since we had several babies in utero at the same time, we decided to name them. Mouse got his name because of a slight tweek in the protocol Dr. Hinrichs used to make him based on a study in mice.

As a six day blastocyst, Mouse was sent from TAMU to Hartman Equine Reproduction Center in Whitesboro, Texas, for transfer to a recipient mare the same day. The pregnancy was monitored every few days at the beginning and monthly after that.

Just before Christmas 2009, we shipped Mouse's surrogate mom Minnie from Texas to our little barn. She was pregnant 192 days of what we hoped would be 335 days.

     


The very next day, Dr. Brad Newman checks Mouse by ultrasound


Mouse December 21, 2009

 
Minnie December 22, 2009

We expected a big show from Marc the first time he was turned out next to Minnie. We got a medium show - still not bad. I had to run once, resulting in the tenth image.

The Marc Show Video (18M)
           

   

Christmas Day. Though their stockings are full, Marc only has eyes for Minnie. The Kid only has eyes for the Fruit Loops in his stocking.


Dr. Pozor, a student, Dr. Dennis Brooks,
Dr. Amanda House
March 11. We went to the University of Florida Veterinary Medical Hospital in Gainesville to meet the team that will take care of Minnie when she goes up in advance of Mouse's birth. The Reproduction team is headed by Dr. Margo Macpherson and Dr. Malgorzata Pozor, though we met members of the Medical team as well.
 

March 18. Minnie is starting to bag up with milk. With Dr. Newman out of town, I called Dr. Pozor for advice. A change of meds was recommended for Minnie. Dr. Newman came directly from the airport to check Mouse. He is fine. Dr. Newman says
this is his head so does this make it
his first official portrait?


March 26. Minnie's milk is leaking down her legs and Dr. Newman feels she will foal in the next 24 to 48 hours, way too early for Mouse to survive. We get her immediately to Gainesville, where all signs indicate the same. Terrifying. Dr. Dennis Brooks, godfather and uncle to Mouse, drops by for moral support.


March 31. Minnie has taken a few steps back from immediate foaling.

April 7. Minnie has held onto Mouse to reach 300 days gestation. He now has a slight chance for survival.

April 24. Minnie has made a few changes that I want to see for myself. Mouse looks good on ultrasound, though the large size of his umbilical cord is noted.

April 27. We have made it to 320 days. Mouse can be born now.


He's Here!

Mouse was born May 5, 2010, at 10:20 pm. It only took about five miutes for Minnie to deliver him. By the time I arrived at 2:30 am May 6, he was gotten up and greeted me.


Dr. Stephanie Meyer captured this precious image very soon after Mouse was born.

Nurse Bev moves Mouse around and tries to show him how to nurse.


 

 

By later in the morning, Mouse is experiencing low blood pressure and has not really progressed. Nasal oxygen and an IV catheter were put in place immediately after his birth as precautions and it's a good thing. He needs both for treatment. Since he hasn't figured out nursing, he is being fed through a tube. 

He's beautiful and the image of Marc, but weak. Dr. Rob Mackay gives him a 50/50 chance of survival.


At the time, I didn't tell anyone outside the hospital how much trouble Mouse was in. He couldn't stay sternal on his own and, when pillows and wedges didn't do it, I held his head in my lap, stuffing pillows behind his shoulders to keep him up.


The nurses regularly got him up to help him strengthen.

 


Minnie, Mouse, Janis and Heather

Mouse and Janis > 

 

May 7. Mouse is definitely brighter today and everyone says generally better. Blood in his urine has caused some concern, leading to several ultrasounds and a change in meds. He can almost stand up by himself and, once up, motors around pretty well. The night shift is determined to get him nursing.

 

May 8. Can I breathe now? Mouse made a lot of progress today, the biggest item getting the hang of nursing! Everything is pretty stable.

Video of Mouse learning to nurse, helped by student
(now graduate) Lauren Ball
- 16M

Minnie is being the perfect mom. She's doing everything to help Mouse nurse, accepts all the people treating her and Mouse, and is making milk like a sprinkler system. What an amazing girl!


We couldn't have any better people leading Mouse's Medicine team than Drs. Robert Mackay and Stephanie Meyer. The doctors have made all the right calls and the students are fabulous, but it is the nurses who are the heroes. They are there 24/7 and are the most experienced, kind and patient group of horsemen I have ever encourtered.

In more or less chronological order of my meeting them, my thanks to Liane, Bev, Sue, Heather, Dodi and Janis. Mouse owes you his life.

 

   


First milk mustache

May 9. A big blood clot in Mouse's bladder, being watched via ultrasound, is very worrisome.

 


Cheech meets hid first cow

May 10. Today there is no doubt that Mouse needs surgery to remove the clot in his bladder and the remnants of his umbilicus, suspected to be the source of the blood that created the clot.
 


After surgery


Dr. Mackay, Dr. Meyer and Janis Peterson


Clot being removed
He returned from surgery and recovery hungry and fighting mad that he wasn't allowed to eat his fill. Anesthesia and Surgery got him through in great shape. As one doctor said, he never looked back.

May 11. After a good night, Mouse is taking his first walk outside. He is very tentative at first but then really starts motoring around.

Mouse's First Walk Outside
16M video - will open in
Windows Media Player
 

< Dr. Meyer | Me and Dr. Macpherson>


Mouse's First Buck Video 12M | Mouse's First Trot Steps Video 5M
     

 

May 12. Mouse wearing a hand-me-down halter first worn by Uncle Pegasus more than 30 years ago. Losing Pegasus ultimately led me to undertake "Project X" so P is smiling down on us now.

 

May 13. I couldn't stay long today but did get to see Mouse's outing. I got one clip of him trotting and the batteries in my camera ran out! Surgeon Dr. Graham happened to see him and yelled at us - NO TROTTING! But he did anyway. He didn't want to go back in his stall and bucked and pronged in protest. Then he needed a nap.

Mouse Trotting
6M video
 

 


May 15. He's naked!
Mouse has been off of oxygen for more than 24 hours and is doing great! We finally get to see him without any bandages or tubes.

Mouse Bolting
5.5M video


Mouse starts to explore, fiddling with everything that isn't nailed down.
     
 

 

 

Who would ever think bucking style is genetic? This is one of Marc's favorite antics.

Mouse/Marc Half Buck
5.5M video
 

 

May 17. Mouse is doing great! We are starting to talk about him coming home. He is bouncing off the stall walls -- canter, stop in a heartbeat, quarter spin, pop the hind legs.

Mouse Bouncing
3.5M video

May 18. The word from Gainesville is, "Get this healthy foal out of here before he catches something from a sick one!" We escalated plans and will bring him home tomorrow!

He's Home!

Mouse came home May 19, 2010. In spite of my leaving Suzanne at a service plaza and a blowout on the trailer, we made the round trip in seven hours, all safe and sound.

Mouse wandered around his side of the trailer and nursed most of the trip, hopping off like a veteran. The priceless moment of the day was Mouse meeting Marc.


Because Mouse and Marc are Lipizzans, Mouse
will turn white gradually through his life.

Mouse Meets Marc - 5 M video | Mouse Meets Marc for iPhone and Mac 5M

We had a grand sendoff from UF, complete with balloons! They went in Minnie and Mouse's stall when we got home. Only The Kid was afraid of them :>)


Front, Dr. Pozor, Mouse, back, Dr. Macpherson, Liane, Minnie, me 


Student Stephanie, Dr. Diaw, Dr. Macpherson,
me, Dr. Pozor, Dr. Meyer 

 
Dr. Meyer "wrangles" Mouse.

Loading Mouse was not this easy. It took four people picking him up and putting him on backwards.

Our heartfelt thanks to the outstanding team at UF, doctors, nurses and students, for making this day possible.

 

Mouse is on some medications until further notice and they came home with us in a very cute bag that student Stephanie made. With what he gets and the meds Missy (the mare carrying Monkey) gets, the kitchen counter is a pharmacy. 

Arriving at home - 14M video


Minnie, neighbor Huey Cox,
Mouse, me, Suzanne


Enthusiasm 


A little buck on the way in 

May 20. Hot wire tape (not hot) is the new velcro, at least for us. We used it to make a slight barrier between Minnie and Mouse in the trailer. Today we used it to mark off a little paddock where we can hand walk Minnie and Mouse (required for the next four weeks - ahhggggg!). We also used it to make a harness for Mouse. The first walk of the day was only about 10 minutes as it was hot and Mouse wasn't too happy about the harness. He flipped over twice (a trick he learned before leaving Gainesville) but no harm was done.

 

First Hand Walk at Home
6M video

For the afternoon walk we added a leash to the handle of the harness, a good thing when Mouse bolted twice and I went grass skiing. Back under control after scaring himself, we let him recover in the paddock and stayed out a total of half an hour. Hopefully he'll start to respect me and the harness before he gets much stronger or I'll need cleats!  


May 20. This waiting an hour to an hour and a half to sneak up on Mouse to give him his round-the-clock meds was getting really old. I needed to devise a way to catch him quickly with little trauma to either of us, so I invented a better Mousetrap! It took a screw eye, a screw eye with a bigger ring and a long cotton lead. I isolate him in the side of the stall closest to The Kid, seine him into the corner, slip the lead through the ring, and reel him in. He's not fighting it much at all and, once contained, doesn't seem to mind what I need to do to him.

Putting Mouse in the Mousetrap
13M video taken May 25

While watching the Mouse cam from the house at P2 this afternoon, I saw Minnie lying in the middle of the stall and Mouse cantering rings around her, at least five. I went to see if something was scaring him -- not. Minnie got up and soon laid down again closer to the wall. Since Mouse couldn't get around her, he started chewing on her ears and mane.
 

 

Cheech is obsessed with Mouse, lying for hours outside his stall watching through the cracks. We've been keeping Cheech put away when we walk Mouse, but he was accidentally let out today, leading to their first nose to nose meeting.

May 23. We've settled into a routine and all is well. Minnie and Mouse are walking twice a day for half an hour. Mouse is a star walker, with just an occasional jog. He's also practically moving himself into the Mousetrap for his meds, as long as The Kid is tied where he can't kick the stall walls in jealous fits.

New photos of Mouse are almost impossible. In the stall he's in my face or sound asleep and, outside, we don't have enough hands for someone to use the camera.


Marc, though not at all jealous,
deserves some quality time too.

May 26. This is a big day as Mouse and Minnie have been home a week and it is time to recheck Mouse's bloodwork and lungs. If the bloodwork is OK, we can stop the round-the-clock meds (Cheech and I can go home for the first time in a week). Hooray! We're at home and Mouse is doing great. The lungs still need treatment but it's much simpler than what we've been doing.


May 28. Mouse is a born explorer so we are varying his walking areas, giving him new things to look at and mountains to climb.
 


 

Mouse tries to elude the Mousetrap - Video 27M

For some reason, Mouse always attacks the gardenia bushes!
Video 22M

These videos and stills by Catherine Hall.


 Marc and Mouse both wait for housekeeping to bring fresh linens and plump the pillows before taking their morning naps. Here they are napping at the same time.

Mouse and Marc Napping
4M video

 

 

June 2. Mouse has gained 40 pounds since he got home and now weighs (estimated by heart girth) 170 and is 36" at the withers. It's a good thing he's (generally) behaving quite well in hand because he sure outweighs me! He does the cutest little arch of his neck and bounce, a la Marc, when he protests being guided.

June 12. Lots of good news. In his Wednesday measurement, Mouse weighed an estimated 204 pounds.

Friday, his lungs were re-radiographed and they look great! No more treatment needed. His anemia is improving with daily iron supplementation.

Also on Friday, Texas A&M and the University of Florida made concurrent press releases about Mouse. More of the science and medical details are included. I think they are really well done and you can read them here --

TAMU Press Release | UF Press Release

Mouse is learning to eat feed. We tried him first with a ground feeder and he showed little interest. As soon as we put in a "big boy" bucket, that changed. He alternates between eating the little bits of feed we give him and playing with the bucket. He had his first sponge bath today so introducing the hose is next!

     

Twice a day hand-walks include a little bouncing around, but not enough to do any harm. Only three more days of walking and we can let Minnie and Mouse loose in a small container, still partly in jail for another four weeks.

Guess who just LOVES granola bar crumbs? The big boys and girls get the pieces but Mouse gets the crumbs. I confess to making sure there are lots of crumbs by smashing the package before I open it.



Up, down and bouncing
Video 29M

 
Bathing beauty
Video 13M

 
First blades of grass
Video 9M
 


Introduction of the hose
Video 25M

 More stills and
video clips by
Catherine Hall


Appreciating Marc
Video 4M


He's Free!
(kind of)

Six weeks after his birth, five weeks after major abdominal surgery, after four weeks of being hand walked at home, Mouse is finally free! He and Minnie can now go out in a small pen for several hours a day without us hanging on to them.

June 16. Wow! Mouse is out on his own! He's really excited about it and going crazy with his newfound freedom!


That is not to say he doesn't bounce around a little, but not really very much. This video is a compilation of clips over several hours.

Mouse's Outing June 16 - 30M video
Mouse's Outing June 16
for iPhone and Mac 16M
     



Marc watches Mouse.

Mouse provides a photo op. >
 


June 17. Mouse and Minnie went out in the same space as yesterday, widened a little to give Minnie more grass to mow. Mouse took full advantage and blasted around a little more initially, then settled into roaming, snoozing in the sun and looking for scratching.

Blast 1 | Blast 2 | Blast 3
8M video | 8.5M video | 11.5M video

A wiggly Mouse after his sponge bath >


June 19. As other days, Mouse bounced around a little at the beginning of his turnout.

Bouncing 12M video
Then he fiddled with everything in the pen, trying to pick things up in his mouth. We gave him a towel (somewhat entertaining) and then an empty gallon jug (very entertaining).

 


June 23. Mouse and Minnie are going out from about 7 or 7:30 until about 11 and enjoying it. When Mouse starts to get sweaty, he gets even itchier than usual. Friend Craig Presnell came to P2 today to meet Mouse and swap species Victorias, turning Mouse into a llama look-alike by scratching his neck and chest.

 

June 27. Mouse is the most active the first hour he's outside. His first attempts at capriole are a little clumsy but he's trying. Cheech encourages him to keep playing.

Playing and tag
20M video
Playing and tag

for iPhone and Mac 13M

Then he snoozes and looks for scratching.

 


His first soap bath is on the agenda for today. Rinsing has been pleasurable and a modified Mousetrap keeps him from roaming, so they are combined to scrub him. He loves it, playing with the water and trying to eat the soap.

First real bath - 12M video - First real bath for iPhone and Mac 7M


July 2. After yesterday's "bounce around" -

Bounce around - 17M video
Bounce around
for iPhone and Mac 22M

- Mouse found a box to play with. It was a great playmate.

Box boxing - 16M video  

Today, Mouse conned even The Kid into scratching him! The Kid was so sweet with Mouse, we couldn't believe it!

The Kid scratching Mouse
8M video

 

July 5. Something stirred Minnie up this morning. She ran and bucked. Mouse, not so stirred up, trotted with her, our first sustained clips of his BIG trot.

Trotting - 13M video
Trotting
for iPhone and Mac 9M

July 6. Mouse gets his feet trimmed for the first time. He is really good for "Uncle" Jerry Hofer, who has been the big boys' farrier for more than 20 years.

First trim
24M video

After his trim and rinse, Mouse stops by Marc's stall to say hi. Then it's his favorite time of day. He's graduated from granola crumbs to pieces and is very vocal about wanting them!

 


Back in Jail

July 10. Only a few days from when Mouse was to be let out in the big field, he's injured and back in jail. We don't know if it was a kick from Minnie during Monday's bucking session, a tweek done on his own, or something else, but Mouse came out lame on his left front leg Tuesday morning. Dr. Newman recommended stall rest with only hand walking (again). 

Today, after I rewrapped his legs, Mouse escaped into the general barn area and we decided to let him roam and explore. He fiddled around for probably an hour, totally entertained. We're going to try that before taking him outside tomorrow and see if it reduces the detrimental bouncing around during the early morning walk. 


July 11. Mouse got to play in the barn before going out this morning. He slipped under the stall guard and into Marc's stall. I went in to make sure things stayed quiet (which they did) and asked Suzanne to go around to the window, in hopes we would get just this shot. 

 


July 12. Mutual grooming is normal horse behavior but not so much between an older stallion and a baby. Mouse gets Marc to scratch him and scratches back, with me right there to make sure Marc doesn't get testy.

Mutual scratching - 11M video


The interaction between Mouse and Marc is really fun to watch. Marc is very sweet with Mouse and Mouse is a little cheeky in return.


July 17. We are very disappointed. Mouse has looked sound in the walk for several days and yesterday looked sound in his unpreventable bouncing, even without wraps on his legs. We thought tomorrow might be the day for real freedom in the big paddock if he still looked OK today. He didn't. He looked lame in some of his bouncing, though better with the wraps back on. So it's back to trying to contain his enthusiasm while still letting him go out for the morning. That means walking in hand the first hour or so and baby-sitting after that.

July 18. Minnie gets hay outside mid-morning so she doesn't totally destroy the grass in the pens. Today, she kicked her flake down near where Mouse was snoozing and he had some without getting up. Marc came looking for some too, creating the perfect family moment.

REALLY in Jail
 

July 19. With Mouse still a little lame, we decided it was high time we try to identify what was going on and treat it if possible. Two weeks of patience and limited activity was long enough.

July 23. We learned two days ago that Mouse has a small fracture indicated by the arrow in the image at the left. Newman associate Dr. Jenny Kelly found the problem. She wanted to consult with someone at the UF Vet Hospital and we asked for it to be Dr. Pat Colahan, the surgeon who operated on Mouse at a week old.

Immediate and complete stall rest was recommended. After talking with Dr. Colahan at length today, the prognosis is pretty good. More radiographs next week will tell us a lot more.

Now the question is -- how do we keep Mouse from exploding? We are power-walking circles in his stall twice a day until we get dizzy and then playing with his toys until he tires. This is supervised, with Minnie nearby but not in the stall.


July 25. To exercise and entertain Mouse during his incarceration, we are playing soccer in his stall. (After cleaning the stall we spread the few shavings left to make a good field.) After a nap, he can roam the barn and fiddle with everything in reach (barn baby-proofed and with baby-sitter).

Playing soccer (with a little bouncing) - 45M video
Playing soccer (with a little bouncing)
for iPhone and Mac 39 M
     

He's getting so big, so smart and SO SO funny!

 July 26. Ball and bounce - 14M video
Ball and bounce
for iPhone and Mac 12M
Longer version of Ball and bounce - 28M

 

 


After all Mouse's morning activities and usually a rinse-off, it's granola bar time. Neighbor and videographer Catherine Hall, who has been shooting footage of Mouse's life for a possible future documentary, got this video and these stills.

Granola Time 20M video | Granola Time for iPhone and Mac 23M


     

From the very beginning, it's been hard for me to photograph Mouse because he's always in my face -- not that I'm complaining -- so I've assembled some stills and video clips of just that.

In My Face - 70M

Note that Mouse's eyes are gray, really obvious up close, rather than brown like Marc's. No one knows why this would be.

     

July 28. Yesterday's xrays showed improvement and no infection. We will recheck next Friday and then maybe Mouse can go out, again in a small pen.
     

Mouse died early Tuesday morning, August 3, 2010, two days short of his three month birthday. The only thing odd was that he didn't want to get up for dinner Monday evening, but it was enough for Suzanne to call me and the vet. Mouse was given standard treatment for colic. When he didn't seem any better after several hours and looked more distended, I asked Dr. Newman to come back. He referred us to the University of Florida.

When we got there, Mouse obviously didn't feel right but was still pretty bright. Tests and trans-abdominal ultrasound showed nothing except one high value, which led the team to do an abdominal tap. The fluid was really abnormal and exploratory surgery was planned. Mouse got sicker really fast and died in the induction room before surgery.

Mouse had a strangulated volvulus (a really bad twist) near the beginning of his small intestine. Had he made it to surgery, his chances of survival were almost nonexistent because most of the small intestine was already involved. How it happened and why he showed no symptoms is a complete mystery to everyone. It was unrelated to anything else he'd been through.

He never got to be a normal foal, but he didn't know that. However he had to be confined, we found activites to make it fun for him and for us too. He was so engaging and entertaining that all the hours spent keeping him exercised and mentally active were a total joy. If grief is, as the saying goes, the price of love, I pay it willingly.

A slideshow of my favorite portraits of Mouse is here.
Slideshow 6M | Slideshow for iPhone and Mac 8M

The story can't end here. Dr. Hinrichs is going to continue trying to make babies using other cell lines collected from Marc more recently than the one that made Mouse. Now, we not only want another Marc - we want another Mouse!

The Horses | Some funny pix from P2
How P2 got started

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