Auburn, Alabama —
The champion horse June Bug (aka Hesa Dashin Dreamer) came into the world thanks to an embryo transfer carried out by equine reproduction experts at Auburn University’s J.T. Vaughan Large Animal Teaching Hospital. And according to June Bug’s owners, another generation of potential champions is well on its way as a direct result of the procedure.
June Bug, who competes in barrel racing under the name Hesa Dashin Dreamer, is a reigning Barrel Futurities of America Future Fortunes World Champion.
Owned by Auburn University alumni Tom and Becca Kelly of Clayton, Ala., June Bug got his start at Auburn, the result of an embryo transfer performed by faculty in the Equine Reproduction Center at the J.T. Vaughan Large Animal Teaching Hospital, part of the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Because the couple loved the genes of their mare, Ten Karrot Dream or TK, Tom especially wanted to breed her, but the conventional way was not an option. The reason was simple enough: Becca did not want to give up riding TK for the extended period of time required for carrying and raising a foal.
“Typically when you breed a mare, they’re out for a year to a year and a half,” explained Dr. Aime Johnson, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and co-director of the Equine Reproduction Center. “With an embryo transfer, the mare is only out of work during the time of breeding, about two weeks.”
Tom knew TK had champion-caliber horses in her immediate family and says he felt it was important to take advantage of a rare opportunity and breed her. “She looked just like her brother who won the world championships,” Tom said. “I just knew her genetics were wonderful … the percentages on that bloodline are ridiculous. She was a once in a lifetime horse.”
Johnson said embryo transfers are common, but require advance planning. The procedure itself entails inseminating the donor mare, waiting seven days, flushing the embryo out of the donor’s uterus and placing it in a recipient mare.
One of the important factors in the planning of an embryo transfer is the synchronization of the reproductive cycles of the two mares involved. “It’s a fairly routine procedure with intense logistics,” Johnson said.
June Bug’s owners praised the dedication of Johnson and the college. “I cannot compliment her enough,” Tom said. “I literally would talk to her on weekends and at night on her personal cell phone.”
The admiration was reciprocal. “They were great to work with, and TK was a very special mare,” Johnson said.
Since June Bug, the Kelly’s bred TK twice more via embryonic transfer. Before those two horses were born, Ten Karrot Dream died of blister beetle toxicosis.
Those two foals are now three years old, and wouldn’t be here if not for embryonic transfer. They are scheduled to compete in Oklahoma City this December. “They are beautiful,” Tom said. “I don’t know where there are any two three-year-olds that look any better.”
As for June Bug, he capped off an excellent year with a first place finish in the 2013 BFA World Championship Futurity, 2nd Go. “He has $46,582.70 in earnings in his futurity year,” Becca said.
For the time being June Bug is home taking a break. The couple says they are impressed by the coordinated effort required to make June Bug’s life possible. “Everybody had a hand in this,” Becca added. “It’s like Auburn University football: Many things have to come together to make something great.”
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June Bug (aka Hesa Dashin Dreamer) during 2013 BFA World Championship