Surrogate mares in Argentina let top performing female polo horses continue their sporting careers without the burden of pregnancy. Sharon Reich reports
Argentina is famous for its polo playing. But you may be surprised to learn that the sport has produced a lesser-known but equally prized industry: the sperm and frozen embryos of thoroughbred polo horses. Veterinarian Cristian Sporleder of GeN e Tec genetics laboratory, says a batch of top-quality sperm costs between $1,000 and $10,000 (USD), depending on the stallion's lineage. And an embryo can fetch up to $20,000 (USD). Sporleder explains that embryos created using the sperm and ovum of top performing polo horses can be implanted in surrogate mares, enabling the female polo horses to continue their careers without getting pregnant. SOUNDBITE: Veterinarian and General Director of Genetec Company, Christian Sporleder, saying (Spanish): "We do the semen extraction, the quality is evaluated, the concentration, the motility etc. and with this ejaculation we are able to cover three, four or more donors. These donors, once the development is controlled, the flushing is done, within the week we get the embryo, the embryo is processed, the quality is evaluated and they are transferred to our recipients [mares]." His clients hail from the United States, Europe, Brazil and Venezuela. But the firm's main client base is in Argentina, where luxury residential estates often encircle polo fields. Breeders seeking to create the perfect pony can buy a vial of nitrogen-frozen sperm and artificially inseminate their own top polo mares. SOUNDBITE: Veterinarian and General Director of Genetec Company, Christian Sporleder, saying (Spanish): "What is looked for is the crisscross of donor lines that are obviously already known and their sporting prowess. The parent is chosen according to the product in which one wants to achieve." And that's important in Argentina, which is home to polo's premier tournament, the Argentine Open Championship, as well as a large chunk of the sport's top players and horses.