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IVF for top horses: R&D from Flanders in the saddle

Using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques to grow embryos containing the genes of Olympic champion horses, which can be mailed all around the world. This may sound like a script for a science-fiction movie, but it is nothing more than reality in Flanders, the place to be for horse breeding.  

Horse jumping

Mares of Macha

The champion equine business is all about breeding horses with the best possible genes for top achievements at competition. Flanders’ horse breeding farms are renowned across the world: several American celebrities, including Bill Gates, have already invested in the region’s equine business.  

With Mares of Macha, Flanders is now home to yet another innovative, high-quality player in this field. Pieter Devos (34), a horse breeder as well as one of the world’s best jumping riders, and Klaas Decoster (37) recently founded the online platform. There, horse breeders from around the globe can order the frozen embryos of prize-winning horses in just a few clicks.  

Next-level horse breeding

“Back in the day, you had to take a winning mare to a stud farm to have her covered. In time, embryo transplantations have become possible – when a  top mare is fertilized through insemination and the fertilized egg removed, sold and implanted into a surrogate mare. What we are doing is next-level horse breeding. We offer frozen embryos derived from the egg cells of top mares which are fertilized by sperm cells of sport horse stallions. Now any horse breeder can raise a champion horse or start a top breeding line with genes from the very best horses,” Devos explains.  

Once the eggs are fertilized, the equine embryos can be stored for years at low temperatures and easily shipped across the world. None other than Italian fertility specialist Cesare Galli is in charge of the in-vitro fertilization process. Only last year, he fertilized the eggs of the last two female white rhinos on earth with the sperm cells of their now-deceased male counterpart. At Mares of Macha, his services provide extra assurance that each embryo will successfully grow into a foal.  

A very good deal

Since the launch of the website, Mares of Macha has already sold embryos to the US and Brazil for prices ranging from EUR 7,750 to EUR 25,000. According to Devos, this is a very good deal: “Foals from the same mares have previously been sold for EUR 40,000 to EUR 100,000.”  

Real top sport horses are scarce, while demand is enormous. “With Mares of Macha, we are taking a new, innovative approach,” says Decoster, “Through our novel procedure, we can offer sport horse foals for more affordable prices to the wider horse-breeding industry. This will in turn benefit the equestrian sport, because in the long run, the performance of top-quality horses will only increase.” 

More info

Mares of Macha
Reported by
Newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws
19 May 2020

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IVF for top horses: R&D from Flanders in the saddle

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