Our Mission

Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue is committed to the rescue, rehab and retraining of Thoroughbreds no longer able to race and to provide a safe haven for those unable to go on to new careers. ATBR is also dedicated to promoting public awareness of the issue of equine slaughter.

About Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue

John Hettinger, respected businessman and philanthropist, had a vision of keeping his 1000 acres of pristine land in Pawling, NY undeveloped so as to use the space to save Thoroughbred racehorses from slaughter. With this in mind, Mr. Hettinger founded Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue (ATBR) to fulfill his dream. He has deeded this property in perpetuity, to provide for the ongoing care of these horses. Since its' inception in April 2006, ATBR has rescued hundreds of horses directly from auctions such as New Holland where they are destined for slaughter. Many other horses have been shipped to Akindale from national organizations such as TRF, New Vocations and Mid Atlantic Horse Rescue. Horses that can no longer race, are still in their prime and are ready for new careers or even just as pasture ornaments or companion animals are given safe haven at Akindale. Mr. Hettinger was an extraordinary human being, whose compassion and dedication to this cause knew no bounds. As a life-long Thoroughbred owner and breeder, he had a vision of keeping these Thoroughbreds, who have given so much to so many, from a hard and cruel fate. Mr. Hettinger had long been a leading force in the on-going battle to end horse slaughter in the United States. He fought daily to have the necessary bills passed, making the slaughter of horses as well as the inhumane transportation of horses bound for slaughter over the US borders into Canada and Mexico, illegal.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Unbroken Bond

Tommasi with Tina Bond

While I was simply going to post a picture on my facebook page with a one sentence caption, this story, that has touched me so much, deserved a bit more effort.  A few weeks ago, I had an experience which was one of my happiest in the six years I have been involved with Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue.  With so much negative press about Thoroughbred racing today, I felt this story should be shared. 

Every year at the Saratoga meet, I spend much of my time each day on the backstretch with some of the greatest people; friends and horsemen, I have ever known.  There are a lot of constants from season to season.  One that I can set my watch by is that on day one, I will see H James Bond at the rail for five sets of works on the main track with his Team 007.  Last summer I was talking with Jimmy about Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue & the work that we do there.  We spoke about responsibility of the participants.  Jimmy is a busy man, being a top trainer and as well as a breeder and owner.  He & his wife Tina manage their forty stall Gridley Street racing barn plus their Stillwater, NY farm, Song Hill Thoroughbreds, LLC, (home to their broodmares, foals, yearlings, layups and retirees).  I can remember Jimmy talking about one such homebred fondly.  It was something along the lines of “if you ever come across a horse named …”, but that’s really where it ended … or so I thought.  I did look up the horse’s race record and remember checking to see if he was at ATBR but I didn’t do anything beyond that.

So on day 1 of the meet this summer, I was on the rail when I saw Jimmy’s smiling face and his first words were “Did you find my horse yet?”.  I pride myself on remembering everything, yet for the life of me, I couldn’t even recall the horse’s name, not to mention the fact that I hadn’t put much effort into locating him as I thought the original conversation was really more rhetorical in nature.  “Tommasi” is the gelding’s name (Tina & Jimmy name all their horses after Italian red wines).  I felt terrible that I had misunderstood the original discussion and told Jimmy I would search for his horse immediately.  I presumed he would tell me that he just needed to know that Tommasi was alright & not in any danger, but Jimmy said he wanted to get Tommasi back as a gift to surprise Tina.  There are tremendously loving, caring people in this industry, but we don’t often have someone ask to find a horse they bred so they can physically & financially support it for the rest of its’ life!  Now I was on a mission and I was determined not to leave on the last day of this meet without knowing that Tommasi was home with The Bonds.

My first call was to Erin Pfister who manages ATBR, who would know where to begin.  We made a few calls before she contacted Diana Baker.  Diana, a very well known horsewoman in all areas of the Thoroughbred industry and former board member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, was able to tell us almost immediately that Tommasi was with the TRF.  My next call was to their herd manager Sara Davenport.  She told me that they did indeed have Tommasi and were looking to re-home him.  They had shipped him from NY to VA in hopes of retraining him to be a performance horse.  Unfortunately, Tommasi had a racing injury which would prevent this from happening, so he was then moved to James River Correctional Facility.  I told her Jimmy would be calling and making arrangements to ship Tommasi home.  It was almost too easy.  The next morning, a Thursday, I couldn’t wait to get to the track and tell Jimmy that Tommasi was safe and could come home immediately.  Jimmy was ecstatic and called Sara that night to arrange to send his own truck and driver down on Monday to pick him up.  His excitement built over the next four days as he planned how he was going to stage the surprise for Tina.  By Monday night even I couldn’t sleep wondering whether Tommasi was back and wishing I could have a video camera at the barn for the reunion.  The details of the surprise & how it unfolded (from both Jimmy’s perspective and Tina’s) are a whole separate story, so I will simply share the text I received at 10:13 Tuesday morning: “THANK YOU!!!  She won’t stop crying!  Tears of JOY!!!  THANK YOU!” 

I won’t delete that text and I look at it often.  When I read a scathing story on the Thoroughbred industry or see a horse come into ATBR which hasn’t been so lucky, I read that text.  It reminds me of what is truly good about people and about this industry that I love so much.  I owe Tina & Jimmy Bond my sincere gratitude for making my work worth while, sharing their passion with me, and giving me a story I will forever hold in my heart.    

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hotstufantensome & Greeley’s Legacy – Sunday, February 6, 2011

Well after weeks of waiting for the weather and our schedules to cooperate, we were finally able to move Hotstuf and Greeley to the center of the farm. We knew they would each need a buddy in the field to make their transition to ATBR easier.

Hotstuf was being turned out alone in D’Accord’s field when the old man was inside. Greeley was out with Marvolo, an Akindale-bred 3 year old just retired from the track. Marvolo has been adopted by Grand Prix rider Eric Hasbrouck & his wife Denise, who will pick him upon their return from the winter show series in Wellington and it was evident that he needed someone … more his own age to play with.

So while today was Erin’s day off, we had to take advantage of the near blistering temperature … FORTY degrees! There was no storm front in sight for at least another 48 hours and the ice was actually beginning to melt! Yes, this was the day! My daughter Paige kept commenting that it felt like summer … so we had to seize the moment! We decided to walk the horses approximately a half mile from the stallion barn to the center of the farm. The drive is winding and was still quite icy in places and while I know with horses one should NEVER say “what could happen?” … I was kind of thinking it. Looking back on it now, it really was quite comical … from MY view point. Erin on the other hand, who is most likely home with her arm in an ice bath, may not be seeing the humor just yet.

Little Hotstuf came out of his stall like he was springing from the starting gate. With ears perked, head straight up and all fours mostly in the air, he was ready to go! Greeley, one of the two equine loves of my life, was standing patiently, one ear up, mostly trying to play with the chain over his nose and retrieve peppermints from my jacket pocket. We trailed Erin and Hotstuf as we descended the barn and headed for greener (or snowier as it were) pastures. Suffice it to say that Hotstuf was on an adventure and determined to enjoy every last stride of it. He was sideways, backwards, up & striking, bucking and spinning. As usual Erin was completely un-phased and continuing down the road as though she were leading a child on a pony ride. Then we came upon fields on either side filled with horses galloping along the fence line to greet us. Needless to say this did not help Erin’s case at all. Even Greeley at this point was starting to snort and pick his feet up a bit higher … and quicker. Hotstuf was acting like a stud realizing he was ready for his next appointment. And Erin, still un-phased, was beginning to look as though her right arm was quite a bit longer than her left.

Finally, we caught sight of Evening, Tac & Remington, which meant we were almost there. Hotstuf and Greeley were going to live in their barn and be turned out during the day in the field directly across. As is always the case with new residents, EA was the first at the gate to check them out … and give his blessing. We put HS & Gree in stalls facing each other while we prepared to bring them out for their initial meeting. First went Hotstuf, through the gate then rearing and striking … then nothing. This is his MO … he acts like a loon on his way to the paddock and then with camera in hand, ready for the impending antics … he just stands there. Time to turn Greeley out with him and hope all goes well. In the gate and off the lead, they walked toward each other and it was instant friendship … really rather anticlimactic. We watched and took pictures for the better part of 40 minutes and not one dirty kick or bite was seen. They played a little rough but nothing harmful. When we returned an hour later, they were still stuck to each other, biting halters, blankets and withers. Greeley looked at us as if to say “thanks for recognizing the need to put me in with another seasoned stakes horse!” Hotstuf seemed thrilled to have a playmate. It appears it is a match made in heaven! (And while all this was taking place, EA was busy in his field giving Tac a blanket “wedgy” while Tac was attempting to rip the buckles off the front end).

And that is how the friendship of Hotstufantensome and Greeley’s Legacy began.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Richard Migliore - What A Guy!

It has been a monumental week for us at ATBR which is what prompted me to write a bit lengthier piece than our facebook status will allow. Anyone who knows me knows how … well … verbose I can be when I am passionate about something. With the exception of my family, I have no greater passion than ATBR. It has become one of the reasons I wake up at 3am reaching for my blackberry to send myself ideas for fundraising or marketing. Many times, I send my thoughts to Erin in the middle of the night … and she responds in real time! What is wrong with the two of us, me a wife and mother of 2 with a full time job running my own company and Erin, a mother of three and a full time job caring for every single one of the 150+ rescue horses on the farm, plus managing her staff and everything else that goes along with running ATBR. Why are we not sleeping like the dead from the moment our heads hit the pillow to the time our alarms go off in the early morning. Truth be told, ATBR is all-consuming, so the best we can hope for is a few solid hours before we are awaken with thoughts of the mare that sliced her eye open; the adoption that fell through; or the hundreds of thousands of dollars it will cost for a much needed indoor ring for retraining.

Well, this week we have been emailing in the middle of the night charged by sheer adrenalin alone. This is a very tough and emotionally draining business but every once in a while we are invigorated by some good press, a generous donation or a visit from someone who just wants to share some love with our horses. This week we hit the proverbial jackpot. It was Christmas, birthday and winning scratch-off all in one! Where to begin? I guess today’s entry should be to report about our latest visitor, the great jockey Richard Migliore.

You’ve read the story by now, it all started with a horse. Thanks to the efforts of Richard Migliore, Teresa Genaro and Esther Marr, the plight of multiple stakes winner & earner of almost 800K, Hotstufanthensome was given national attention. Thankfully Hotstuf found his way to New Vocations but they have been unable to find a home for this regal gelding given his physical restrictions. We agreed to take Hotstuf from New Vocations, who in turn will take one of ours. Erin and Anna Ford have worked together before, exchanging horses. We send Anna (who does a wonderful job finding second careers for the sound OTTB’s) adoptable horses and in return we take more special needs ones that may not find another home off of the Akindale property. We are thrilled to have Hotstuf spend his retirement with us (and his former track rival, Evening Attire) at ATBR. Esther, Teresa & Richard’s blogs have brought great awareness to the cause, to this horse and to our operation, for which we are eternally grateful. This is a true rescue and we believe one that would make our founder John Hettinger very proud.

So I received a text from Erin while I was in the grocery store today, which actually prompted me to shriek aloud. Our texts read as follows: E- “guess who is coming today???” S – “who?” E- “Richard Migiore!!!!!!!!!!” S- “no F’g way!!!!!!!!” The texts continued but I’m opting just to share the most eloquent with you. I had been waxing on about Richard “The Mig” Migliore for months, wanting to get him to the farm, writing him (kinda begging) and planning my next communication. Our association through Hotstuf, I felt, would surely be the tie I was looking for to familiarize him with our rescue. So when I received Erin’s text, I was shocked (as I apparently had nothing to do with Richard’s decision to visit) and elated … then it hit me … The Mig would be at ATBR this morning … and I wouldn’t. What are the odds? So being the great friend that Erin is, she logged 11 calls (to date but I suspect more before the end of today) to keep me updated on what was going on during his visit. In the 5 years we have been in operation, I’m not sure I have ever heard Erin so jubilant. Still reeling from our “chick day” with Barabara Livingston and Sue Rosenbach yesterday, Richard’s visit made Erin down right giddy. He was everything we dreamed he would be. Imagine, a famous jockey, coming to our farm and getting emotional over our horses. Like our photo queens yesterday, he drudged through the snow and cold to see all of our residents, not just the famous ones. He was (and I lived it vicariously through Erin so I can speak as though I witnessed it first hand), generous with his time and genuinely happy to be reunited with some of his old mounts. I should mention that it was Richard that rode Kate Ferron’s first winner as John Hettinger’s trainer, My Mythical Rose … how ironic. Oh and selfishly I have to mention that it was Richard that rode my new equine boyfriend, Greeley’s Legacy, in the 2006 Preakness. I stalked Greeley for three years and dragged Erin through the backstretch barns at Saratoga in search of his latest trainer Charlton Baker to insist that he come to live at ATBR. Charlton was a great guy and stood by his word, calling us this fall with MY good news -- Greeley would be arriving in November. I felt so accomplished … and it can’t go without saying that Erin was a saint. There are so many unwanted TB’s on and off the track and we have to turn many away. And although we are far past capacity and even farther over budget, she never once got angry or even preached that we can’t be out there stalking trainers and owners for horses as though we don’t have enough. I am eternally grateful to Erin, for so many reasons, but one of which is that she allows me my equine obsessions and never makes me turn away from one. But I digress (which as author of this piece I am allowed to do when it highlights my equine crushes). So, when Erin told me that Richard was emotional upon meeting up with Greeley, I, of course, couldn’t help but well up. What a guy … crazy for MY Greeley (who needs sponsorship by the way) and we have this connection … this gorgeous, bay, 8 year old connection that we plucked from the claiming ranks. Total satisfaction!

The next call was to recount how Erin told Richard that Akindale's Broodmare Manager, Karen, really wanted to see him but was in the field working. Don’t you know that he dragged himself through the knee-deep snow to go out in the middle of the mare field and see her? Again, I say, what a guy! Then there was the reunion with Irish Actress, one of our old NY champion retirees. As I understand it, this was quite a moment for Richard. So much so that Erin gave him her halter, which he graciously accepted. Irish, one of my personal favorites, is a 1987 stakes winner of almost $600K. She is shy and sweet and loves human attention. Apparently she got plenty of it from her old friend The Mig. So to all of you who wonder what the famous Richard Migliore is like “in real life”, we can tell you, by every account, he is a super star!

Wow, what a week and it’s not over yet. Call #12 just came in from an emotional Erin. She just spoke with the shipper and Hotstuf will be arriving on Sunday. They say everything comes full circle -- it sure has in this case. We are so blessed to have had Richard Migliore show up at our farm, asking to help, giving generously of his time, his spirit and his heart. Richard, on behalf of ATBR and all of our horses, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts and anxiously await your next visit (preferably when I am present).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The second annual Hettinger Challenge Hunter Pace at ATBR

Dear Friends,
It’s that time of year again … the second annual Hettinger Challenge Hunter Pace at ATBR. Most of you remember my antics last year deciding that my first ride in 2 years should come in the form of a 4 hour excursion on a thoroughbred we pulled from a field at ATBR. It was a spectacular day and one I won’t forget. Although my horse seemed to build steam with each hour as everyone else (human and equine began to wane), I can’t wait to get back in the saddle again on October 23rd (rain date Oct 24th)! The proceeds from The Hettinger Challenge (named in memory of the founder and owner of ATBR and Akindale Farm) will be split evenly between the Oblong Trail Association and Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue.

Attached is a copy of the event information as well as a sponsorship form. The success of this event is credited largely to sponsors, who lend their name and financial support to the event. By participating as a sponsor, your name and/or organization will benefit from exposure of 300 plus riders and others attending the wonderful day long event. We have many levels of sponsorship packages, as you will see from the attached form. You can select the level of participation and be secure in the knowledge that your sponsorship fee will be used to help Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue, a cause very close to my heart. For my friends who are looking for a lot of advertising bang for the buck, you can get your name out there for as little as $150-$500.
For anyone wanting to join us – we’d love to have you bring your horse (and your friends) up for a great day of riding the scenic trails and fields in beautiful Pawling! It is sure to be another fun event.
Hope to see you all there!





Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Canaan YMCA Cayuga day November 2009

The YMCA of New Canaan, CT had over 25 people come for a full tour of Akindale's Rescue, Breeding, and Racing facilities. Thank you so much for your donation!