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.    

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