HETTINGER: A MAN WHO LOVED HORSES - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report


Saturday was a bad day for horses. One of their best friends in the world, John Hettinger, passed away at the age of 74. No one fought harder to end the slaughter of horses in the United States than John Hettinger.

He was tireless and passionate about ending slaughter. He talked about it, wrote about it, did something about it. He was a man of words and of action. And he put his money where his mouth was.

Of all the things John Hettinger ever said or wrote about horse slaughter, there is one paragraph that has stayed with me. It came from an article he wrote in 2003 and asked me to publish in the Bloodhorse.


“How do we as an industry feel about our horses?” he wrote. “Are we horse lovers? Are these animals, who work for us in one way or another throughout their entire lives, sensitive and capable of trust, courage and generosity of spirit? Or are they fast cows without horns?”

Fast cows without horns?
That line got me. Until then, I was ambivalent about slaughter, because I considered horses “livestock,” which, technically, they are. But that simple but brilliant observation taught me there are different kinds of livestock – the kind that are bred and raised for human consumption, and the kind that are bred and raised for sport, but end up in the food chain by unfortunate circumstances.

Thank you, Mr. Hettinger, for helping me finally understand what was so clear to you.

The following press release about John Hettinger comes from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Please consider a donation to TRF, Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation, Blue Horse Charities or to any of the many other worthy equine welfare organizations in his memory.  – Ray Paulick

TRF Mourns loss of Humanitarian, Horse Lover John Hettinger


John A. Hettinger, a tireless advocate for retired race horses and one of the leading figures in the fight to end horse slaughter in this country, passed away Sept. 6 at his Akindale Farm in Pawling, N.Y., after a lengthy illness. Hettinger was 74.


A longtime horse owner and breeder, Hettinger became a passionate activist for the retired Thoroughbred in the late 1990s. He personally bought hundreds of horses to keep them from going to slaughter, was an outspoken critic of anyone standing in the way of passage of legislation to ban horse slaughter and started Blue Horse Charities, a charity that raised millions to provide for retired thoroughbreds. Hettinger was also an important friend to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. He was a long-time member of the group's board of directors.

“We at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation are deeply saddened by the loss of John Hettinger,” TRF Executive Director Diana Pikulski said. “John was among the most loyal and honorable people I have ever known. He was the Thoroughbreds strongest advocate and he took action to back his convictions. The TRF was honored to have his huge support and presence as a director. John personified our mission and made us a stronger, better organization and we are honored to continue his efforts on behalf of our equine athletes.

“John created a sanctuary at Akindale, his family farm, where hundreds of thoroughbreds saved from the slaughter pens were given a home. The TRF started the first Thoroughbred retraining center in the country at the Exceller Farm, the use of which was donated to the TRF by Mr. Hettinger. John also created Blue Horse Charities to raise money from thoroughbred horses sales to fund thoroughbred adoption agencies.

“It did not matter who he rubbed the wrong way in his effort to have the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act passed by the U.S. Congress. John always said that his best friends all had four legs.”

In 2000, his efforts on behalf of retired horses were recognized by the industry, which awarded him a Special Eclipse Award.

“There are two things that flourish in the dark—mushrooms and horse slaughter,” Hettinger once said. “Most people don't know it's going on. We must deny them the darkness.”

Hettinger was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the New York Racing Association and Chairman Emeritus of the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation. Racing under the name of Akindale Farm, Hettinger campaigned such stakes-winning horses as Chase the Dream, Genuine Regret, Jazzing Around, Lady DAccord, Move It Now, Prospectors Flag, Up Like Thunder and Virgo Libra. Akindale also stood such stallions as DAccord, Personal Flag, Stacked Pack and Sir Wimborne.

Hettinger's big horse was Warfie, who he said gave him his biggest thrill as an owner when she won the Long Island Handicap in 1989.

He was also the majority owner of the Fasig-Tipton sales company until it was sold earlier this year to Dubai-based Synergy Investments Ltd.

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