In his six years on the racetrack, Stud Muffin showed a definite predilection for distance: the bulk of his 14 lifetime victories came at a mile and or more, with the gray guy coming from off the pace, often eking out a win, sometimes winning by a length or so. He seldom won by more than that, doing just as much, it seemed, as he needed to get to the winner’s circle.
But even his distance tendencies didn’t prepare him for what he faced last Saturday: a nine-mile hunter pace, across the fields of his new home, Akindale Farm.
He was ridden by his trainer Heather Carlson, who since last spring has been working with him in preparation for the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover at Pimlico next month (you can follow their progress here) and afterward, she said that he hadn’t quite left his racetrack days behind him.
“He was really on the bridle when he was behind other horses,” she said, “and he’d ease up when he got to the front.”
Once a closer, always a closer?
The event was sponsored by the Oblong Trail Association and featured riders of all ages and abilities, including Akindale staff on Akindale horses that are available for adoption.
The legacy of Thoroughbred aftercare runs deep at Akindale; its late owner, John Hettinger, was in the vanguard of those concerned about Thoroughbred rescue and retirement, and since his death in 2008, the farm continues to rescue, retire, retrain, and adopt Thoroughbreds, in addition to its decades-old breeding and racing program. As the farm’s rescue/retirement manager Erin Pfister says, any horse born at Akindale has a home there for life, even if it’s sold at auction or claimed, and Akindale is a partner of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Take the Lead Thoroughbred adoption program.
Last month, Akindale launched its first major fundraising campaign. A small operation, it has existed mostly on Hettinger’s estate and occasional donations and fundraisers. In recent years, Marc Holliday of Blue Devil Racing and his wife Sheree, an accomplished equestrian, have become major supporters, donating a riding ring and offering a $20,000 gift if Akindale can match that amount.
Below you’ll find a letter that the farm recently sent to its supporters. It has raised a little over $5,000 of the $20,000 necessary for the Hollidays’ donation, money that it will use to invest in a dedicated fundraising staff that will develop a program to support Akindale’s famous retirees–Evening Attire, Tacticianor, Hotstufanthensome, Callmetony, Unbridled Danger, Greeley’s Legacy, and Stud Muffin–and the dozens of horses no one has ever heard of who are being retrained there for second careers or who will live out their days on the beautiful upstate farm.
If you know someone who might appreciate hearing about Akindale and who might like to help the farm meet its $20,000 goal, please share the letter. If you’d like to donate, click here and note that you’re supporting the matching funds campaign.
On behalf of Akindale Farm, Stud Muffin says, “Thank you!”