Stephanie Cowser of New Canaan has loved Thoroughbred horses since she bought one off the track in Saratoga, N.Y., as a junior rider. In 2006, Cowser learned about tens of thousands of race horses being slaughtered for food overseas and wanted to be involved in ending the practice.
When Cowser learned about a farm in Pawling, N.Y., that saves Thoroughbreds from that fate, she had to help. “I made an appointment to see Erin Pfister, who runs Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue (ATBR). At the time, I thought she only had one rescue and the rest were part of their racing and breeding operation. When I arrived, I learned she had only been open a few months and had already rescued 70 horses. I just became consumed with it,” Cowser said. Now her husband and children also are involved.
Five years later, ATBR cares for more than 160 horses. The late John Hettinger donated a parcel of his 1,000-acre Akindale Farm to start the rescue. He was a lifelong Thoroughbred breeder and owner who arranged to buy back any horse ever bred at Akindale Farm so that they have a safe retirement from the track. Cowser's role is to help with marketing, raising funds and spreading awareness. Thoroughbreds, according to Cowser, are typically retired from racing by the time they are 5 years old, although their average life expectancy is 30 years. "Evening Attire, a multimillion-dollar stakes winner, was retired by his owners on the farm, and is a shining example of how a horse can thrive with proper care and responsible connections”, she said. “He came here three years ago as a 10-year-old with cleaner legs than most of the 2-year-olds we see. His trainer and owners took phenomenal care of him on the track and made sure he would be equally well loved in retirement.” said Cowser.
“Ownership responsibility goes far beyond their years on the track. If you are going to get into racing, you should be responsible for the health and welfare of that horse for the life of it, whether that means it's yours forever or you find a good, caring home for it off the track,” she said.
ATBR needs donations to keep the rescue operation running,” Cowser said. It operates an adoption program to make room for more Thoroughbreds in need. It also seeks sponsorships for horses that can never leave the farm because of medical issues. For more information, visit www.akindalehorserescue.org.