Special Eclipse Award winner John Hettinger.

Special Eclipse Award winner John Hettinger.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Eclipse Awards: Special Award: John Hettinger

Owning horses is easy. Caring about them is a different story. And caring enough to want to make a difference in their post-racing lives is why John Hettinger is being honored with a Special Eclipse Award. Hettinger, owner of Akindale Farm in Pawling, N.Y., was the driving force behind the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's creation in 2000 of the Racehorse Adoption Referral Program. Operated under the auspices of the nonprofit NTRA Charities, the program acts as a clearinghouse to assist the industry with racehorse adoptions and retirements.

A toll-free hotline was established to help owners find agencies in their area that can assist in getting the horses adopted. Also, a database is being developed to list all possible adoption options such as existing care facilities, riding academies, and police forces with equine divisions.

"Two things have taken place over the last few years that make me believe that this is an idea whose time has come," Hettinger said in July, when the program was announced. "One is the spontaneous formation of adoption organizations all over the country. The other is the creation of NTRA Charities, which now has an equine division that can serve as a national 'umbrella' for the locally based programs. The Racehorse Adoption Program will not compete for funding with existing equine retirement organizations. Its purpose simply is to help existing organizations match potential adopters with horses that are in need of new homes."

Hettinger, 67, is a member of The Jockey Club, a trustee of the New York Racing Association, and a director of Fasig-Tipton Co.