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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Remembering One of Our Own ... Horseman Kent Stirling Passes Away

Kent Stirling (Photo by Denis Blake)
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Kent Stirling, who left us on Wednesday, September the 6th. Kent Stirling has long been known as a passionate and tireless advocate for the rights of horsemen throughout the racing industry. The most arduous debates and challenges facing horsemen the past three decades have been over the use of therapeutic medication, and no one has carried the water more for thoughtful discussion and reasonable policy in the best interest of horses than our own Kent Stirling. The racing industry has not only lost one of its biggest fans, but has also lost one of its most vocal advocates.

A trainer for 20 years, highlighted by having multiple Grade 1 winner Nijinsky’s Secret, Stirling was the former president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association when he became the FHBPA’s first executive director in 1995, a post he held for another 20 years. Along with Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University Of Kentucky Gluck Equine Center, perhaps no one has invested more sweat equity over the decades into understanding and championing the causes of horsemen and horses involving the complicated issues of equine medication than Kent.

Dr. Tobin stated, “In the area of medication regulation, Kent expertly navigated through the enormous increases in drug testing sensitivity in the last 25 years to aid in developing new protocol standards. His leadership helped guide the introduction of regulatory thresholds for therapeutic medications, now used worldwide.”  

Representing the National HBPA and horsemen everywhere, he worked tirelessly toward regulatory uniformity that was in the best interest of horses and the industry. In what was no small feat in a state such as Florida, which does not have a racing commission, he helped direct that state’s passage of uniform medication standards, years in the making, when signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015.

For decades, Stirling has worked selflessly for horsemen.

“Kent was a mentor to me and many others, and to know him was to know his heart," said Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National HBPA, "He was driven by the racing industry and by efforts to put horses and horsemen first. Kent’s tireless efforts promoting racing and advocating for horsemen will likely never be matched and will forever be missed.”

Leroy Gessmann, president of the National HBPA, added, “Kent has been a fixture for this organization for decades, and he will be missed by so many.  His hard work for horses and horsemen may never be matched, but for certain, Kent’s legacy through his accomplishments will be felt by all, for many years to come.”

The National HBPA Office will have further details of arrangements as they are made available.

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