Susan Wagner founded Equine Advocates in 1996. A horse lover from a very young age, Wagner began her career with horses by working with Thoroughbreds on the New York and Maryland racing circuits.
Wagner left the racing industry for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the dark side to it that did not coincide with her love for horses. She decided to pursue a writing career and also worked as a Wild Animal Keeper for a zoological institution. During that time, she rescued her first horse from slaughter, Gandalf, who she calls, “the co-founder of Equine Advocates.” He had been a horse-for-hire at a stable on Long Island when he was purchased by the zoo in 1992. He soon became “inconvenient” due to his temperamental personality. It was at that point that Wagner first heard the term “horse slaughter.” With two friends, Wagner purchased Gandalf and sent him to a farm in Maryland.
In 1994, Wagner was hired by a national animal protection organization based in Connecticut. After being there just one day, she realized that animal protection was where her heart was – specifically equine protection where all of her past experience in the horse industry could be used to help save and rescue horses.
In 1996, Wagner founded Equine Advocates and also continued her undercover work. Wagner accompanied a camera crew from the nationally syndicated show Extra to the Province of Manitoba, Canada to expose the cruel pregnant mares’ urine (PMU) industry where tens of thousands of mares and foals are slaughtered
every year in order to produce the drugs, Premarin and Prempro (and in more recent years, Duavee) – all prescribed to treat the symptoms of menopause. That report won an Ark trust Genesis Award for the producers of Extra. In 2004, Wagner finally got the support to fulfill a major goal for Equine Advocates which was to establish an Equine Sanctuary. On January 16, 2008, Wagner appeared on the award-winning Martha Stewart Show to talk about the sanctuary, in addition to vital equine issues including horse slaughter, equine rescue and the PMU industry.
Wagner expanded Equine Advocates’ programs to include humane equine education with the construction of a Humane Education Center on the Sanctuary grounds in 2006. Thousands of visitors, including students, educators, law enforcement officials and national children’s groups, among many others, come to the center every year for classes, workshops, lectures and symposiums about equine care, responsible horse guardianship and many other topics and issues facing equines today.
One of the most talked about and well-publicized rescue operations Equine Advocates has been involved with was the rescue of Bobby II Freedom, a former New York City Carriage Horse who was rescued from slaughter and retired at Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary in Chatham, NY in 2010. Since then, the organization rescued two more former New York City carriage horses, Jack and Sheena, who are also permanent residents at the sanctuary.
Wagner knows her main goal for Equine Advocates is to bring about an end to horse slaughter and educate the public about responsible horse guardianship through education, outreach and hands-on experience. “This sanctuary is a haven for horses,” she said. “Through example, education and rescue, we can make a huge difference in the protection of horses in this country and across North America.