The Committee for Compassionate & Responsible Tourism
Susan Wagner & Elizabeth Forel, Co-Founders
Susan Wagner is the president of Equine Advocates, the national, non-profit equine protection organization she founded in 1996. A horse lover from a very young age, Wagner began her career working in the horse industry in different capacities.
In 1994, she had a life-altering experience when she rescued her first horse from slaughter which is how she learned about that cruel and unspeakable practice. Hundreds of thousands of U.S.-bred horses were being sent to slaughter annually at that time. The name of the horse she rescued from slaughter was Gandalf, who she calls, “the co-founder of Equine Advocates” because, “…he was my inspiration for starting this organization.”
In 1997, Wagner expedited a major rescue of 27 camp horses and ponies from a bankrupt tourist attraction in upstate New York. That rescue operation resulted in major recognition for Equine Advocates and a special award from the New York State Humane Association. A year later, she accompanied a camera crew from the nationally-syndicated news-magazine 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 were being slaughtered every year as a result of producing 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 the show.
In 2004, Wagner got the support to fulfill a major goal for Equine Advocates which was to establish an equine sanctuary for its horses. June 1, 2004 marked the day that rescued horses first arrived at Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary in Chatham, NY. All horses remain at the sanctuary for life with most coming from horrific situations including slaughter-bound, abandoned, abused, aged and injured equines. Many are former work and performance horses, Amish mules and buggy horses, ponies, miniature horses and donkeys rescued from indiscriminate breeders and tourist attractions, etc. From October 2003 – March 2004, Wagner organized the rescue of 46 PMU mares in Manitoba and brought them to the U.S. The sanctuary is also home to three captured BLM Mustangs who did not do well in captivity. The sanctuary’s most famous resident is Bobby II Freedom, a former New York City carriage horse rescued from slaughter on June 25, 2010.
In 2006, Equine Advocates proudly opened the doors to its Humane Education & Welcome Center on the sanctuary grounds. Thousands of visitors, including students, educators, national children’s groups and 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 wild and domestic equines today. On January 16, 2008, Wagner appeared on the Martha Stewart Show to talk about the sanctuary, in addition to vital equine issues including horse slaughter, equine rescue and the PMU industry.
Among Wagner’s most important goals for Equine Advocates is to help bring about an end to horse slaughter and the unnecessary and anachronistic PMU industry. “I see the possibility for the day when U.S.-bred horses are no longer shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter,” she said. “I think we are finally getting closer to that happening.”
Equine Advocates turned 25 on February 27, 2021.
Elizabeth Forel has been an animal advocate and activist since the mid-1980s. She has wide-ranging experience with many animal protection issues, concentrating in recent years on the NYC animal shelter and carriage horse issue. In 1994, she co-founded The Coalition for NYC Animals, Inc. in response to the city taking over animal control from the ASPCA. In 2006, she co-founded the Coalition to Ban-Horse Drawn Carriages in response to a carriage horse being killed on 9th Avenue. A few years later, she founded Horses Without Carriages International, a global coalition representing advocates from many cities throughout the world. She is the author of numerous articles, op-eds, and letters to the editor on animal issues that have appeared in any publications, including the NY Daily News, the NY Times, One Green Planet, The Dodo, Tuesday’s Horse, Animals Agenda, and the Animals Voice. She is on the board of Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization and has been vegan for more than thirty years.
In 2010, she found a NYC carriage horse listed online at the New Holland livestock auction. One day away from being returned to the kill pen, she worked jointly with Equine Advocates and Friends of Animals to facilitate the purchase and rescue of Bobby II Freedom. He has been living happily at Equine Advocates’ sanctuary since that time.
Her activism and advocacy have been done on a volunteer basis, having devoted her professional career to commercial interior design. She has extensive experience with the carriage horse issue, including involvement with a City bill introduced in 2007 to ban horse-drawn carriages. Although the bill did not pass, the issue garnered more than 126,000 signatures on a petition. Seeing how the unions and media and much of the City Council sided with the carriage drivers to assure they keep their jobs; she has altered her position on the approach that should be taken. Joining forces with Susan Wagner, they believe that a new industry —electric carriages — will not only provide the drivers with more income but save the horses.