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In Memoriam: Austin

May 14, 2005 – January 9, 2020

Tribute by Susan Wagner

It is with great sadness and a very heavy heart to inform all of you of the passing of our beloved Standardbred gelding, Austin on January 9, 2020. He was just 14 years old and had raced under the name, “One Awesome Master.” Austin was a trotting champion with earnings exceeding $270,000 for his former owners.

For those of you who have been following his story, Austin came to Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary in December of 2015. I had last written about him publicly on December 16th, when he had just returned from the hospital for the third time in 2019. While we knew Austin had sustained injuries during his racing career, we found out that he often had been made to run with those injuries. Ultimately, the wear and tear to his legs and his stifle joints caused permanent injuries that were beyond repair. The hard truth for us was learning that there was no cure for him and he would never recover or improve. His pain would only increase over time.

What Austin needed was two knee replacements, but this surgery has never been successfully performed on an equine. While knee joint replacements are among the most common and successful surgeries for humans, equines who are used as performance animals strictly to generate profits for their owners often die untimely deaths because there is no help or remedy for many of the life-threatening injuries they sustain during their careers. In many cases, just as was the case with Austin, horses are pushed to run even though their handlers and veterinarians who administer performance-enhancing drugs to mask their pain know exactly what they are doing to these animals.

Austin was no ordinary horse. Not only was he gorgeous and kind, but he was a horse who never gave up. Had he refused to run with his injuries as his handlers forced him to do, he might still be alive today.

We had the privilege of having Austin under our care for just over four years. We expected him to live at least until 30. Instead, he had to be humanely euthanized at the age of 14. We have two equines here who will turn 34 this year. We have even more thriving in their mid to late twenties. Tragically, that was not to be Austin’s fate.

In my 26 years of rescuing horses, this was one of the worst experiences of my life regarding the loss of one of our horses. Having to face the fact that for Austin there were no other options and nothing more to try was simply devastating to me. To lose a young and vibrant horse like this who wanted so badly to live, is something I will never get over.

Still, I am glad we were the ones to care for him during his final years. He passed quietly with all of us surrounding him, holding him and talking to him as a kind veterinarian carefully administered the euthanasia drugs. I can only imagine the number of horses also in his position who do not have a peaceful and dignified end as he did. Many end up in slaughterhouses and/or suffering in dire pain. I know I speak for everyone here, as well as and for our volunteers and his sponsors in saying that there will never be another horse like Austin.

– Susan Wagner

Photo by Kara Heniges