One of our local fixtures in the horse community needs your help. Not because she is asking for it, but because that is what we do as a community. When people are vulnerable and share their struggles, it allows others to share the load, the struggles and the joy.
Jessica Austin, “Jess” has lived in Evergreen since 2010. Jess is one of those individuals that people gravitate to. She is warm, welcoming and a ray of light in the world. Jess has been riding and has had horses since her Grandfather gave her a pony at 8 years old. From there she says, “the rest was history and I’ve been riding, rescuing and restarting horses ever since.”
She is an animal lover to the core and has rescued three horses – Kola, Zoe and Courage. All three had a rough life to begin with, but once under her loving guidance, have come to trust people again. Animals and people alike are drawn to her home at the Broce Ranch. A friend of Jess’s describes her this way, “Her door is always revolving with people stopping by to talk to her, get horse advice or relax. She opens her door to all . . . She’s the type of person that would put herself in debt to give to someone else in need or to save an animal.”
Carolyn Knapp-Nelson met Jess boarding at Helen Mleynek’s Elk Ridge Ranch when Jess first moved to Evergreen. They connected as two English riders in a Western world. Carolyn rode Dressage and Jess at the time rode to condition for Fox Hunting. They had great respect for one another and rode the back trail to, and in Alderfer Three Sisters Open Space together. Through riding together on our mountain trails, Carolyn found Jess to be an accomplished rider with soft hands, respect for her horse, and fearless.
Carolyn states, “Jess has great insight to horses and loves all her animals dearly. With Jess, knowing how she approaches riding and life in general, I think she will meet this cancer thing with the same fearlessness. Jess will be okay, as she is smart and brave to be meeting breast cancer head-on. Her bravery and strength will get her through the medical and emotional challenges, and Zoey and Courage will be waiting, at the gate, when she is ready to get back out on the trail.”
After moving to Evergreen in spring of 2010, between the fall of that year and May of 2015, Jess was locked in one medical battle after another. What began with the discovery of masses attacking her kidney and ovary progressed into a frightening timeline of surgeries: A partial kidney removal, then another, then finally a complete removal. More masses led to a full hysterectomy, plus removal of lymph nodes, adrenal glands, and part of her stomach lining. After a surgery early this year, a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) nearly killed her. Her medical staff was astonished at her sense of humor and resilience, even in the face of these horrific procedures, and nicknamed her “Star Pony.”
Back to work with $12.34 in her pocket, it looked like the worst was behind her. Although this fall, she was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer — HER2+/estrogen negative/progesterone positive — that has mystified and intimidated even her doctors. Jess underwent a double mastectomy surgery on December 30th. The costs are above and beyond her insurance coverage.
Jess is one of the welcoming front of the house staff members at the amazing new Lariat Lodge Brewing Company near downtown Evergreen. The Lariat Lodge is dedicating Saturday January 23, from 11am to 11pm the Star Pony Fundraiser.
The Star Pony Fundraiser will be an all-day music event with local musicians donating their talents, fantastic barbecue from Chef Michael, an amazing silent auction and many ways to come alongside Jess with a portion of the proceeds for food, drinks and tips going to help Jess with medical expenses. HOW CAN YOU HELP? Please come share the load for Jess on January 23rd 11am-11pm at Lariat Lodge – 27618 Fireweed Drive or donate to her You Caring page: www.youcaring.com/jessica-austin-494391.
Visit her Facebook page for updates at “Star Pony Fundraiser and Updates”
Thank you Margaret Rode & Carolyn Knapp-Nelson for your words and Tanya Buck for the great pictures!