Severely Abused Horse Left To Die In Dry Riverbed Gets Rescued Just In Time

Severely Abused Horse Left To Die In Dry Riverbed Gets Rescued Just In Time

There’s a place in Southern California where old, injured, and abused horses are saved from slaughter and given a peaceful area to live out the rest of their lives.

This magical place is called Hanaeleh. Elizabeth Zarkos started the horse rescue in 2004 to help save horses headed to slaughter. She came up with the name based on the song Puff the Magic Dragon that her mom used to sing to her. She used her own way of spelling the land known as "Honah Lee".


Her thought was to create a "a safe haven away from the evils of the world" where all horses are loved and cared for.

In 1999, she rescued an Arabian named Cleopatra from a feedlot. When she found out the remaining horses were sent to slaughter, she took it upon herself to do something about it.

Five years later, she started the only horse rescue in Orange County, California, and it is still the only all-breed horse rescue in the county.

She has loved horses since she was a child and as a teenager dreamed of one day having a sanctuary for animals. Her dream came true, and she has spent the past 19 years training, loving, and finding homes for rescued horses.

She told us during a phone interview that she takes in the horses that have emotional or health issues and are usually unrideable. "I take in the horses who are the most in need, the ones who don't have any other options. They are going to the trader who is shipping them out to slaughter, or they are very sick, or they have some major emotional or health problem that prevents them from being owned by someone, even a knowledgeable person."

Elizabeth is trying to balance the scales for the abused horses who had to endure years of pain. She hopes to show them that not all humans are bad.

She is in touch with Auction Horses Rescue who contacts her about horses in dire need and receives countless calls from individual owners who can no longer care for their horses.

Through her network of horse people and rescues, she tries to help horses find a loving home. Her focus is on the horses' needs.

"One of the differences that our horses experience at Hanaeleh is that there is no set agenda, and the horses’ needs are put before anything else."

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Elizabeth has rescued dozens of horses over the past 19 years, but a bay gelding named Ulysses holds a special place in her heart.

"He had been severely abused by unscrupulous charro riders and left to die," recalled Elizabeth.

The 13-year-old Appendix gelding had scars across his face, back and legs when he was found abandoned in a dry riverbed in Riverside County. He was picked up by animal control and scheduled to be euthanized due to neurological issues from being severely abused.

Hanaeleh arrived at the animal shelter to pick up another horse and a volunteer begged for them to take Ulysses. They agreed and loaded him onto the trailer.

He was in bad shape and could barely stand on all four feet. Elizabeth was unsure what to do for him, so she called her vet. He gave her some great advice. "Give him today, and tomorrow if you have to put him down, you gave him today."

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It has been 10 years and Ulysses is still at the rescue where he loves to kick up his heels and eat treats. The goofy horse will live out the rest of his life at Hanaeleh.

Elizabeth works hard to erase the past abuse, but some scars remain.

Ulysses cannot be tied but he will happily stand to be groomed if someone holds a bucket of hay pellets for him to munch on.

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Love, dedication, and patience allowed Ulysses' personality to shine. He is a goofy horse living his best life and is just one of the happily ever after stories at Hanaeleh.

"One of the most wonderful things about Ulysses, however, is the fact that he is one of the sweetest horses ever. Even after all of the abuse he suffered through, he shows no malice towards humans."

The calls for help continue to come in. "Orange County is incredibly impacted and a lot of the stables are closing," shared Elizabeth.

Learn more about Hanaeleh and how you can help care for rescue horses here.

Check out the video of Ulysses below and don't forget to share!

Andrea Powell

Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast who resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.

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