Emaciated and abused horses saved by Hanaeleh rescue group
Maggie and Ulysses were among horses found abandoned in Riverside County and brought to Orange County to recover.
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE
“They’ve both just fallen in love with each other,” said Elizabeth Zarkos, director of Hanaeleh, a horse rescue group based in Trabuco Canyon. “They don’t leave each other’s side in the paddock. If I try to separate them, they’ll just scream to each other.”
Both bay horses, Maggie, a mare, and Ulysses, a gelding, were recently rescued by Hanaeleh after a volunteer from the Riverside Department of Animal Services alerted Zarkos. Both were skinny. Maggie had lost nearly 400 pounds and Ulysses was a clear victim of abuse, she said. They are two of hundreds found in riverbeds and fields in Riverside County. About 85 to 90 percent are abandoned and left to starve. A small percentage of horses are found as strays.
Hanaeleh is Orange County’s only nonprofit horse rescue group. The all-volunteer group takes in horses from throughout the state. Most are abandoned, owner-relinquished or headed for slaughter. The rescue was founded by Zarkos, of Lake Forest, in 2004 after she rescued an untrained Arabian horse from a feed lot in Chino. That horse went on to compete in dressage and Western shows. Her portrait is now the rescue’s logo.
“Horse abandonment is a huge problem,” said Donna Caplan, a volunteer who has worked at the barn at the Riverside shelter for more than two years. “There is a steady stream of horses here.”
Caplan said much of the problem comes from overbreeding from horses often used at local rodeos and then thrown away when they are no longer useful. The shelter can only take in so many, she said. Animal shelters aren’t sanctuaries; the animals can’t live there forever, she said.
“If people can afford to feed them when they’re riding them, they can afford to feed them when they’re not riding them and they should be at least able to pay for them to be humanely euthanized rather than turning them loose and letting them starve to death,” Caplan said. “I do my best to get them out in a couple of months.”
Maggie was found along a riverbed that runs through Riverside into Orange County. She followed a group of riders out. Animal control officers were called to take her to the rescue barn.
“She was so skinny but despite that she was so sweet,” Caplan said. “She was one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever had here.”
After Zarkos got the call from Caplan, she headed out to get Maggie. The mare hadn’t lost her winter coat, an indication that she may not have been correctly fed for months. When she got there, she found out about Ulysses.
The horse had been found in a field and had been abused. He had scars on his head and legs. He was afraid to walk into a trailer and had fear in his eyes. Thanks to recent donations after a Register story on the horse rescue group, Zarkos was able to rescue Ulysses too.
Both horses have been at Hanaeleh for about two weeks now. Maggie has put on about 40 pounds and Ulysses has started to trust people.
Zarkos thinks Maggie will be up for adoption in about three months, and she’s still evaluating Ulysses.
“Ulysses has done a lot of service to humans,” she said. “He deserves a good retirement. He doesn’t deserve to be killed just because he can’t be ridden.”
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