Athens County Horse Farm Rescues Slaughter-Bound Horses and More

The first horse Rachel Bendler rescued on her own from a slaughter-sale was Red. In 2007, Red was penned up at a horse auction waiting to be sold. Instead of meeting his demise over the border in Canada where horse slaughter is legal, Red met Rachel who bought him for $10 that day.

It was the beginning of what is now Bella Run Equine, a nonprofit organization in Athens County dedicated to “responsibly rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming slaughter-bound horses.”

Husband and wife, Zack and Rachel Bendler co-own the nonprofit. In addition to rescuing and rehoming horses, their farm serves as a halfway home for other abandoned pets as well.

Rachel & Zack

Having spent her childhood riding horses and then her time after school as a barn manager, Rachel is without a doubt a horse person. Zack gushes just talking about her.

“How Rachel is able to break through to animals that have been done wrong by humans, cover up bad memories with positivity — it’s a gift,” he says.

A true Western man, Zack wears his cowboy hat and country button-up like he never left his native Oklahoma. Experienced in traditional ways of breaking horses, Zack came to Ohio looking for a less harsh alternative.

Like the horses she so loves, Rachel saw a kindred spirit looking for a home when she met Zack at a horse barn in Athens. After Rachel won over Zack’s support for rescuing horses, Rachel and Zack were on their way to falling in love, getting married and starting Bella Run Equine.

In 2014 Zack bought the land he was leasing. And what started with Red, grew into what is now around 30 horses.

Horses, Dogs, and Ducks

Gretchen and her three dogs pose for a picture with Zack and Rachel Bendler. Photo by Natascha Roelsgaard

The Bendlers have a network of friends who help out at Bella Run. Both Zack’s brother Ethan Bendler and Rachel’s best friend Trisken Emmert both volunteer. Emmert, a live wire, and local school teacher feels at home when she is giving a voice to the voiceless.

“There’s a lid for every pot — I hope somebody told ya that — we say that all the time,” Emmert says. At Bella Run, they use the saying to describe the notion that every animal has a good owner out there, but the key is finding a quality fit for both.

Emmert is passionate about the horses. She describes Monarch, a beautiful 14-year-old bay thoroughbred, and Enzo a Palomino pony, and the Seven Sisters, and on and on without even taking a breath.

The zeal for rehoming animals does not stop with the horses. Bella Run also works to rehome dogs with their Farm Dog Program. They rescue dogs that are either abandoned by owners or at the end of their time in kill pounds.

Tanky Tank, who was once a troubled mutt at Bella Run, is Emmert’s favorite puppy success story. With tireless training, Tank became an adopted certified rescue dog.

In addition to horses and dogs, Bella Run has a few other lost creatures finding refuge on the farm. Kevin and Patrick, the rescued ducks, call Bella Run home as do a few goats and sheep.


Rachel and Zack use realistic decision making, sound budgeting, a great support system and untiring effort to keep the farm on track. They emphasize rescuing horses with high adoptability potential so that future adoption sales can help fund the purchase of the next rescue.

For these animals to have a home is paramount to Zack and Rachel.

“The world needs your attention and they need it right now. Let’s making caring cool again,” Zack says.

And with their nonprofit Bella Run Equine, the Bendlers are doing just that.


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