MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - From a distance you could tell something wasn't right, and when you got closer a clear picture of hunger took shape. "It's very serious. They're in dire straights," said Montgomery County Humane Society investigator Scott Hill.
Ribs were showing on one horse, another one was on the ground. The starving animals were found on several acres of land off Chapel Gray Loop Road off Highway 231 South in Pine Level.
"It has to do with malnutrition, but I do believe there may be an underlying infection as well," said Dusty Trails Horse Rescue founder Monika Orendorf.
The animals are a combination of quarter horses and paint horses, valued around $20,000. Authorities say this was a legal, legitimate breeding farm, but it turns out this is an economic issue instead of intentional neglect by the owner.
The owner is reportedly a homebuilder outside of Montgomery County. He's said to be having trouble finding work and apparently unable to pay the $500 a month in hay to feed the horses.
"We felt it's due to the economy and we spoke with him in-depth. The owner was unable to care for the animals," Hill explained. "It's definitely an economic issue. The cost of feed has gone up."
Investigator Hill says the horses haven't eaten well in weeks and as a result many of the majestic animals are hundreds of pounds underweight.
One by one, the horses will go to the rescue farm in Montgomery for a chance to grow strong again. There is concern, however, that at least two may not make it.
"There are two that I question. That little guy over there," Orendorf said point to one of the animals. "That's going to be touch and go."
Sadly, Orendorf and Hill say they're seeing more and more of these cases, and it's not just with large animals.
"It increases everyday. People losing their homes, abandoning their animals at the house. I would say our calls have doubled," said Hill.
It's all evidence of hard times in the faces and bellies of twenty horses.
"I feel their pain," said Orendorf.
Assuming the horses make a full recovery, they will be adopted out.