They amble out of their corral: two horses so painfully thin, many have to look away.
They may be underweight by nearly 200 pounds, but "Solo" and "Shasta" are the lucky ones. They survived near starvation and are safe -- and eating -- at RVR Horse Rescue in Riverview.
Four other horses that arrived with them weren't as fortunate. Three went down and had to be euthanized within 24 hours of arriving.
Volunteer Kit Kelly described a grim scene as the vet arrived.
"It looked like a war zone out here. We had horses everywhere, trying to keep 'em up, keep 'em moving," she said.
A fourth horse, Bella, was euthanized Tuesday evening after hours of trying to save her.
"It's heart wrenching when you spend three weeks working with a horse for that long, and you see them trying to make a comeback. But when they've been left in that condition for so terribly long, it's very hard for them to bounce back," Kelly said.
Kelly is the volunteer who picked up the horses at "Second Chance Horse Ranch" in Wimauma. She says four horses turned into six when she looked in the barn.
"There were these skeleton heads peering out from these poop and pee-ridden stalls. It was just horrible," she said.
The head of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Agricultural unit says it appears that the owner "dumped the horses and disappeared." They're continuing their investigation and there could be charges.
Founder of RVR Horse Rescue, Shawn Jayroe, says she knew when she first saw them that they were in bad shape. But she had to give them a chance.
"If they're going to fight, I'm going to fight with them. When they give up, then I let them go," Jayroe said.
This fight left her with a $3,000 emergency vet bill and ongoing frustration that it didn't have to turn out this way. She and her regular vet, Dr. Richard Gold, say early intervention is critical to saving a starved horse.
"A lot of the horses come in, and it's way too late. They're in such a debilitated state that even a group that's attentive and wants to do the right thing is unable to," Gold said.
Jayroe and RVR Horse Rescue have kicked off a campaign called CLEAR, which stands for "Care. Learn. Educate. Act. Rescue." She's hoping to educate the public to the ongoing plight of neglected horses and what you can do if you see a horse that appears to be in trouble.
"Don't just pass by and think the person behind you is going to do something about it, because they're not. They think the same thing that you think," Jayroe said.
To find out more about horse neglect and RVR Horse Rescue: http://rvrhorserescue.org/clear/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/RVRHorseRescue?fref=ts
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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