MOUNTAIN GROVE, Mo. — It's going to take time and there are plenty of legal hoops to jump through, but 114 horses from Fulton County, Arkansas, look vastly different than they did last month.
That's when the local sheriff's department and two national animal rights organizations seized them and moved them to Mountain Home, Arkansas, to rehabilitate them.
It was the Natural State's largest horse rescue effort ever. Saturday we got to gauge their progress, and now now you can too.
A warm, mostly dry place to recover, surrounded by people who have seen you at your worst and have nursed you back to your best.
"That's a good boy, I know. Are you grooming me? Thank you," one volunteer says softly to a horse.
She's inside Baxter County's makeshift horse hospital-- a barn entirely without a roof just a few weeks ago. It now houses 114 once-starving horses.
"There were probably 30% in extremely, extremely bad shape that needed immediate and emergency care. The rest were probably on the verge of getting that way," explains Desiree Bender, the Arkansas Director for the Humane Society of the United States.
The horses had been on the radar of the ASPCA and the HSUS since May. The seizure happened last month-- too late for two of them, just in time for the rest.
"The horse market is so saturated right now you can get a horse for very little money," says the ASPCA's Kyle Held.
Sometimes for under $30, Held says.
"I would assume that a lot of these horses would have been sold at another auction that went to slaughter," Bender says.
Instead, they're getting rehabilitated.
"Today we've got the Missouri Ferrier's association here," Bender says, pointing to volunteers doing hoof work on some of the animals.
As many as 18 volunteers are always here, ensuring their physical needs are met.
"Right now we're just providing basic care for them- food, water, a clean environment," Held elaborates.
But the animals have emotional needs too. Meeting those isn't quite as much of a challenge as it is a pleasure.
Rodney Kankey,a horse trader, is still technically the owner of the animals. He was arrested Thanksgiving Day on an unrelated charge and is now charged with five counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty and 113 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Kankey refused to voluntarily surrender the horses so they can't be adopted out unless a judge rules he has to. Kankey has a disposition hearing Friday.