As many as 20 volunteers are pitching in to train and care for two dozen horses authorities seized last month from a Seward County farm.
The 24 horses have been moved to a safe foster barn west of Lincoln, where they are getting the food, training and veterinary care they need, said Genea Stoops, who owns Hooves and Paws Rescue of the Heartland in Glenwood, Iowa.
Getting the horses fit for adoption will be a long process, Stoops said.
"These horses were untouched completely," Stoops said this week. "It's extremely hard to get them to trust people. They were terrified of human touch."
The Seward County attorney this month filed 10 animal cruelty charges against the Garland man accused of neglecting the horses.
Eric Rees, 50, was charged Sept. 1 with two felonies and eight misdemeanors.
According to an affidavit, the Seward County Sheriff's Office received a call Aug. 26 from Jennifer Olexo, a representative of Hooves and Paws, who said there were about 30 malnourished horses on Rees' farm northeast of Garland.
The deputy who responded, Jonathan Lintz, observed at least three horses that appeared to be malnourished. Lintz said he could see the horses' ribs, shoulder bones and hips.
Olexo provided pictures of other malnourished horses on the farm, including one that had already died.
Authorities obtained a search warrant and found the horses did not have regular access to the pasture, which had no grass. Investigators also found a dead horse in the pasture that "appeared emaciated and appeared to have thrashed its head and feet indicating it suffered some time before dying," according to the affidavit.
The horses were turned over to Hooves and Paws, which works to rehabilitate abused, starved, neglected or unwanted horses, donkeys, mules, dogs and puppies.
Two more of the horses have since died: a filly and another horse that had to be euthanized because of infection.
Stoops said for her and her husband, who have dedicated their lives to rescuing animals, it's most important that the horses find a safe home.
"The ones we have left might have a good chance," she said. "They need to just be horses. They need to know they won't be hurt anymore."