MILTON, WV (WOWK) — On the River Cities Therapy and Recreation Center’s website, they state their horses are “therapists.”

The equine therapy organization has been operating since 1995, but now, many say it’s the horses that need help.

About a year ago the calls started to come into the Cabell Huntington Animal Shelter.

Humane Officer John Rutherford says residents who’d drive along Newman’s Branch Road started noticing something was wrong with the horses.

“This time it was much worse, it was 99 degrees — I didn’t go to see the horses — I happened to notice them, the horse had its head at the bottom of the trough,” said Amy Ward, a Milton resident.

Ward says the animals, like kids and elderly patients, don’t have a voice.

“And the bystander effect is these small communities is like, you know, no one wants to say anything,” she said.

On Thursday, all eight horses were removed from the property by humane officers.

Rutherford says a veterinarian who assessed the horses confirmed they were malnourished and had body scores of 2-4 out of 10.

Heart of Phoenix assisted with the rescue.

“I wish people would reach out before it gets bad. When there’s the first sign that things aren’t going well or you can’t keep up, whatever the thing is, just know that you can reach out to us; we’re not a judgmental organization, we’ll help,” said Tinia Creamer, director of the Huntington-based horse rescue organization.

“In this case, it had just gone on so long, some of these horses are in desperate dire condition,” said Creamer.

A longtime volunteer with River Cities Therapy and Recreation Center, Mark Cooper, says he was in shock to learn from the distraught owner that her horses were taken away.

“I can’t understand the why and without having any more information I still can’t understand the why based on what I’ve known of this program over the years and my knowledge of those horses,” said Cooper.

But Ward says it was just getting worse.

“Things happen to some people, they just have to know when to reach out for help,” she said.

The owner of River Cities Therapy declined to comment when contacted by 13 News.

The horses were taken to be rehabilitated in Maryland.