BULLITT COUNTY, KY (WAVE) - Three horses out of 10 were shot and killed in September and now two groups are joining forces to save the rest of the herd.
"Three stallions were shot and we could tell the first two were shot together and the rest of the herd took off," Kentucky Humane Society Equine Manager Bryce Gill said, "the third one was running with it (the herd), when they shot the third one."
The cruel act happened in Johnson County in eastern Kentucky. While the horses are still a little nervous and thin, they are getting better and growing stronger each day. The horses are being fostered in Bullitt County by a group of people who have spent part of their lives protecting Kentucky families.
On a four-wheeler, volunteers from Active Heroes and the Kentucky Humane Society began heading down a bumpy path. It's part of 146 acres in Bullitt County, where they eventually found new friends grazing in a peaceful space. After a week in this safe paradise, change is noticeable.
"They've already put on a little bit of weight," Gill said.
A black beauty named Blackjack and two girls named Bernese and Stella are finding their way with the alpacas. A far cry from where the horses started.
Mareike Yocum, the Programs Vice President for Active Heroes, explained their transformation, "It's huge, they wouldn't come anywhere near me at first."
Gill agreed, "Because of what they had been through they were not trustworthy of humans, they were very cautious and scared."
While there are thousands of free roaming horses in eastern Kentucky, the wooded area where the remaining seven were found is a place where young families go to feed the animals.
The Johnson County Sheriff is investigating the horse deaths. The Kentucky Humane society placed two horses with families, two more to another foster home. The remaining three ended up at the Active Heroes retreat, where veterans find emotional support.
Yocum said, "My husband who is a veteran told me several times when they were in Iraq, their most favorite missions are when they bring the food and the clothes to the kids and a lot of times when they get out of the military they lose being there for others."
The human to horse therapy is working both sides of the fence. Healing after trauma, a vet who understands that visited the retreat and the horses Saturday.
"Her face just brightened up," Yocum smiled. "Just watching the animals and seeing how they were approaching her and trying to check her out was just really gratifying for her."