"A lot of people aren't wanting to ask because their pride is getting in the way, but you know what, I'd rather let my pride not get in the way of me being able to feed my horses," Arnold Lopez, a horse owner, said.
The Colorado Horsecare Foodbank distributes hay to horse owners who qualify. The organization was founded five years ago by Juliana Lehman. This year's hay shortage has put added pressure on the organization to help horse owners in need.
"The first day I had almost a call a minute for two hours," Lehman said.
The increased number of horse owners requesting help is a result of hay prices more than doubling from last year. The severe drought conditions throughout the west are being blamed on the shortage of hay supplies.
"Many, many people can't fee their horses and a lot of them are the ones that are abandoning their horses. They're taking them somewhere and just turning them loose, and that happens pretty regularly. It is the worst I've ever seen it and I've lived here all of my life," said Bill Murr, a horse owner who received help from the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank.
The Colorado Humane Society has also reported a spike in the number of starving horse investigations they've seen this winter. In the month of December, their investigators looked into on average one case a day.
Both the Colorado Humane Society investigators and the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank are encouraging horse owners that are unable to feed their horses to pick up the phone and ask for help.
"We really don't pass judgment and when they call me I try to make it light and I try to make them understand we're here to help," Lehman said.
While the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank is helping horse owners in need, the organization is in need of donations to continue purchasing hay. They have "Hay for a Day" program in which they encourage $5 donations. That $5 donation will feed one horse for one day. The organization is also trying to find an indoor hay storage facility in Northern Colorado. They have one storage facility in Elbert County, but are hoping to identify another in the northern part of the state to serve horse owners who live there.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)