PHOENIX - The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office says horse abuse is a growing problem.
To put it into perspective, MCSO reports 22 horses were rescued from bad situations in all of 2013.
Just four months in to 2014, MCSO has already seized 13 horses.
Ranchers say money is a driving factor for horse abuse and neglect, costing $300-$400 a month to feed, groom and care for a horse.
John Robinson owns Robinson Ranch, a non-profit in South Phoenix that helps rehab many of the horses rescued by MCSO.
He keeps about a dozen horses on his ranch at a time and finds other safe homes to adopt the rest.
He says the last few years they’ve been called on more often for help and have taken in horses that are severely underweight and have neglected hooves and teeth to the point that some can’t chew their food.
"When the economy went down, people could not afford to take care of their horses. They either fed their family or fed their horses," Robinson said.
That was the case with one of his rescues named Ruger.
Ruger’s owner just couldn’t keep up with the costs, so rather than abandoning the already slimming horse, the owner surrendered Ruger to Robinson.
"He's actually one of our therapeutic horses now," Robinson said.
Ruger is one of several horses used to work with children and adults with mental, physical and behavioral developmental disabilities ranging from Cerebral Palsy to Down Syndrome and ADHD.
Robinson says one woman they work with, who’s had so many surgeries her body is full of metal rods, has had a complete turnaround in just two months time working with the therapy horses.
"She was ready to give up on the world, now she's a whole different happy person."
Robinson Ranch also offers ridings lessons for kids from underprivileged families.
Go to the Robinson Ranch website to learn more about classes, horse therapy or to donate to the non-profit.