By the time the residents of Thoreau noticed three emaciated horses starving in a neighbor’s backyard, it was already too late for one of the animals.

The youngest, a 6-month-old bay filly, was lying dead next to a gate in the pen when livestock inspectors responded to the call in November.

The other horses, two young stallions, were in poor condition. There was no water or food in the pen, and it was evident that the young filly had starved to death, New Mexico Livestock Board Brand Inspector Mark Waters reported when he called his supervisor Gary Mora and asked for permission to seize the horses.

“If I have to guess how long the horse had been dead, I would say 12 to 24 hours,” Waters said last week as he recalled the incident.

Waters then called Debbie Coburn, the founding director of Four Corners Equine Rescue in Aztec, and asked for help. She picked up the surviving horses.