Story by Antwan Harris
Eyewitness News Reporter

POLK COUNTY, TN. (WRCB)-- A startling discovery in Polk County Friday.

Our cameras were there as dozens of neglected horses roamed a field, many of them malnourished.

We counted about 20 horses at one time, many of them eating nothing but dirt off the ground.

Residents want to see the horses taken care of. The sheriff's office wants a word with the owners.

"It makes me want to cry, it truly does," says neighbor Tom Black.

Tom Black says seeing the condition of this pack of horses is heartbreaking.

Our camera rolled as many struggled to walk.

Taking a closer look, you can see rib cages; others have hip bones and spines clearly visible.

A woman, who asked not to be identified, has been stopping to feed the horses.

She says she's seen more in bad shape.

"We counted 75 at one time and more come out. They were all skin and bones," says the woman.

Friday, the horses had a bale of hay, but the woman says it's been weeks since she has seen any food in the field.

Many horses were seen walking slowly through the field and were afraid to approach the camera.

Black thinks the horses may have been physically abused.

"I want to see someone haul these horses off and let someone feed them," says Black.

The sheriff's office says they are trying to track down who owns the property and the horses.

The woman, who owns horses of her own, says she is willing to adopt a few if that's a possibility.

"Anyone who has a horse, why would they put them in that kind of condition? If they can't feed or take care of them, I don't see sense in having them," says the woman.

She fears if nothing is done soon, the worst may happen.

"They are going to die, every last one of them," says the woman.

The sheriff's office believes the horses were purchased in Bradley County and is trying to determine if they neglected before coming to Polk County.

The current owner could be the one trying to nurse the animals back to good health.

If needed, the sheriff will hire a private animal control company to remove them.