More than 20 horses, including several apparently emaciated, were rescued from their owner in Lancaster, authorities announced on Thursday.
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control said its officers found a shocking case of severe neglect after responding to a call about a dead horse in the area of 247th East Street on Wednesday.
Another two horses died after authorities arrived at the ranch, officials said.
"It was horrible," said Animal Control Sgt. Rachel Montez-Kemp. "I can't even describe it in words, how horrible it was."
Animal Control did not find any water or food for the horses at the farm, the sergeant said.
The owner initially refused to let authorities onto the property, saying the horses were fine. But once they made access, officers found "a lot of neglect and starvation. Animals in such bad shape that we were afraid that they would drop dead," Montez-Kemp said.
If officials hadn't been called, "there would have been more dead animals on the property," the sergeant added.
Ultimately, 22 emaciated horses in need of immediate car were removed from the ranch and taken to the Lancaster Animal Care Center, where they were being treated and vaccinated.
More than half of the rescues are mares and their babies, with foals as young as 4 months old suffering from malnutrition, authorities said.
The prognosis for the survivors is good, and they're expected to be put up for adoption once they're healthy, according to Animal Control.
Authorities said they were investigating whether or not the situation warranted criminal charges.
KTLA's Erika Martin contributed to this report.