Economic hardship across the United States appears in many ways. Ashley Stimpson’s Sunday Long Read feature covers the plight of feral horses, some of which have been turned out by their owners and left to fend for themselves. As domesticated animals, horses are getting sick and injured trying to find the sustenance their humans once provided. Their increasing numbers are causing problems for surrounding communities: “But as the herds grew, grim stories appeared in local papers,” Stimpson writes. “Hungry horses chewing the siding off of houses, ripping up landscaping, and causing car accidents. In 2016, three stallions were found shot to death on a decommissioned strip mine in Johnson County, Kentucky.”

HOP was still a fledgling nonprofit in 2012 when Creamer learned about horses roaming old strip mines. Someone sent her an email with a picture of a horse “that looked like it had been set on fire.” The horse was located in Mingo County, the email said, could she help? When she wrote back asking for the owner’s name and the address, the person explained that the horse lived on the strip mine. Lots of them did, actually.

Even 12 years later, her eyes still get wide recalling this moment. She decided to go see for herself.

They were out there all right. Herds teeming with emaciated horses, some with hides marred by open wounds and lacerations, nosing for something to eat amid rocks and brush, breeding and in-breeding indiscriminately. Swarming local roadways to lick salt off the pavement. She knew even the healthy-looking horses were likely vitamin-deficient and full of worms. “They’re domestic animals. They are in no way designed to live out there,” she says.