DEERING, N.H. — Police say four malnourished horses may have been locked inside a New Hampshire barn for more than a year.

Police in Deering tried for several days to get the barn’s owner to let them see the horses before officers obtained a warrant that was executed Thursday.

The horses are now in the hands of the volunteers after the owners formally surrendered them. Police say charges are expected.

Officer Stephen Bell told WMUR-TV that it was “one of the more horrific cases” that the state veterinarian’s office has seen.

Rebecca Howland, who volunteers with Live and Let Live Farm in Chichester, called it heart-breaking. All four horses are now recovering.