SAN BENITO COUNTY, Calif. -

Among the many organizations that have been affected by the ongoing California drought is a San Benito County horse rescue group.

Horses at the Equine Rescue Center and Sanctuary in southern San Benito County are in desperate need of hay.

"I feel like I'm stretched really thin all the time," said Monica Hardenman, the organization's founder and president.

Hay is her number one priority, but the drought hasn't been kind for keeping the prices down.

Hardeman says 300 bales of hay will only last her about two and a half weeks. Each month she has to buy around 500 bales of hay at a cost of up to $8,000 -- that's double what it was before the drought.

She's also seeing more horses since the drought begin. She says that owners who can't afford the higher prices of hay are sending their horses to the slaughterhouse -- or releasing them to her care.

Hardeman says she has an overload of horses right now -- 77 -- and needs another $50,000 more to be able to keep her efforts going.

Hardeman lost her sister in the 1990s, and she says she found that taking care of horses was therapeutic. Her work is intense but she loves and can't imagine doing anything else with her life.

She believes promoting the therapeutic values of horses could help draw potential owners to adopt some of these horses despite the expense.

"The horses' stories are really powerful to people," she said. "They see how it was thrown out, it was headed for a slaughterhouse, and how you are giving them a second chance."

And people are starting to listen, she says; she adopted out two horses this past weekend and she's hopeful two more will be on their way to new homes later this week.

For more information, visit www.equinerescuecenter.org or contact Hardeman by e-mail at monica@equinerescuecenter.org.