Contra Costa County - Choctaw was a beautiful Tobiano paint that helped children and was seen by millions around the world in the Rose Parade.

Lucky was living the good life, also helping special needs children after the "bag of bones" was rescued by the Rountree family earlier this year.

The lives of both horses ended sometime between Tuesday night and 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning when their bodies were found on their pasture near Collier Canyon Road in rural Livermore.

Someone had shot the horses to death with a .22 caliber weapon, said Marianne Rountree, who owns the horses with her husband Mike.

Choctaw was shot in the heart, and was, found slumped over in the pasture near the street. Lucky was shot twice in the belly and might have been running toward the stables when he died.

Based on the weapon used, the family says the pair probably died slow deaths. The horses were fine when the Rountrees last saw them about 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"It's beyond belief," said their son Greg. "I don't think people realize horses are family. We care for them. We talk to them."

The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office is investigating the shootings as an animal cruelty case, said spokesman Jimmy Lee. Investigators don't have a motive, but a rancher's cow was found also shot dead nearby on Wednesday morning.

The Rountree family is offering a $5,000 reward for information on who was responsible for the death of their horses.

Marianne Rountree has lived her whole life around her horses. She grew up in West Texas where her father owned hundreds of acres of land.

"I've never seen anything like this," she said.

Choctaw was the lead horse in the Shriners' mounted patrol unit and had been in several parades, including the Rose Parade. The horses had also appeared in many local parades. Lucky had been rescued in February from a Martinez shelter.

Marianne Rountree said it was difficult to say what the horses were worth.

"It's hard to put a dollar value on (them) because they were never for sale," she said, adding that she and her husband would not have thought of parting with Choctaw for less than $15,000.

Choctaw, Lucky and the Rountrees' four other horses participated in a lot of children's charity work. The horses visit children at Shriners hospitals and work with Hoofprints on the Heart in Livermore, a group that provides therapeutic riding lessons to special needs children.

"That's their life's work, being good to children," Marianne Rountree said.

The Sheriff's Office asks anyone with information to call 925-646-2441.