Were you there every single day morning, afternoon and evening to make sure they were getting no hay? Do you know what the quality of the grass was?
Honestly 'somebody you used to know' makes this a 'not-so-plausible' story if the horses were happy and healthy. They were obviously getting the food they needed. Are you concerned or just genuinely curious as to how horses can eat that many apples? (If that's the case, the question's been answered).