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Keeping up hope for rescued colt "Windchill"

Saturday's frigid temperatures made the Northland uninhabitable for anyone or anything without proper shelter. A 9-month-old colt, however, was somehow able to survive at least four hours of exposure. Jeff Tucker of Rain Dance Farms in South Rang...

Saturday's frigid temperatures made the Northland uninhabitable for anyone or anything without proper shelter.

A 9-month-old colt, however, was somehow able to survive at least four hours of exposure.

Jeff Tucker of Rain Dance Farms in South Range has been tending to the horse, who they're now calling "Windchill," since rescuing him from a nearby farm Saturday afternoon.

Tucker said the horse's owner, Theresa Farmer, a former neighbor, called him Saturday afternoon to check on the horse. It had been boarding at a farm down the road from Tucker's since October, and the farm owners had noticed the colt had fallen and was unable to stand.

By the time Tucker was able to reach Windchill, he was crusted with layers of ice and snow, Tucker said.

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"He could lift his head and neck but nothing else," Tucker said. "There was no hay, no water nearby, no wind block."

The temperature in Superior at 4 p.m. was zero, according to the National Weather Service, and winds of up to 40 mph made it feel like 30 below.

Tucker said he took the horse back to his farm and "stripped the house" for blankets to cover him. He set to work using a hairdryer to thaw him, which quickly soaked all his spare blankets. The Salvation Army donated four more, including an electric one, when a neighbor went there to explain the situation.

A veterinarian who visited Windchill on Sunday gave him a 1 percent chance of survival, Tucker said, but as of Tuesday evening the horse was still hanging on.

"He's got these bright, sparkly eyes, but his body's giving out," Tucker said. "It's really difficult seeing this."

Veterinarian Steve Meyer visited Rain Dance Farms Tuesday afternoon to check up on Windchill and gave him a grim prognosis. He had frostbite in his front legs that has made circulation there so weak Meyer couldn't get a pulse. He was emaciated, a situation Meyer said probably happened because older, bigger horses he was boarding with probably took his food.

Meyer recommended putting the horse down. "There's no place for a horse that can't use its front legs," he said.

That prospect left Cathi Davis, who works on Rain Dance Farms, "pretty crushed." Davis, like a handful of neighbors, has been with Windchill nearly 'round the clock, comforting him, making sure hay is within reach and switching out blankets dampened with condensation for clean, warm ones.

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"We didn't think he'd make it through the weekend," she said. "We didn't think he'd make it through yesterday."

Deputy Richard Schnell of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said the case was still under investigation. He said he was unsure if charges would be filed against the horse owner or the boarder for animal neglect.

Theresa Farmer could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Tucker said he hoped someone would be held responsible.

Those wishing to help Windchill can call Jeff Tucker at (715)395-0990.

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