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Windchill feeling down, but shows promising signs

Windchill, the 9-month-old colt left outside for at least four hours last Saturday, has fallen into a funk after a week of improving health. When Jeff Tucker rescued the colt, named for the day's 30-below wind chills he endured, he was suffering ...

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Windchill, the 9-month-old colt left outside for at least four hours last Saturday, has fallen into a funk after a week of improving health.

When Jeff Tucker rescued the colt, named for the day's 30-below wind chills he endured, he was suffering from dehydration, malnourishment, hypothermia and frostbite, and he was unable to stand due to poor circulation in his legs. After receiving the ministrations of Tucker and his band of volunteers, Windchill's physical health has vastly improved.

But Windchill's inability to stand up has made him depressed, said Cathi Davis, who works on Tucker's Rain Dance Farms and has been helping to care for the colt.

"He doesn't really want to eat his grain, he doesn't want to drink water, he doesn't want to be cuddled," Davis said. "He wants to stand up."

To that end, Tucker said a fellow horse lover from Cloquet has lent him a sling they will attempt to use today to suspend Windchill. An engineer has also called, offering to look at the rafters in Tucker's horse barn to see if they're adequate to hang the sling from.

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The sling is needed for more than just lifting his spirits; Tucker is certain Windchill needs to be de-wormed, a procedure he said can only be performed if the horse is upright. Young horses are born with parasites in their system and require a regular de-worming every few months throughout their lifetimes.

A veterinarian will visit the colt today to give a second opinion. Another vet visiting Tuesday had recommended putting Windchill down.

The fact that Windchill's physical health has improved is thanks in no small part to the many people who've volunteered their time and services, Tucker said. His phone has been ringing consistently and his e-mail inbox filling with advice from professionals nationwide on helping Windchill recuperate.

Faculty from a high school science department will send volunteers to sit with the colt to keep him company. An animal massage therapist offered to give Windchill a rub-down. Neighbors Tucker had never met before came over to bring fresh blankets.

Even Tucker's Australian shepherd has been in the giving spirit, bringing mouthfuls of hay and other presents to Windchill's stall. Windchill has channeled his aggression toward the dog, swatting him away, Davis said.

"He's taking it all out on the dog, who's continually licking him," she said. "The dog keeps stealing gloves and brings carrots in to lay by Windchill. He needs something to keep his mind off the fact he can't stand."

Windchill's mood had improved somewhat by Friday night, Tucker wrote on his Web site.

Richard Schnell, a deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, said he planned to file a report on Windchill's situation with the district attorney's office Monday. Because Windchill's owner, Theresa Farmer, had put the colt in the care of a couple who was boarding him, it was unclear who, if anyone, would be charged.

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The horses at that farm have only the woods for shelter, Farmer said. She said she is boarding another horse, whose health is "just fine," with the couple. She said the colt's problems may be due to the fact he's so much smaller than the other horses he's boarding with.

"I'm sorry this happened to him," she said. "You pay someone to take care of your animals, but they don't know how to take care of a baby."

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