There’s a new bright star in the heavens, and its name is Windchill.
“On the evening of February 29th, 2008, one of the bravest souls we have ever had the honor of knowing crossed over the rainbow bridge. He passed quietly in his sleep, surrounded by his two sisters, Kisses and Sunday, at the only real home he had ever known.”
“We accepted each day with him as a gift, we watched his progress in awe – as did the entire nation. This little horse became a beacon of hope for so many who had lost their faith in humanity. He taught us that no matter what happens in your life, no matter how unfair, you can still have faith and you can find love to carry you to a better place. He found the good in the world.”
Horse-lovers worldwide have been following the story of Windchill, the nine-month-old Walkaloosa (Tennessee Walker – Appaloosa cross) colt who was near death when he was rescued in early February.
Windchill had been left outside with no shelter for at least four hours on February 9, when whipping winds made it feel like 30 below, and he had been without access to proper food or water. His owner relinquished rights to the 9-month-old colt that nearly froze to death in subzero temperatures to Kathi Davis, one of his rescuers.
Charges have been laid against Pam and Shane Javenkoski, who were boarding the colt at the request of his owner, Theresa Farmer. No charges have been laid yet against Farmer.
When he was rescued and brought to Jeff Tucker’s Raindance Farms in South Range, Wisconsin, Windchill was suffering from dehydration, malnourishment, hypothermia and frostbite.
Veterinarians visiting the colt in those first few days were unable to find a pulse in his forelegs, and were pessimistic, giving him a 1 percent chance of survival and suggesting he be put down. Windchill had bucked that death sentence by standing and walking around his stall for hours at a time. He had yet to get up on his own — he had to be hoisted to his feet with the help of a sling and six volunteers — but it’s more progress than anyone could have imagined when he was found.
Credit plenty of help from neighbours and friends — and the animals of Raindance Farms —for Windchill’s caretaking. They were cautiously optimistic that the colt would pull through, thanks to the prayers and good wishes from people across the world who offered advice and sent donations.
Tucker and Kathi Davis, who works at the farm, took time off from their regular jobs to spend time with him. Neighbours brought over horse blankets and alfalfa hay. Volunteers helped with barn duties and raising Windchill every evening. And many folks dropped by to give Windchill their best get-well wishes.
Tucker’s mares took turns keeping maternal watch in the stall next to Windchill. Walker, Tucker’s Australian Sheepdog, gave Windchill’s nose the occasional encouraging lick and Olivia, the barn cat, slept on him each night.
Oregon artist Deborah Sprague, painted a portrait of Windchill and Tucker’s dog, Walker, to auction off to pay for his care. Sprague came across Windchill’s tale on an online message board. She often auctions her paintings to benefit pet rescue, and Windchill touched her heart.
The details of the silent auction, which closed on February 29, along with other Windchill art by Deborah are on her website.
When veterinarian Jamie Meagher came to examine Windchill on February 16, the colt had a healthy appetite and had tried to stand up a few times.
Davis said Windchill had gotten used to the process of being hoisted up. When he heard the sling’s chain rattle, she said, he perked up and started pushing with his legs and making “puppy noises” — a definite sign of progress for a colt whose frozen forelegs had prevented him from standing on his own. After lifting Windchill into a standing position, the sling was loosened so that Windchill was supporting his own weight. He could stand for hours, and didn’t want to lie down again.“He took it in stride. He was very calm,” Tucker said. “He perked right up and drank a bucket of water right away.”
Still, Windchill had a lot of recovering to do if he was going to make it.
“I haven’t seen one this bad,” said Meagher, who has been a vet for 20 years. “Unfortunately every year we see a few, but this one is bad.”
Meagher estimates he weighed only 400 pounds. A nine-month-old horse should be around 750 pounds.
On the evening of February 29, Windchill lost his battle. As Kathi Davis said, “He was just too broken to recover.” His brave heart, damaged by starvation, could not keep up with his grand spirit, and he crossed the Rainbow Bridge peacefully in his sleep.
The Friends of Barbaro have registered a star in Windchill’s name – appropriately in the Pegasus cluster!
“Windchill’s eyes are what capture people’s hearts,” Tucker wrote on the Raindance Farms website. “They shine with that quiet determination. They hold wonder, sadness, intelligence and love. I’m not making that up because I’m one of those insane ‘horse people’ – non-horse people have been out to visit in droves and they see him, they kneel by him and he touches them with his innocence and fierce desire to see all this through. It’s not an in your face sort of thing – it’s more powerful than that. It’s this quiet determination he has to keep breathing. ”
How you can help:
Raindance Farms is setting up a foundation for equine care in Windchill’s memory. Donations can be made at the Raindance Farms website.
Join in the vigil for Windchill by lighting a candle.
Deborah has made posters and other items available on her website, with a portion of the proceeds going to the foundation. Details are at her website.
Visit Windchill’s Legacy site and forum. It’s a community for all of us who have been following this story.
God speed, little Windchill