A foaled Blizzard weathers winter

Family gets help caring for orphaned quarter horse

A newborn foal shivered in the driving snow, pressed against her mother for comfort and heat forever gone.

Mud, a 12-year-old mare, had foaled, cleaned and nursed her daughter. Then she died.

It was the afternoon of Dec. 20, and the Christmas Blizzard of 2006 was underway. Daniel

Blizzard gets a bottle
Skyler Babalini, 3, feeds Blizzard a bottle at Sunflower Farm in Longmont on Tuesday. The foal was orphaned and carried to safety in the Christmas blizzard. Mark Leffingwell/Daily Camera

Clynke, the Longmont farmer whose family owned the mare, dead from complications foaling, had broken his arm in a run-in with a bull. He called his father and a friend. They got the foal back to their feedlot.

Clynke's neighbor, John Roberts, drove up from Sunflower Farm about a mile down the road. Roberts had been helping Clynke with chores while Clynke's arm mended. He'd take the foal, Roberts told his neighbor. Clynke, who couldn't care for the newborn quarter horse, wished him luck.

It was up to Roberts to save the life of the foal he called Blizzard .

The adoption began inauspiciously. A quarter-mile into the drive back down the hill, Roberts's truck slipped into a ditch and stuck in a snowdrift. He wrapped the foal in a blanket, climbed out and stepped into the whiteout.

"I couldn't see where I was going," Roberts said. "It's good that I knew the way."

He cradled the 80-pound animal and lugged her a half mile to a small barn where pregnant rabbits, sheep, pygmy goats, pot-bellied pigs and other animals - Sunflower Farm supplies petting zoos - awaited nature's imperative.

Orphaned foals rarely survive, Roberts said. Their stomachs hold so little that they need to be fed once every couple of hours.

Blizzard will live on Dura-Life All Purpose Milk Replacer until she figures feed out. She likes it warm.

Roberts and wife Bren Frisch have volunteer help from four local families, but Roberts is up at 1:30 a.m. and about 4 a.m. for graveyard-shift feedings.

"It's like having a newborn," he said.

Laura Veeder, of Longmont, was there Tuesday afternoon with daughter Annika, 11 months, and son Logan, 4. Veeder has been volunteering for the 9 to 10 p.m. slot.

"At first, she was really sick and would just lay with me in the hay," Veeder said. "Now she's feisty."

Blizzard has gained strength and, as of Tuesday, about 30 pounds.

The size of a Great Dane, she wore old blankets and quilts around her midsection and neck. Blizzard approached visitors with the boldness of a zoo squirrel, stepping now and again outside for a bite of snow. She nibbled at 3-year-olds from Sunflower Farm's Sprout childcare program as kids ran about, their cries blending in with those of guineafowl, chickens and sheep. A coal-fired cook stove warmed the barn.

"The next thing we've got to do is teach her some manners," Roberts said. "She doesn't know she's a horse yet."