Of the 28 horses left for dead on a farm in central Minnesota, six remain standing. They are in a barn just north of the Twin Cities, where Drew Fitzpatrick has them on the mend.
Fitzpatrick is a no-nonsense, straight-talking woman who runs the state's largest rescue center for horses. She has zero tolerance for the people who abandoned these animals. "It's inexcusable," she said. "Totally inexcusable."
Officials called to the scene in Todd County found 19 corpses; some were foals lying dead next to their mothers. When Drew arrived to pick up those still breathing, she found them pressed against the back of their stalls. There was just one mare.
"She had that dull, glazed-over look," Fitzpatrick remembered. "She was very tired, very hungry. I didn't know if she would be alive in the morning, I really didn't. And I don't think she did either."
Three weeks later, the mare is still so skinny, she looks almost malformed. Ribs stand out on her belly like zebra stripes.
"She looks like a roast chicken that you took all the chicken off of," said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick has been trying to put weight back on the mare. But she can't just give these horses all they can eat; she has to be careful. She has to start feeding them slowly, or they will eat so much they get sicker. She practically coaxes them back to life.
"We usually give them a half a dose of dewormer to try to kill some of the worms. You don't want kill them all at once, because you can have a worm ball impaction then," she explained. "But you do get the lice off of them right away. Having those nasty little bloodsucking lice on them, that really runs them down fast."
Fitzpatrick says all six of the Todd County horses are gaining weight and getting better. The psychological healing will come more slowly. When she opens the stall to toss a stallion some hay, he huddles in the corner.
"This poor little guy, he's just scared out of his mind," Fitzpatrick said. "He just thinks we're going to eat him." Slowly, with some comforting words from Fitzpatrick, the stallion emerges and eats his hay, as fast as he can.
Fitzpatrick expects these horses to survive and go to adoptive homes. But her organization is now tending 130 horses, a number that has increased significantly over the past few years. It appears her work will continue for sometime to come.