By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — Tammy Dahlby will never recover from the loss of her Appaloosa stud colt, Leo — either emotionally or financially.
Sometime during the afternoon on Sunday, July 14, someone took the one-year-old colt out of his stall at a place on county Highway B south of Colfax, coerced the horse into going up three steps into an observation room and then tortured or frightened the young horse so badly that he broke through a wall and fell to the arena below.
Then they put him back into a different stall and left.
Leo suffered various leg, back, neck, hip, and internal injuries.
Two days later, after numerous veterinarian’s visits, and Tammy’s constant doctoring and care, Leo coliced, was running a fever, started leaking blood from his rectum and then went down and could not get up.
At that point, Tammy Dahlby made the difficult and heart-wrenching decision to end Leo’s suffering and put him down.
Now the Elk Mound resident is left with her grief over the loss of a gentle young horse who was going to be the future of her breeding program.
And she is left wondering — who in the world would do such a thing?
Leo could have reasonably been expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in stud fees and show earnings over his lifetime.
Dahlby has been working with horses since she was 12 years old, and Leo was the result of a breeding program that produced many foals before he came along with the right coloring, the right conformation, and the right temperament.
“It has been my dream for a long time to raise champion Appaloosa horses, which I’ve been doing, but I needed to get ‘that one’ to replace my old stallion to carry on my dream,” Dahlby said.
“I either was getting one that was colored right and the wrong sex or the right sex and right color, but no Appaloosa markings,” she said.
“My husband went out that morning (in March of 2012). I knew she was going to foal. I had been watching her and watching her. My husband went out to the shop about 5:30 one morning, and the phone rang. And the first words out of his mouth were, ‘I think you’re going to be happy,’” Dahlby recalled.
Throughout his short life, Leo was a joy to work with: calm, loving, willing to do what was asked of him.
Dahlby described him as having a gentle soul.
“Leo was showing a little improvement (after the attack on July 14) but then he started spraying blood from his rectum. Then he coliced and went down. He laid there with his legs twitching and he was slamming his head (on the floor). I put blankets under his head, and I asked the vet, ‘what can we do?’ And he said, ‘At this point, anything we do will just prolong it.’ And said, ‘Just put him down. I can’t watch him suffer anymore.’ Now I’m driving myself crazy, wondering what else we could have done, tormenting myself on what we could have done to save him,” Dahlby said.
Dahlby’s friends, neighbors, relatives and acquaintances in the horse community held a benefit horse show for her July 28.
The money raised will go toward helping Dahlby pay her vet bills — and for a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who harmed Leo.
There is no question that someone intended to harm Leo, Dahlby said.
After all, the horse did not let himself out of his stall, go into the observation room, hurt himself, and then put himself back into a different stall and latch the door, she said.
Although Dahlby lives closer to Elk Mound, Leo was being boarded at a place along county Highway B across the road from Denmark Dairy.
Although it is a remote possibility, Dahlby says she is hoping someone might have seen something suspicious or out of the ordinary the afternoon of July 14 that might help bring the perpetrators to justice.
If someone even just remembers seeing a car in the driveway that afternoon, it might help, she said.
Over the past few weeks, Dahlby says she has heard from people all over the country and from foreign countries as well, such as Australia and Africa, offering her their support.
“When Leo took his last breath, I was so angry, I didn’t know what to do with it,” Dahlby said.
“I can’t get it out of my mind, what that poor baby was thinking and feeling when this was happening to him. He was such a kind soul. What did they do to him that he was so afraid, he went through a solid wall? That was an unbelievable amount of fear,” she said.
A Facebook book page called “Fight for Leo” has been set up to help exchange information about fund-raising efforts and the ongoing investigation.
“People tell me that they are praying for me. I tell them, ‘don’t pray for me, pray for justice,’” Dahlby said.
“The waiting game is driving me crazy. I want an end to this. I need some closure,” she said.
Anyone with information that could help with the investigation can call the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department at (715) 232-1348.