Prayers answered: North Dakota horses saved after rancher battles blizzard

Less than 24 hours after what seemed like a nightmare, all the snow and ice have now melted off her horses

SOUTH HEART, N.D. – The blizzard of 2022 will be remembered for generations to come on a small North Dakota ranch nestled in the heart of Stark County.

When the snowstorm hit, Hollie Wilson knew it was going to be bad. She prepared and then prepared more, thinking it would be enough. But it wasn't.

"People said we didn't prepare. Rest assured, we definitely did. We just never imagined that this would have been this bad," said Wilson, the owner of Rockin’ 33 Performance Horses in South Heart.

Her seven horses were covered in ice and shivered uncontrollably for three days. Snowdrifts, some as tall as 10-feet, trapped them inside their barn as the historic April blizzard pounded the Northern Plains.

The feeling of helplessness and watching something she had worked towards her entire life falling through her fingertips was too much to face. Afraid of hypothermia and colic, Wilson made a trail Thursday morning and dug her horses out.

Less than 24 hours after what seemed like a nightmare, all the snow and ice have now melted off her horses.

@foxweather The #horses that were buried in #snow after a historic #blizzard in #NorthDakota are doing much better now, according to their owner. #horsesoftiktok #goodnews ♬ original sound - FOX Weather 


"And they look great. They're happy and healthy and eating," she said.

However, the same could not be said for her barn which she thought was going to be secure for her horses. It now stands as an unrecognizable frozen trough filled with farm equipment and snow, floor to ceiling. Outside, snowdrifts topple steel fences, swallowing old head-catch gates. 

Yet, it’s the flooding of positive comments and encouragement received from around the world since her horses went viral that have been uplifting to Wilson.

"All of us ranchers definitely need that. We were all getting discouraged at one point. And there are so many more ranchers that are bigger than we are," she said.

The storm that sat over the Plains this week hadn’t been witnessed in 25 years, according to Wilson.

Walking around her ranch, it’s hard to not miss the incomprehensible height of the snowdrifts. In days to come, that will all melt, but the joy in learning that Wilson’s prized horses are remarkably recovering will last a lifetime.

"They faired very, very well through it all," she said.

Wind gusts recorded as high as 60 mph in some parts of the state ripped parts of tin off the barn's roof and siding, leaving sunlight peering straight out into the pasture. 

@foxweather A #NorthDakota woman’s seven #horses were buried in #snow during the state’s historic #blizzard#Snowdrifts up to 7 feet high have been reported in parts of the state. #horsesoftiktok ♬ original sound - FOX Weather 

The damage from the storm will take months to rebuild for the family just trying to develop a little horse ranch with a few heads of cattle. They don’t have much of a pasture because of the drought that has plagued the region.

The winter storm is believed to have broken a more than 100-year-old snowfall record.

North Dakota's previous greatest three-day snowfall was in Lisbon, which picked up 35 inches in 1915, but during the recent storm, the National Weather Service says that Minot picked up 36 inches, with tallies still underway.

Record snowfall or not, Wilson wants to build a nicer barn with an indoor arena with stalls for when the time comes for another astronomical Midwest winter storm.

"And I am sure it'll come again," she said.

A GoFundMe has been established to help Wilson fix her barn. Click here to learn more.