It Takes A Village: Part 2

Emily Pugsley and Cha Ching have been a duo since 2015. Photo Credit: Wildwood Photography.

In June, on the way to the Rocky Mountain House Pro Rodeo, Emily Pugsley had her three-year-old colt, Danno, and her great barrel horse, Cha Ching, on her trailer when she was hit by a distracted driver. Immediately, a swift team approach was taken to ensure the well-being of both horses, with Cha Ching taking the brunt of the accident. In Part One of the Energy Equine Case Files we spoke with Emily about the accident, as well as Julie Parsonage of Horses in Harmony, and our own, Dr. Chad Hewlett of Energy Equine, about the hands-on approach they each took to make sure that Emily’s horses would be able to come back from this accident as strong as before. Today we follow up with Brigitte Meyer of Vitality Equine and Katie Imler of Coulee Equine about how each practitioner was able to bring their special interests to ensure Emily’s equine athletes felt their best.

Emily Pugsley has a sheer passion and love for rodeo, “I like to do it all, I like to tie goats, I like to rope, I love barrel racing, really anything on a horse that’s competitive, sign me up.” Cha Ching has been her go-to barrel horse since she purchased him in 2015. “I went down to a college in Texas on a full ride scholarship and knew I needed some horse power to compete down there. I purchased Cha Ching, but didn’t get him sent down there until the spring season. We rodeo’d down there, and then I decided that Texas wasn’t for me, and I wanted to come home and re-group.” Last year, Emily purchased her Canadian Pro Rodeo Association permit and has been hauling Cha Ching to pro rodeos, which she says has been a growth experience for her in her barrel racing career. “I really like the environment at the pro rodeos, the committees and the facilities are great and I find that everyone competing there is really good at losing, and that seems to be why they are winning. That’s why I decided to buy my permit, I wanted to get the experience, see the sites, travel. It wasn’t like I expected to go out there and fill my permit right away.”

The rodeo road has been full of ups and downs, and Emily says that her biggest accomplishment with Cha Ching came shortly after this winter. “I went to the college rodeos all fall and winter and I had some issues in smaller pens with such a big horse. I’ll admit I was a little scared about running in indoor arenas but I entered Stavely Pro Rodeo anyways. I switched some things up and I ended up just out of the money, in the crying hole, against some very serious competitors. There was a lot of talented horses, talented girls and Cha Ching and I were kind of right there in the running, it was really special. It showed me that we were working as a partnership, and we were heading in the right direction.”

Emily recalls that she called Julie Parsonage, an Equine Osteopath, of Horses in Harmony, and Brigitte Meyer, a Massage Therapist, of Vitality Equine the night of the accident. “Brigitte recommended that she work on both Danno and Cha Ching after Julie had worked on them. After Julie came out, Brigitte visited them shortly thereafter.”

Brigitte Meyer is an equine massage therapist who works closely with various cases that Energy Equine is involved in. Seen here, along with Dr. Hewlett, educating on massage therapy as part of the Energy Equine Lecture Series.

Brigitte Meyer, of Vitality Equine, is a EEBW (Equinology Body Worker) and holds a B.Sc in Biology. Brigitte has worked on Cha Ching since 2016 and lists him as one of her favourite equine clients to work with. “He is extremely expressive and generally a very happy horse. He will let me know exactly what massage strokes he likes, which ones he doesn’t, which ones are a bit “ouchy” and the best part of all is when he likes a stroke he will literally do a  “downward dog” and stretch it out!”

Brigitte says that she waited to get the clear from Dr. Hewlett of Energy Equine before visiting Cha Ching and Emily’s younger horse, Danno. “After an injury, it’s important for the attending veterinarian to clear them for bodywork, I think this is what allows for effective team work. The scope of practice of each of our roles are honoured.” After the accident, Brigitte says that Cha Ching took longer than normal to release, and that his limbic system, the brain structures responsible for emotion, seemed to be preventing his physical releases. “Had I not known Cha Ching previously I might not have known that his mood felt different. As a biologist and in my practice I bring a very scientific approach to my massage methodology. I am proud to say that my knowledge in anatomy and biology is what allows me to accurately deal with muscle tension and restricted movements. This same scientific base is what also allows me to work closely alongside veterinarians. However, I do think it is important to note, and any horse savvy person will understand, that working with horses involves intuition and heart as well. I believe, and I know everyone else on Cha Ching’s team does too, that our horses emotions and behaviours play a huge role in their healing. It is very important for me to analyze horse’s response, reactivity and behaviour during the session as well.”

Brigitte says that in terms of his muscles, his main areas of concern were his abdominals and lumbar tissues (lower back) on his right side. Brigitte notes that these areas felt weak, and were quite reactive to palpation. Brigitte says that, “this was the area I wanted to address, but instead of getting my fingers in these areas, I addressed his cervical (neck) tissues.” Brigitte laughs, “So now, you may be wondering, why the heck would I go to a totally different area when I know exactly where the problem is?  Well, firstly I knew previous sessions that Cha Ching loves his cervical massages, so instead of addressing his weak and reactive groups first, I made him feel good. I created some joy and facilitated some great releases. Secondly, every equine bodyworker knows all of their muscles are connected, whether it’s the muscles themselves that start behind the skull and reach the pelvis, or it’s the connective fascia tissue that connects muscles together. It’s all connected. So, in actuality by addressing his cervical tissues, I was just warming up the origins of some of his back tissues.”

After facilitating the releases in his neck Brigitte then activated his core muscles with what she refers too as “horsey sit ups” and addressed his lumbar tissues. Due to the sensitivity of the area Brigitte says she, “paid attention to what Cha Ching was telling me and was really thrilled with the changes in right lumbar mobility we were able to make, just by working out some adhesions (knots) in this area. We achieved better right lumbar engagement, but we didn’t get it 100% yet. Nonetheless, less is more and with horses. These types of muscle tension, especially those that involve the limbic system, take a few sessions to work out. So I was very happy with the releases we facilitated for our first session together!” After their first session together, Brigitte worked on him a few days after another re-evaluation by Dr. Hewlett and a session with Julie. “Julie and I specifically coordinated alternative sessions, it was great to see that we all observed similar changes and findings within the two week period.”

Cha Ching showing off his highly visible releases while Brigitte Meyer, of Vitality Equine, works on him.

Brigitte’s recommendation for Emily was a list of activations to do with Cha Ching in the AM and PM. “Emily bends over backwards for her athletes, and I knew I could count on her to apply this activation routine. The routine consisted of 4 exercises to help activate core, back and hind end tissues. The activations were chosen for Cha Ching to help him strengthen his weaker tissues and prevent compensatory mechanisms from forming. It is so important for owners to be involved in the healing process of their athletes as it expedites their healing significantly.” Brigitte says that the team approach to animal health and wellness allows for open flows of communication between horse professionals and the owner and most importantly, she says, “it allows us to paint a bigger picture, to look at the athlete as a whole, so that nothing gets missed. The biggest positive to multiple horse professionals working on the same athlete and working together, is that we expand our perspective. Dr. Hewlett, Julie, Katie and I all have our areas of expertise, we do not claim to know everything. So why not bring all of our minds together, create a super mind, and help your athlete do the best they can do!”

Katie Imler, owner of Coulee Equine and equine sports therapist, treats a horse at the Cold Water Salt Spa at her facility.

Dr. Hewlett visited Cha Ching a week post-accident and recommended that Cha Ching visit Coulee Equine, and owner Katie Imler, because the healing had been progressing significantly. Coulee Equine is located in Olds, Alberta and is Western Canada’s premier facility for equine conditioning, rehabilitation and wellness. The aim of Coulee Equine is to provide custom programs to promote the longevity of equine athletes, no matter the discipline. Katie Imler, owner of Coulee Equine, is a certified equine sports therapist with training in equine massage and osteopathy, equine kinesiology taping and the equine Proscope, to name a few. Katie says that despite Cha Ching being new to the facility, he did great in his week there, “because Cha Ching had already been evaluated by Energy Equine it was easy for us to follow with their diagnosis and design a program that worked best for him. His back was inflamed from the accident, so our main goal was to help his body heal that area in the shortest time frame possible and help him come back feeling better than before the accident.”


Cha Ching enjoys a Proscope session while at Coulee Equine.

While at Coulee Equine, Cha Ching received Cold Salt Spa treatments, Infrared Solarium sessions, Proscope 360 treatments, Dynamint and poultice application and was on the indoor exerciser. Katie says, “we recommend all clients check in with their vet to make sure their horse is on a rehabilitation program that best suits their needs. If the inflammation returns we suggested that Cha Ching come back for further sessions. Maintenance is another thing we recommend for every horse, especially after an injury. Anything we can do to keep the horse strong and performing their best all season. We like to talk with our clients and make a plan that best suits their horse and their goals.”Coulee Equine is a huge supporter of the team approach to equine wellness. “At our facility we work very closely with vets and other professionals. We strongly feel that every professional has something to offer and when we come together, it’s amazing what we can do for the animals. Once we have a diagnosis on exactly what is wrong it speeds up the recovery time so much. When there is a team of equine professionals on the same page the possibilities are endless.”

Cha Ching is now on the road to recovery, with regular visits from his team, and close monitoring by Emily who has learned some key lessons from the accident. “I’m not going to take another run, let alone a ride, for granted on him. Looking forward to when we get back into the arena I want to get consistent with what I’m asking of him and just get him trusting that every time I ask him, it will be the same thing. I’m really just going to take it one run at a time, I don’t have huge expectations, I’m just glad that we are as lucky as we were and that he’s going to recover and be okay. I’ll take six to eight weeks off no problem and come back with even smaller expectations if it means running him successfully and happily again.”


Energy Equine Veterinary - High Performance Sports MedicineEnergy Equine Veterinary Services is a leading edge veterinary clinic and premier veterinary facility, located in Airdrie, Alberta that serves Western Canada and beyond. Energy Equine has a specific interest in equine sports medicine and treats top tier equine athletes in all Western and English disciplines. A team of focused and driven veterinarians, along with exceptional veterinary technicians and support staff, means that outstanding service is first and foremost to all who walk through the Energy Equine doors. At Energy Equine, our slogan is #StartStrongFinishStronger, and truly, that is the ethos of the veterinary practice. In areas of repair, conditioning, development and recovery, Energy Equine assesses the complete structure of the horse so that perfect balance can be achieved. The ability to apply new and cutting edge healing technologies to equine athletes, and then watch the athlete recover from a performance limiting injury and continue to successfully compete is what Energy Equine is passionate about, and what we love to do. For more information about Energy Equine, and who we are, please visit: or “like” us on Facebook and Instagram