It Takes A Village: Part 1

Emily Pugsley and her barrel horse, Cha Ching. Photo Credit: Roughstock Studio

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. Today on the Energy Equine Case Files we talk 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. Stay tuned for part two, next week, where 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 following the accident.

“I was headed North to Rocky Mountain House for the Pro Rodeo, I was entered in the slack and I had just passed into Cochrane city limits. I was at the intersection of Highway 22 and Fireside Drive, the lights before you start going down the really big hill into Cochrane. I was going to turn into the Shell gas station and was stopped at the light. The last thing I remember was that I was next to Carman Pozzobon who was hauling to Rocky Mountain House as well, and I was thinking, “hey, that’s so cool that we are heading to the same rodeo,” Emily recounts. “No one was coming south and as I turned onto Fireside Drive I saw a lady coming up the Cochrane hill really fast. I looked out my passenger window and she was looking down at her lap. I realized she wasn’t looking at where she was going, and I realized that she was not stopping. Then I heard the impact.”

“She hit the passenger side of the trailer, right around where the back wheels were. The first thing that went through my head was, were their heads down, are they going to be okay? I got out of my truck, ran to the back of the trailer and everyone was externally okay, but the trailer was a mess. One of the witnesses’ said they thought the trailer was going to flip over, he said that when she hit the trailer it rocked onto it’s side but managed to catch it’s centre of gravity and came back down.”

The accident occurred during rush hour and witnesses came rushing out to help Emily and her horses. “There were a lot of good people that stopped and helped. One of the those people, Thea, saw the accident and immediately called Cochrane Animal to come out. Then she called her sister, Kris, who trains and boards at Foxwood Stables to bring a trailer.” As they waited for the first veterinarian to arrive on scene, Emily says that she told paramedics she wasn’t going to remove her horses from the trailer to clear the intersection until they got the okay from a veterinarian. “There was glass and metal everywhere, her running board was right in their path. The horses were nervous from the lights and the sirens. I wasn’t going to back them out of a wrecked trailer in that situation.”

The attending veterinarian on scene had to crawl over the top of the dividers because they were jammed into pieces, he sedated Cha Ching, and then Emily crawled under Cha Ching and over to her colt, Danno, to sedate him. From there they backed them out together and took them over to the ditch on the side of the highway so that the veterinarian could check them both out. “Kris, from Foxwood, came shortly after with a trailer, she said she would drop me a pin and send me photos and that the horses would be safe so that I could stay to take care of everything.”

“After I left the scene, a family friend, George Neufeld, picked up my horses to bring them home to Priddis. Then I called Andrea, a summer student at Energy Equine and a good friend from back home in Saskatoon. She happened to have a truck and trailer at the clinic and she came to my house right away to bring the horses to Energy Equine so Dr. Hewlett could look them over. He was waiting for them when we got there.”

Emily has been a long-time client of Dr. Hewlett’s, and following her trailer accident, she brought her horses to Energy Equine for treatment.

Dr. Hewlett recalls that when Pugsley arrived with her horses he was pleased that neither was catastrophically hurt, but Cha Ching was especially sore through his lumbar and neck. “It was almost like he was bracing from the accident, so his whole body was muscle sore.” Dr. Hewlett recommended Bute for a few days, and a muscle relaxant to calm the soreness Cha Ching was feeling. “I recommended that Emily put her horses in a small paddock, where they could move around if they wanted too. I felt like complete box stall rest wasn’t the answer in this case.”

Dr. Hewlett knew right away that Cha Ching’s case of muscle soreness would be an excellent case for the team approach. “I know that Emily already works a lot with Brigitte of Vitality Equine and Julie of Horses in Harmony, so I told her that the first thing to do would be to get Brigitte over to work on the soft tissue. We want to make sure the lymphatic system is draining and that the myofascial is releasing.”

A week later Energy Equine followed up with Emily and her horses. “Both Julie and Brigitte had worked on them at this point. We performed a follow up exam on Cha Ching, he was lame behind, where he wasn’t exhibiting that lameness when we first treated him. I said that we shouldn’t do anything drastic in the moment and I felt at the time it was still muscle soreness. His regular maintenance had been done six weeks before, we had done his hocks, coffins and pasterns and so I knew his joints should be in good shape.” Dr. Hewlett says that injecting him at that point may have been a band-aid solution to his muscle soreness, “At the beginning, his soreness was focused in his neck and SI, I didn’t really want to inject either at that point because his muscles needed to relax. Injecting would have made him feel instantly better but I don’t know if that it would have given him the full pain release he needs. That is where the body work really comes into play.”

Two weeks later they made another visit to Emily. “Cha Ching had significantly improved, I felt that he was at a point where Emily could start him back to exercise and that perhaps we should inject his SI point in a few weeks, and that is where we are now with the case.”

When it came to Cha Ching’s case, Dr. Hewlett says that most of Energy Equine’s work was evaluation and pain management so that they could get Cha Ching’s range of motion back. Dr. Hewlett says that this was the perfect case for the team approach to be fully utilized. “I’m a big believer in soft tissue and myofascial release, and that’s not my personal wheel house, but I know that Brigitte of Vitality Equine is really good at it. As a veterinarian, it feels good when you can come into a situation and I am working with my client and they work with a bodyworker and an osteopath that I can trust. I can just say this is what I can recommend, and we go from there. We spend so much time building really positive relationships and really that only positively benefits the horse in the end.”

Julie Parsonage, of Horses in Harmony, performs Infrared Light Therapy on Emily’s barrel horse, Cha Ching.

Emily has always believed in the team approach to her equine athletes. “When I moved to Calgary from Saskatoon eight years ago, I met Julie Parsonage from Horses in Harmony first. She has been a huge part of every horse I’ve ever owned, I trust her with everything. It was Julie that sent me to Dr. Hewlett and Energy Equine. Both of them have such intuition and have taught me so much. It’s been a really amazing experience to grow with them and for our team to grow with each of the horses I’ve had in the last eight years. When this accident happened I knew that if I could try to explain to them what I thought my horses were feeling, they would understand what I was saying. I’m sure they have the same repertoire with each of their clients, but personally I feel like I can tell them where the problem is and they’ll value my opinion and work with what I’m thinking is wrong.”

Julie Parsonage, of Horses in Harmony, is an Equine Osteopath, EDO and Performance Practitioner that has been practicing equine therapies since 1999. Cha Ching is a regular patient of Julie’s and she spoke with Emily, as well as Dr. Hewlett, the day of the incident and consulted with each. Julie says that her initial findings included inflammation and slight swelling and tenderness over his lumbar and an imbalance in the sacrum. “His left shoulder and scapula and upper forearm also had inflammation and slight swelling. His intercostal muscles on both sides of his ribcages were very tight, restricting movement and breathing. He also had blocked mobility in his occiput, cervical one and two, as well as cervical five. Cranial sutures were very tight. Cha Ching is a very sensitive horse, so emotional trauma was also evident in his mannerisms.”

Julie first treated Cha Ching with Infrared Light Therapy and light massage. “Initially I was being very cautious of sensitivity, acute pain and swelling. I applied very light massage and gently manipulated the spine in an attempt to normalize his overall structure so that the flow of all body fluids: blood, lymphatic and cerebral spinal fluids could circulate to flush toxins and allow for efficient C02 and oxygen exchange. Releasing the spine created better nerve function and also stimulated the viscera. After the main bodywork I performed cranial sacral therapy using energy channeling to release restrictions. Throughout the entire session I applied energy channeling as an effective non-invasive therapy for clearing blockages in the body and to bring balance and clearing to the body’s meridians. I applied applied light massage on his abdominal area to release tension and create better digestion.” Since then, Julie has visited Cha Ching again for a follow-up session to ensure that Cha Ching’s healing was progressing well. “I revisited areas of concern and was also able to address deeper layers of issues that surface as the body heals and is rebalancing.”

Parsonage says that she was in full agreement with Emily’s treatment plan to continue regular consultations with Dr. Hewlett, as well as sessions with a massage therapist, Brigitte Meyer of Vitality Equine, and then time at Coulee Equine for further rehabilitation with their salt spa and other therapies they provide. “I have a very strong belief that it takes a “team” approach to provide the best care for our equine athletes. Every person who participates in a regular maintenance program or emergency situation whether it is the Veterinarian, massage therapist, osteopath, farrier, dentist or owner all play a huge role in the health and well-being of the horses. Each professional/practitioner brings their own unique skill-set to the session and each sees and addresses a variety of different and often the same concerns, but each with a different approach that is effective and beneficial to the overall health of the horse. In the end – we all have the same goal which is to provide the best therapies possible to enhance the horse’s well being and performance!”

Working with a team that Emily trusted made her feel more secure after the accident. “It’s everyone’s biggest fear to get in a wreck with a trailer. When I took the horses to Energy Equine, Dr. Hewlett’s veterinary technologist, Julie Shackleton, made sure I knew what was going on at all times. When I first hauled my horses there, Julie told me that if I had called Energy Equine, no matter how busy they were, someone would have come out to the scene. That was just such a comforting and wonderful thing to hear in that moment. It really feels like a family effort, Julie Parsonage recommends Dr. Hewlett and Brigitte Meyer of Vitality Equine, Brigitte recommends both Julie and Dr. Hewlett, and all three of them recommended Katie Imler of Coulee Equine. It’s a team effort and it’s not just me that realizes it, it takes a village, every one has a different speciality that they thrive in and live for, and that is really, pretty cool.”

Stay tuned for It Takes A Village: Part Two, where we follow Cha Ching’s progress with Brigitte Meyer of Vitality Equine and Katie Imler of Coulee Equine as well as follow up with Dr. Hewlett about his recommendations for the future so that Emily’s horse’s can #StartStrongFinishStronger.

Energy Equine Veterinary - High Performance Sports Medicine

Energy 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