Stormy’s owner is smiling after WSU vets got her horse through a close call

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By Erik Lacitis – Pacific NW magazine writer

Editor’s note: Pacific NW magazine’s weekly Backstory provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the writer’s process or an extra tidbit that accompanies our cover story. This week’s cover tells the stories of just a handful of the 10,000+ animals Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital sees every year, including a celebrity dog, an injured eagle and a pet ferret.

IN WRITING MY STORY about Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, I visited its facility for treatment of larger animals. There are 20 indoor stalls for horses, 11 for smaller ruminants such as sheep and 10 stalls for larger ones such as cattle.

In looking through hospital cases for these larger animals, one from 2022 got my attention.

I called Ashley Castleberry, 23, the owner of a 12-year-old Quarter Horse named Stormy. Both are back home now in Grapeland, Texas.

Castleberry is one of the top barrel racers in the country, an event in which horses and riders try for the fastest time running around preset barrels. On Sept. 4, 2022, at 3 in the morning, after a rodeo in Walla Walla, Castleberry was hauling Stormy and another horse to a rodeo in Ellensburg.

Suddenly, something happened to the ball hitch on the back of her pickup, and the trailer flipped. One horse had to be put down; Castleberry managed to get Stormy to Pullman, even though he had a deep wound to his right hind limb.

Stormy was lucky to be alive.

“He had the tibia exposed, and we were concerned he would develop a bone sequestrum. It’s potentially life-threatening. That’s when part of the bone is rejected from the rest of the bone. It’s dying,” Dr. Jorge Sanclemente, an equine surgery resident who helped treat Stormy, tells me.

Over six weeks, Stormy was bandaged; the bone was kept moist and X-rayed. “He was healing really well,” says Sanclemente.

Castleberry remembers, “I told them that I just wanted him to live a comfortable life in my house. He’s more than a rodeo horse. He’s part of our family. They tended to him every day. Sent me pictures of his wound and how it was healing.”

She says her insurance paid for about $8,000 of the $10,000-$12,000 hospital cost.

And Stormy? He’s back on the rodeo circuit.

And that’s why Castleberry is smiling in the picture she emailed me, as she stands by her horse.

Erik Lacitis on Twitter: @ErikLacitis. 206-464-2237 or [email protected]; on Twitter: @ErikLacitis.

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