Texas resident Ashley Castleberry left Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital unsure if she had just whispered her final goodbye to her faithful friend and partner on the ProRodeo tour for the previous four years.
The veterinarians were clear about the precariousness of the situation for her 10‑year‑old quarter horse, Stormy, who had suffered severe injuries to his right hind limb when his trailer flipped not long after the pair left a rodeo in Walla Walla. The question was not whether the horse — who had helped to vault Castleberry among the top barrel racers in the country — would compete again. The question was would Stormy survive?
“Right after the wreck, the veterinarians who referred us to WSU were thinking he may need to be put down, and even if he lived, they said it would be unlikely we would be able to make a comeback,” Castleberry said.
But nearly six weeks after he was admitted to WSU, Stormy walked out of the hospital with Castleberry, not only alive but with the potential to rejoin Castleberry on the tour.
“We are just thankful that he’s back in Texas and for Washington State University for getting him back home,” Castleberry said. “I really want to thank everybody at WSU for how well they treated him.”
Castleberry first brought Stormy home as an inexperienced 4‑year‑old who had only just started training on barrels. It did not take long before the duo was regularly competing in barrel racing rodeo events and winning. In both 2020 and 2021, Castleberry finished ranked as one of the top 25 barrel racers in the country.
“He was a winner from the start,” Castleberry said. “I have been running him for almost six years and pro‑rodeoing on him for the past four years. He has gotten me to the Houston rodeo, the San Antonio rodeo, we’ve been all over the country to just about every rodeo.”
The rodeo tour took Castleberry to the Pacific Northwest this past summer for a series of events throughout Washington. After competing at the Walla Walla Frontier Days rodeo, Castleberry and Stormy loaded up and began the nearly three‑hour drive to the Ellensburg Rodeo.
Not far into the drive, the trailer carrying Stormy and a second horse flipped in an accident. The second horse had to be euthanized at the scene, but Stormy survived and was taken to a veterinarian in Sunnyside. Realizing the extent of the injuries, Stormy was referred to WSU.
Veterinarians at WSU, including equine surgeon Dr. Kelly Farnsworth and equine surgery residents Denise McSweeney and Jorge Sanclemente, provided round-the-clock care for Stormy, who had a pair of deep wounds on his right hind limb, including one exposing his tibia. The team was concerned Stormy could develop a serious infection or a bone sequestrum — when a piece of dead bone detaches from healthy bone — potentially resulting in a catastrophic fracture.
“His initial prognosis was guarded in terms of being discharged alive from the hospital. We discussed with his owner that our main goal was to save his life,” Sanclemente said.
After weeks of care at WSU, Stormy was finally able to be reunited with Castleberry and return home to Texas, where he is continuing to heal and rehabilitate. Castleberry remains optimistic he will be able to return to rodeo.
“I’m not going to rush him, but he just loves rodeoing,” she said. “I think with how fast a recovery he’s had, I think he’s just ready to get back to it. I just can’t thank WSU enough for getting him back home.”