Finalists Announced for 2017 Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year Award

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is proud to partner with Zoetis in recognizing and announcing the finalists for the 2017 Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year Award.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is proud to partner with Zoetis in recognizing and announcing the finalists for the 2017 Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year Award.

The award was created in 2010 to spotlight and honor veterinarians who are dedicated to the health and welfare of rodeo livestock. PRCA rodeo committees, PRCA members and contestants can nominate a veterinarian whom they feel has shown an extraordinary commitment to the health and welfare of rodeo livestock, and is deserving of this prestigious award. A selection committee, comprised of industry experts and advocates, takes into account each nominee’s specific contributions to the health and welfare of rodeo livestock. Additional criteria, including the extent of involvement in the sport of rodeo, as well as community involvement, also are considered by the selection committee.

The recipient of the 2017 Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year Award will be announced in mid-October and will be honored at the PRCA Awards Banquet on Dec. 6 at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Twelve outstanding veterinarians were nominated for the 2017 Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year Award. The following five distinguished veterinarians have been selected as finalists.

Dr. Jerry Billquist, Boerne, Texas. Nominated by the Montana ProRodeo Circuit

A three-time finalist of the award, Dr. Billquist has been the onsite and head veterinarian for the Montana PRCA ProRodeo Circuit Finals for more than 25 years. Although Dr. Billquist’s home and practice are in Boerne, Texas, he continues to make the trip to Great Falls, Mont., each January. While attending every performance as a volunteer, Dr. Billquist performs both pre- and post-performance livestock inspections, as well as providing care for rodeo livestock during the rodeo performance. Dr. Billquist works closely with contestants, stock contractors and the rodeo committee to ensure the health and safety of rodeo livestock. He also served a key role in developing the livestock injury response plan for the Montana PRCA ProRodeo Circuit Finals. “I have had the pleasure of knowing him on a personal and professional level,” said PRCA Rodeo announcer Will Rasmussen. “The most impressive item on his résumé should be his allegiance to the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo. That’s where it all began for Dr. Billquist, in Northern Montana, and he continues to show his loyalty. Montana Circuit committee member David Wagner said of Dr. Billquist: “His professionalism shines inside and outside the arena.”

Dr. Benjamin Espy, San Antonio, Texas. Nominated by the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo

Dr. Espy, a life member of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition (S.A.L.E.) and board certified Theriogenologist, began volunteering at the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo in 1997. Over the past 19 years he has earned the respect of all involved with the annual event. During the 18-day run, more than 60,000 animals move on and off the grounds under the watchful eye of Dr. Espy. With a passion for higher education, Dr. Espy works as an advisor to the students who receive the Veterinary School Scholarships through S.A.L.E. and serve an externship at the annual Stock Show & Rodeo. Through his mentorship, these students are provided practical, hands-on experience. Dr. Espy’s professional affiliations include the King Ranch, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners and The Horse magazine, to name a few. “During the rodeo, Dr. Espy is dependable and maintains a composed presence,” said Keith Martin, Executive Director and CEO of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. “His work ethic distinguishes him, and he is an admirable ambassador for the sport of rodeo.”

Dr. Troy Ford, Clovis, California. Nominated by the Clovis Rodeo Association

The son of a longtime Clovis Rodeo committee member and volunteer, Dr. Ford grew up working the stripping chutes every last weekend of April during the annual rodeo. Following graduation from the University of California Davis Veterinary School, and an internship at New Bolton Veterinary School and Texas A&M Veterinary Surgical Center, Dr. Ford returned to Clovis and has been the official rodeo veterinarian since 1993. Dr. Ford unselfishly gives of his time and expertise to the Fresno and Clovis Police departments’ Horse Patrol Units, Fresno Humane Animal Services, Fresno Chaffee Zoo and numerous vocational education programs. “He is, without doubt, a hands-on veterinarian,” said PRCA stock contractor John Growney, of Growney Brothers’ Rodeo. “Regardless of the situation, whether it is a bucking bull or a tie-down animal, Dr. Ford is always ready and waiting to do whatever it takes to ensure the animal’s health and wellness, without losing sight of the spirit of competition and the betterment of rodeo in general. He has proven time and time again to be the right man for the job, and his actions speak for themselves.”

Dr. Gary Harbin, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada. Nominated by Ponoka Stampede Association

The tenure of Dr. Harbin, an active member of the Ponoka Stampede Association since 1974 and former Director of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, has included many duties that are essential to the operation of rodeo, but he has always been focused on the livestock involved in rodeo. As the official veterinarian and roughstock director for the Ponoka Stampede Association, his duties are all inclusive. From selecting the most even stock available to feeding and caring for the livestock each morning, the welfare of the livestock always come first. In 2012, the efforts of Dr. Harbin to “give every contestant a chance to win the rodeo” were recognized with the PRCA Remuda Award. Speaking of the dedication Dr. Harbin exhibits, Blair Vold, President of the Ponoka Stampede Association said: “As in his veterinary practice, his standards for animal care were always second to none, and Gary has always been a strong advocate for the stock we employ at the rodeo. His work and dedication has and continues to make every aspect of our rodeo better.”

Dr. Michael Harms, Canby, Oregon. Nominated by Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo, Canby Rodeo

As a Rotarian for more than 30 years and exemplifying the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self,” Dr. Harms has dedicated his life to the welfare of animals, livestock and his community. Serving as the veterinarian for the Clackamas County Fair for 45 years and as the veterinarian for the Canby Rodeo for more than 20 years, Dr. Harms has been an invaluable livestock welfare resource to the rodeo committee. He has not only been very generous in his dedication to animals, but also to the youth of the area. In 2007, Dr. Harms was awarded the Red Cross Good Samaritan award for saving the life of a young girl involved in a terrible automobile accident. “Doc is a very humble man who enjoys helping others, and the amount of time he has given to our rodeo, fair, community and individuals is overwhelming,” said Paul Borgen, Canby Rodeo Committee Chairman. “He has primarily focused on large animals, but his door is always open to anyone with an animal in need or distress. Always dealing with empathy and compassion for not only the animal, but also the owner.”

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