What Every Aspiring NFR Barrel Racer Should Know – with PRCA Veterinarian of the Year, Dr. Marty Tanner

What Every Aspiring NFR Barrel Racer Should Know - with 2016 PRCA Veterinarian of the Year, Dr. Marty Tanner

Listen to this interview in audio form! It’s #203 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
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After making the cross country move from northern Wyoming to central Texas in 2013, I had several quality options when it came to selecting a primary veterinarian in our area that would oversee our horse’s care.

I was familiar with Dr. Marty Tanner and knew he was the vet. of choice for several NFR barrel racers. As someone with BIG barrel racing goals, it didn’t take long to decide and get established with him at Elgin Veterinary Hospital in Elgin, Texas.

Dr. Tanner was named the 2016 Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year in recognition of his extraordinary dedication, commitment and service to the well-being of professional rodeo livestock.

Dot Com, Heather and Dr. Tanner
Dot Com, Heather and Dr. Tanner

An article by Matt Naber in the ProRodeo Sports News quoted PRCA World Champion Tie Down Roper Monty Lewis as saying, “He is one of the best performance horse veterinarians in North America, and we are very blessed that he gives the rodeo community so much attention. With his renowned facility and his progressive and innovative approach, he is very deserving of the ultimate recognition. The world standings are filled with competitors who owe a large portion of their success to him.”

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I am grateful to Dr. Tanner for lending his wisdom and experience in an interview I’m excited to share below that offers valuable horse health insights (and more) for equestrians in any discipline who want to deliver the very best care possible to their equine athletes.

How many years have you been practicing Veterinary Medicine?
I graduated from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1986. Moved to Elgin in 1992 and practiced here from 1992-2000 and 2012-current.

Did you always intend to work with performance horses?
I have always been focused on performance horses but my first focus was racing.

What are the most common injuries you see in barrel horses?
Most common injuries are lameness. Of these joint issues are by far the most common. These can be trauma in origin or arthritic in nature.

What are the most important steps we can take to help prevent these injuries?
With out a doubt the most important step to preventing injury is proper conditioning. Most horses are under conditioned to handle their work load.

What kind of maintenance care do you feel more performance horses would benefit from, that they might not be getting?
Routine veterinary exams. These can help detect a problem before it becomes severe and prevent down time.

What kind of maintenance could we be doing more of at home/on the road to better support our horses?
Quick daily leg exams are important.

  • Is there more fluid in a joint than usual?
  • Is there any heat in a particular joint or structure?
  • Is there abnormal shoe or foot wear compared to the other feet?
  • Does your horse stand with one front foot in front of the other or unloaded weight?
  • Does your horse prop one hind leg more than the other?

These exams are best done the morning after a run following a proper cool out time.

If we invest in therapy tools to support our barrel horses, what would you suggest or have you seen good results from?
Ice boots, Soft Ride boots and Back on Track leg wraps.

What area(s) should we as competitors become more educated in to be better caretakers of our horses?
Anatomy and know YOUR horse. They are all different but NOTICE ANY CHANGE!

What can barrel racers do to educate and prepare ourselves and our horses to be an ideal client?
Proper health care and vaccinations, proper hoof care, proper nutrition for YOUR horse and again…NOTICE A CHANGE!

What is the most challenging part of your career?
The hours away from family it takes to do the job well.

What is the most rewarding part?
Seeing a horse return to competition that had been given up on.

What type of cases, challenges or tasks do you enjoy the most?
Sports medicine

What does “a day in the life of Dr. Tanner” look like during the NFR?
Each day starts at 7:00 a.m. I make rounds and examine each horse I am responsible for. They are treated accordingly as needed. This consists of a complete lameness and physical exam. I have to know each horse inside and out to notice a change. I am usually done around 11:00 a.m. The horses start arriving to the grounds around 3:30 p.m. So I am there to give them a quick go-over once again prior to the performance.

The performances start at 6:30 so things move fast. During this time any pre-race medications, like Lasix for example are given. Immediately after the performance I go over each horse again for any obvious problems incurred during the rodeo, administer any medications needed to prepare for the next day. This usually ends around 10:30.

What activities do you enjoy outside of the clinic?
Family! We show Simmental heifers and love the cattle, competition, travel and family time it gives us.

What experience, expertise, talent or skill does the team at Elgin Veterinary Hospital have that sets you apart?
I would hope our clients say they get the best of individual care from Doctors that have the knowledge and experience to handle whatever need a horse may have. That we really care about what we are doing. Most of all, I hope they feel that each one of them is just as important as any professional. I care not what level you are at. Your horse is just as important to you and I want you treated that way.

If you had a piece of horse health advice for an amateur barrel racer with dreams of making the NFR, what would it be?
It’s not health advice, it’s life advice. Learn how to ride! Don’t sacrifice winning for learning. I promise that if you work hard enough to learn how to do it right, the winning will follow. If you don’t… then you won’t.

The biggest mistake I see is to over-mount, especially a kid. If you can’t drive a half ton pickup properly, you certainly can’t drive a Ferrari!
Lastly, read your Bible. Everything you need to know is in there. 🙂


I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Dr. Tanner was presented a buckle during the first performance and honored during the 2016 PRCA Awards Banquet at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas.

According to this article at ProRodeo.com, “The Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year Award was created in 2010 to recognize the dedication of veterinarians across North America to the health and welfare of rodeo livestock. PRCA rodeo committees, PRCA members and contestants have the opportunity to 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. The selection committee reviews those nominations for specific contributions to the health and welfare of rodeo livestock, extent of involvement in the sport of rodeo and community involvement.”

Dr. Tanner has now set up his Veterinary practice near Weatherford, Texas. To stay up to date and learn more about the services he offers, visit Tanner Equine on Facebook.

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