Lisa Lockhart

Year after year, Lisa Lockhart falls short of the maximum amount of rodeos she can compete in toward her season earnings as a barrel racer. Why? "You don't get those moments back," she said of spending time with her children. 

LAS VEGAS — The list of Lisa Lockhart’s barrel racing accomplishments could fill a horse trailer.

The Circle native is competing at her 12th consecutive National Finals Rodeo, has four Canadian championships, twice has won The American and is a 14-time qualifier for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo.

The mother of three from Oelrichs, South Dakota, ranks second all-time in Women’s Professional Rodeo Association history for money won and is approaching $2.5 million in career earnings by the conclusion of the NFR. Last year, Lockhart surpassed $1 million in earnings at the NFR.

Lockhart has twice won the NFR average and finished among the top five in the final world standings seven times, including runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2015.

But lost among the numbers is a touch of irony.

There could have been so much more.

Barrel racers are allowed to count 100 rodeos toward their season earnings. Year after year, Lockhart finishes far short of that mark. This year, she counted 43 rodeos, the second fewest among the top 15 competitors turning the barrels at the Thomas and Mack Center.

Would entering a few more rodeos on her schedule have translated into potential world titles?

“Sometimes,” she said of the thought crossing her mind. “But this is what we decided to do. Otherwise, it’s just wishing.”

Because there is another title more important to Lockhart than being a world champion: mother.

Lockhart has primarily ridden three horses — Chisum, Louie and Rosa — during her 12 NFR qualifications.

Louie burst on the scene at the 2010 NFR when Chisum was injured during the practice session. The buckskin gelding was originally owned by Tim Bagnell of Polson and was to be used as a roping horse. When that didn’t work, Bagnell sent Louie to Lockhart to be trained as a barrel horse.

Lockhart and Louie placed in seven of 10 rounds in the horse’s NFR debut, winning the first and fifth rounds. They finished third in the average and Lockhart was fourth in the world standings.

Lockhart and her husband Grady purchased Louie from Bagnell following the NFR.

And that brought the scheduling dilemma.

Louie is a special horse, and for many barrel racers a once in a lifetime-type horse. But at the time of the purchase, the Lockhart children — daughter Alyssa and sons Thayne and Cade — were young and becoming involved in their own activities.

Lockhart had the necessary horsepower to jump into the frenzied gold buckle chase. But it would cost her precious time that she would never get back with her children.

“I try to make the best of the situation,” said Lockhart. “Do rodeos when we can around their schedules.”

For almost a decade, Lockhart’s schedule has followed the same pattern. She would leave home for the high-paying winter rodeos and return home at the end of March as her children’s activities began picking up the pace.

She would compete heavily in Canada in June and hit the road again hard starting with the Fourth of July run.

But Lockhart always adjusted her entries to her children’s calendars. She eventually cut back on her Canadian schedule as it conflicted with the children’s own rodeos.

With Alyssa now at Black Hills State University and Thayne and Cade in high school, she decided she would rather watch Friday night high school football games than being on the road somewhere in the northwest part of the United States heading to her next rodeo.

“It’s the little things that matter most,” Lockhart said. “Don’t tell me it’s just a game. You don’t get those moments back.”

She did miss Thayne’s senior night for football this past fall. Lockhart was in Minot, North Dakota, competing at the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“The sun came up the next day,” Lockhart said. “We just love following our kids.”

Email Joe Kusek at or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe

Sports writer at the Billings Gazette

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