Lisa Lockhart chasing history at National Finals Rodeo

When Lisa Lockhart bursts into the Thomas and Mack Center on Thursday, she will be chasing more than just barrels.

The world-class cowgirl will be chasing history.

The Circle, Montana native will be competing at her 17th consecutive National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Professional rodeo’s premier event is Dec. 7-16 and features the top 15 competitors in each event. The record $11.5 million payout will determine the 2023 world champions. A first round win is worth $30,706 while first place in the average pays another $78,747.

Lockhart, who now lives in Oelrichs, South Dakota, enters the NFR fifth in the world standings with $134,592 won. This is her best regular season finish since 2018 when Lockhart came to Las Vegas fourth in the standings.

“It was a great year,” Lockhart said. “The horses stayed healthy and that’s huge.”

Lisa Lockhart

Two-time world champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, of Lampasas, Texas, leads with $270,563.

Lockhart is the winningest barrel racer in NFR history, with more than a $1 million earned under the bright lights.

And she only needs $79,820 to pass Sherry Cervi as the WPRA’s all-time money winner. Cervi, Lockhart and Tonozzi are the only three barrel racers to surpass $3 million in career earnings.

“There is a lot of money there,” Lockhart said of the NFR. “You made the big show. That’s what we all aspire to do.

“It’s the pinnacle. You made it. You rode to get there and here we are.”

A year ago, she earned $168,326 at the NFR to vault from 14th to fourth in the final 2022 world standings.

In 2021 and 2022, Lockhart found herself competing on the final day on the regular season, scrambling to qualify for the NFR. With her daughter Alyssa’s wedding scheduled for Sept. 30 of this year, Lockhart altered her 2023 schedule.

“I was more strategic,” she said. “I tried to be smarter, more analytical. I was going to go more for the big money rodeos.”

The pivotal point in her summer came a week after a muddy Fourth of July run. Competing at the Calgary Stampede, The NFR Open in Colorado Springs and Sheridan, Wyoming, Lockhart earned $47,063 from July 7-15. The bulk, $32,950 in Canada as she went back and forth to the rodeos.

She started the run in Calgary, went to Colorado Springs and Sheridan, then back to Calgary.

“There were some all-nighters,” said Lockhart, who was in Canada and Greeley, Colorado at the end of June, followed by a Fourth of July run that included Red Lodge, Belle Fourche, South Dakota, Cody, Wyoming and Livingston. “But they were doable.”

She was helped by sister Angie Lockwood of Volborg. “She is the best helper ever,” said the younger sister. Husband Grady helped with switching horses, making the trades in Belle Fourche and at midnight at the Douglas, Wyoming fairgrounds.

Lockhart added another $8,427 in Nampa, Idaho a week later. She earned $55,490 in 15 days.

Lockhart pulled her rig back into the family driveway on July 25.

“It was a busy month,” said Lockhart. “A lot of traveling, but it wasn’t horrible. What the horses accomplished in July, I am very appreciative.”

She would add second place finishes in Sidney, Billings, Douglas, Wyoming, Gordon, Nebraska and Pendleton, Oregon before ending her regular season in mid-September.

Two weeks after her daughter’s wedding, Lockhart won the Badlands Circuit title for a second straight year to qualify for the 2024 NFR Open. Oldest son Thane competed in tie-down roping.

“You always get nervous for your kids. You want the best for them,” she said. “Alyssa qualified a couple of years ago (in breakaway roping) and we need her out there again to make it a family deal.”

Her new son-in-law, Garrison Allen of Laurel, was one of the announcers.

Lockhart primarily rode Levee and Rosa during the regular season. She plans to take Levee and Cutter to Las Vegas.

“Levee is so well-rounded,” she said of the seven-year-old gray gelding. “He is so consistent. You can throw him in most situations, wherever he is up and feel confident. Cutter is fast. Just not consistent. It’s such a team effort.”

Catching Tonozzi will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean Lockhart is pulling up the reins.

“You want to have a good Finals. It’s good business,” she said. “Obviously, it’s what you worked for. You have to get fired up about it.

“You never take it for granted.”

Courtesy of Great Falls Tribune

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