The record-breaking rodeo star talks preparing for NFR, favorite memories, and advice for young barrel racers.
With more than 15 NFR qualifications under her belt, Lisa Lockhart has made barrel racing history time and time again since her entrance into the PRCA in 1991. In 2020, she surpassed Sherry Cervi in total money won at the NFR. Now, she stands as the No. 2 barrel racer in the world.
How does life look from the top of the world for Lockhart?
C&I got to chat with the rodeo legend on the occasion of her 17th NFR.
C&I: You’re wrapping up 2023 on a major high note. What are you looking back on most fondly in 2023?
Lisa Lockhart: There are so many moving parts to a season and every dollar earned is crucial, but I would have to say the Calgary Stampede was a big turning point for me in the midst of a very busy July.
C&I: You’re heading to your 17th NFR this year. How are you gearing up to compete? Do you have a favorite memory from NFRs past?
Lockhart: I think the prep for me is 365 days a year. It’s what I do all year long. There are definitely things geared toward certain aspects of the season, like prepping my horses for running in a smaller arena like the Thomas & Mack Arena. The same goes for the mindset. I need to know what my job is going to be for a particular arena or horse that I am riding and apply it to the best of my ability.
Favorites are hard for me — they are all spectacular memories. But I think winning the first round of the 2010 NFR on Louie is special. It was the beginning of almost a decade on a very special horse. Louie made 85 runs in the Thomas & Mack Arena.
C&I: You’re competing this year with Team Polaris. What drew you to the team?
Lockhart: What drew me to the team was having like-minded individuals in regard to being fierce competitors. Being an “individual” sport, having a “team” concept is a blast! Not only is it a stellar team in the arena, but Polaris as a company is an exceptional team to advocate.
C&I: You’ve been a PRCA member since 1991. Have you felt a shift in the rodeo industry as the younger generations enter?
Lockhart: Oh, my, how it has changed! The level of professionalism is above and beyond in all aspects — humans and livestock. The horses we ride and the stock other events compete on is absolutely astounding. Minute details matter as to whether we win or lose, and the stakes of winning have definitely increased over the years.
C&I: Is there a piece of advice you have for the many young rodeo athletes that look up to you?
Lockhart: Jennifer Lee said, “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” I don’t know how it could be said any better. No matter what your career path is, you get out of it what you put into it. You also need to remember that there are a lot of bumps in the road. But always do what works for you regardless of what others are doing around you. Success is a journey, so be patient with the process.
C&I: Do you have a barrel racing idol that you look up to?
Lockhart: My peers are my idols. There is so much to be learned from them on a regular basis. They inspire me to keep doing better every day.
C&I: How do you pull yourself through the rough patches that are inevitable in any career as long as yours?
Lockhart: I always just say that life is a roller coaster, and you better be along for the whole ride. It’s hard not to let the lows define you, but I think that’s where the tough get tougher. It is a mindset to fight your way back to the top. Determination is a huge factor in the outcome.
C&I: How do you stay on top of your game after over two decades of competing?
Lockhart: This sport just keeps evolving, and it gets harder for any athlete to keep up. I have always tried to be a student of the game, and the attention to detail is more important than ever. I will just try to continue to strive for perfection the best I can.
I feel like as a barrel racer, one is only as good as their horsepower they’re riding. With that, I’m not sure how I’ve been so blessed over so many years to have horses that have taken me to this level. It was with my husband Grady’s encouragement in 2007 to pursue trying to accomplish an NFR qualification, and here we are today.
C&I: How do you stay grounded in the moment through all the success you’ve had over the years?
Lockhart: I am just a wife and a mom who loves horses, the cowboy lifestyle, is a competitive person, and is very fortunate to wrap it all up into a career that has been an incredible journey. We all have a story of how we got to where we are now, but we all started at the bottom. It has been said by many — it is not who we are, but what we do. My family is most important to me. I think it’s great that so many people find enjoyment in the sport of rodeo, and I just love to encourage people to take part in it, at any level.