Are you ready for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 2021? Lisa Lockhart is! Catch this awesome interview we were able to catch before her 15th NFR. Lisa is ready for a World Title so we wanted to catch up and see how’s she’s been getting ready.
CLN: Can you give our audience a little bit of background on how you got into barrel racing?
Lisa: I grew up in rural eastern Montana, with my family farming and ranching, so it’s always just been a western lifestyle for me. Starting from the time I was a little girl, I’ve always been extremely horse crazy, whether riding or just “hanging out “ for hours with them. I had the privilege of getting to compete in rodeos as a young girl because of my sisters before me that got the ball rolling. I was involved in youth and high school rodeo growing up, but I was also involved in sports, so because of sports and our northern winters, the rodeo was more of a seasonal thing for me. I graduated from Montana State University with an Elementary Education degree and also competed in college rodeo. From there, I went to the amateur level and got my feet wet at the professional level by competing locally. I always say your horsepower dictates your level of competition, where you go, and what you do, so that is how things progressed for me. It wasn’t until 2006 that my husband was the one that encouraged me to go more, as he felt like I had the horsepower to do so. In 2006 I became the Canadian Champion Barrel Racer at my first Canadian Finals Rodeo, and following that in 2007 was my first National Finals Rodeo qualification, and the rest is history. It’s been 15 amazing years for sure!
CLN: Was there a time you wanted to do any other event in rodeo?
Lisa: I competed in all events (pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, and barrel racing) throughout my youth and high school years. I became a National Little Britches Pole Bending Champion on a horse that my older sister had trained. That was my first “big” win as well as going to the National High School Finals in the pole bending several years. I loved working on multiple events throughout my career! At this level of professionalism though it’s hard to diversify much, so as athletes we are pretty streamlined in one direction.
CLN: Barrel racing is very much a “partner” sport with you being half of the equation and your horse being the other half. What are some things you do to keep your horses working their best before a rodeo?
Lisa: Yes, barrel racing is very much a partner sport, and I often refer to my equine partners as my soulmate as well. In my opinion, having a connection with them makes things so much better, easier, and definitely more rewarding. I love to ride horses that I have trained and I have been very fortunate to do so. I feel like when you truly know your equine partner, you know their mannerisms, their likes/dislikes, and actions so well that the two of you can feed off of each other easily. Knowing your horse well allows you to better accommodate their needs. They are all unique individuals and keeping them physically fit, staying on top of their nutrition, as well as dealing with their mental state are all part of the equation and it is of utmost importance to me. It’s different for each horse, so meeting those individual needs is crucial.
CLN: What was an event that changed the course of your career?
Lisa: I would say qualifying for and winning my first Canadian Finals Rodeo Barrel Racing Championship turned everything around for me. It gave me the confidence to compete at the top level. The stepping stones of being a Badlands Circuit champion several years and such were also great motivators, but the success of the Canadian Finals was definitely the game changer boost for our career and the 15 consecutive National Finals qualifications.
CLN: You’re sitting at number 14 heading into your 15th NFR, how have you been preparing for it?
Lisa: I feel like as competitors we basically stay prepared year-round as there really is no “off-season“. Our rodeo season officially ends September 30, and the new one begins October 1 with events, and so it may slow down but we keep going. For the NFR specifically, my main focus is keeping my horses healthy and fit, and then preparation is basically trying to get my horses into the indoor arena mode after competing mostly outdoors all year. Getting some runs and competing in some of the smaller arenas helps to get your sense of timing and feel for the small arenas that would best adapt one for the small confines of the Thomas and Mack. In this sport we are very adaptable to various conditions, so once again we just need to adapt to a condition of a small arena with yellow banners that say National Finals Rodeo!
CLN: Which one of your horses will you be riding this year? Or do you take all three?
Lisa: I will take all three horses to the NFR. I will make some competition runs on all three of them in the next few weeks and that will help me to determine what the game plan is. One always has to take into consideration where you enter, what you need to do to fit your horses to the situation, and I’m basically going to have all of them prepared to the best of my ability and go from there. Sometimes there is always the unexpected so having options is a good thing!
CLN: What is the best advice you can give someone wanting to get into professional barrel racing?
Lisa: I would say study the game. In the fast-paced and technological world that we live in right now, it’s made it a lot easier to educate yourself as there’s so much information provided. We all want to be the best that we can be so do your best to always be progressing. Also, my advice is to “make it your own program“, not getting caught up in what everybody else is doing, where they’re going, or how they’re doing it. You’ve got to do what works for you and your horses. It works differently for each and every one of us, so do it your way. It’s not a one size fits all aspect, as some ride one horse and some ride several. Just stay focused, stay true to yourself, and try to always get better and move forward. I always say that rodeo is such a roller coaster but you’ve got to be along for the entire ride because there are lots of ups and downs, but you need to enjoy the whole journey!
CLN: In 2020, you were brought onto the Polaris’ Empowersports Women’s Riding Council, can you tell our audience a little more about your involvement with that and their goal?
Lisa: It is a very diverse group of women brought together from a pool of Polaris enthusiasts representing many backgrounds and riding terrains. It’s been really cool for me to see and get to know these other amazing women within the Powersports industry. Our goal is to empower other women to ride and build community within the industry. No matter what the passion is, we all just want to fuel their passion to get out there and just go do it!
CLN: Do you have any closing thoughts or anything else you’d like to mention before wrapping up?
Lisa: Being involved in the western industry is not just what we do, it’s a lifestyle. It’s definitely a hard lifestyle, whether you are rodeoing, ranching, or farming, but as hard as it is sometimes, the rewards are twice as great!! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved in it all my life and raise my family in this lifestyle. I love it and can not imagine it any other way!
A huge thanks to Lisa’s sponsors: Platinum Performance, B Bar Heart Performance Horses, DeTye Vet Supply, Woody’s Horse Nutrition, Priefert Ranch Equipment, Polaris Off-Road, Rodeo Rigs, Classic Equine, Outback Customs, Martin Saddlery, Fay Ranches, Durango Boots, PEMF Complete, Woodbury Performance Horses, and Teton Ridge Ranch
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