Lisa Lockhart has dedicated her life to horses and achieved immense success in the saddle as a result.

Born and raised on a farm and ranch in Circle, Montana, Lisa Lockhart dedicated her life to horses at an early age. Now, after 16 National Finals Rodeo qualifications, three American Rodeo championships and more than $3.1 million in career earnings, she’s still holding onto the foundation of her success — the love of horses.

Lockhart quickly found a love for rodeo. She fondly remembers her first major event as a teenager being the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals and how that experience solidified her passion for horses and rodeo. Lisa, husband, Grady, and their three children have toured the pro rodeo circuit as a family.

Lisa Lockhart holding three horses.
Photo by Kailey Sullins

Lockhart now lives in Oelrichs, South Dakota, where she and Grady raise cattle, and she trains barrel horses. Throughout her career, Lockhart’s found success aboard several outstanding equine athletes, but perhaps the most famous is her NFR-aggregate champion An
Oakie With Cash aka “Louie.”

Rooted in the ranch life, Lockhart holds onto the foundation she gained growing up, while still striving to learn more each day as a horsewoman.

To me, being a horseman is about trying to get a bond with a horse and have that connection. It’s not just about training another champion; it’s about having that bond and appreciating the little things they bring to you as individuals.

I grew up on a farm and ranch. Dad was more of a farmer per se probably than a rancher, but we did have horses because of the cattle. So, I grew up with horses being at the forefront. Mom would stick me in the fenced yard with this pony, and I would just ride, ride, ride. Through the years, I would be down at the barnyard, and Mom would ask me, “What do you do out there all day?” I don’t know. I just love hanging with horses.

I enjoy the horse for the horse, regardless of the outcome. You want them all to be champions, but that’s seldom. You have to find the good in every horse. It’s capitalizing on the special attributes of each and every horse; that is what I love doing.

In college, I got to see peers take rodeo seriously. I dabbled in the roping in college and was not good at it, and I was actually cut from the practice team. That hurt. I worked very hard that winter and eventually had success at the college rodeos. [I] got to be on the team and go to the College National Finals Rodeo. I think it was that notion, then and there, that showed me perseverance and hard work can pay off if you’re determined enough.

The first year I tried to make the NFR, I remember there were times, especially with three little kids, just being like, “Let’s go home. This is hard.” Grady just kept saying, “Hang in there, it’ll turn around.” The hard times were very hard. The next thing you know, it was August at the Caldwell, Idaho, pro rodeo. We did well and basically clinched our first NFR qualification in August.

It takes a lot of land to run a cow or cow-calf pair where we’re located. We usually keep it pretty small — anywhere from 100 to 150 head. It’s all hands on; we do it all ourselves. My husband loves it. The fruit of his labor is seeing those babies born.

Most of [our ranch and cattle work] is done horseback. We love to do it with the horses and get some of the young ones ridden. All our horses have been through it at some point and time. There are times when Grady might need something, and I’ll even ask him, “Is there any cowboyin’ to do?” If there’s something to do, I always want to ride young horses out there to do it. My pro rodeo horses now, as far as the actual ranch work, don’t get it anymore, but they’ve all been there at one point in time.

Louie’s reputation far precedes mine. I’m just glad to be his jockey. The journey Louie and I got to be on is almost indescribable. He changed my life, my family’s life, and got a lot of fans in the industry. He captured the hearts of many, and I think it’s not just about wins but about Louie. He made 80 runs in the Thomas and Mack Center arena at the top of his career, and you could cookie-cutter all 80 runs that they were all the same. He made the same run every time, and he didn’t care if it was hard ground at Calgary or deep, shifty sand in Cheyenne, or the NFR; he was just Louie every single time.

All the wins have been memorable… but something that stands out in my mind, that was so unique that sets it apart from the rest, is the first American Rodeo back in 2014. I remember turning the third barrel, and it just hit me that we just won. I can remember that plain as day, like it was yesterday.

Horses have been my passion my entire life. Horses are good for our soul. At least, they’re great for mine anyway. I spend so much time with them that they are definitely my soulmates.

This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of Western Horseman.

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