Keeping it simple
Lockharts keep Finals routine similar to home routine
Lisa Lockhart is headed to her ninth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but it’s business as usual at the Lockhart ranch near Oelrichs, South Dakota.
She and her husband Grady keep things as routine as possible, whether they’re home, at another rodeo, or she’s running for a world title in Las Vegas.
Lisa is coming off possibly the best year of her 22-year career. After winning the average at the 2014 Wrangler NFR, plus two rounds and placing in six, she won the American Rodeo in March and the Calgary Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days in July.
She enters this year’s Wrangler NFR in second place, and by the time this issue reaches your mailbox, she and Grady will be on the road to Las Vegas.
In the trailer will be her famous horse “A Oakie with Cash,” better known as Louie, and her backup horse, Fast An Gold, whose barn name is Chisum. Louie has been her mount the past couple of years at the Finals, but Chisum, and before him, Bugs and Sterling have shared the spotlight.
Lisa and Grady will make the 1,013 mile trip in two days, arriving on the night of Nov. 30, just in time for her to attend the contestant meeting the next day at 7 am. “We start off the whole endurance race (of the Finals) tired,” she joked. “We’ve done it that way every year, and we’re not going to do it any different” this year.
While they are in Las Vegas, Louie and Chisum stay at a private facility south of town. Lisa and Grady take care of the horses themselves; they hire no one to help. “I’m definitely hands-on,” Lisa said. They do things “the way we always do it the other 350 days of the year.” She wants to see her horses herself every day. “I’d go crazy if I didn’t get to do chores or see them. I’m too particular,” she said. “Or maybe it’s the nurturing mother side of me. I have to do things (with the horses), because if Mom ain’t happy, nobody’s happy,” she laughed.
They go out to care for horses every morning about 8 am, come back to town, and return at 4:30 pm to pick them up and bring them back to the arena for the rodeo.
The two weeks of the Finals (the rodeo runs nightly Dec. 3-12) is a marathon, full of obligations for contestants, in addition to animal care and practice sessions. Lockhart has personal sponsor appearances, as well as autograph signings, luncheons, and other meetings for the PRCA and the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association. She keeps a calendar, color coded with her appointments. “It’s all written down and I look at it often, because if I didn’t have it, I’d be a space cadet.”
To give herself enough time, Lockhart plans her appearances to start at 10 or 11 am and be done by 2 or 3, “so I can zip out of there, and my knight in shining armor (Grady) is waiting at the curb to pick me up.”
She gives Grady a lot of credit for all he does. “I always look forward to having him there with me. It’s not an option for him to stay home. We get things done at home, so he can go.” Family and neighbors help out as well. “My father-in-law Keith watches over things while we are gone, which allows Grady to be able to come with me for the two weeks. Our neighbors have always been gracious to help out and keep an eye on things.”
Her partners, Louie, who is twelve, and Chisum, seventeen, are opposites. “Louie loves life. I don’t think he’s ever had a bad day. He’s happy go lucky, fun-loving, and mischievous. He and Chisum are night and day.” Chisum, a chestnut, is “old, cantankerous, and laid back. Louie is an over-achiever, Chisum is an under-achiever. They’re Mutt and Jeff. Louie will lead me, Chisum drags behind. It’s fun to find the personalities in each and every one of them.”
She doesn’t change the horses’ feed or schedule prior to the Finals, and she stays focused during the ten days of the Finals. “I try to be mentally prepared and stay grounded, because there’s a lot of hype that goes with Las Vegas. Spending time with my horses and having my husband there helps. We don’t do a lot socially, and it’s hard for people to understand that we’re busy taking care of animals. Maybe we don’t have as much fun, but trying to win is fun, too, and that’s what I have to do to win.”
The couple has three children: Alyssa, a senior in high school, Thane, a freshman, and Cade, who is in the sixth grade. All three play sports and rodeo, and their parents keep up with their busy schedules as well. Alyssa competed in the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association Finals on the weekend her parents left; they watched her on Friday and Saturday, and got updates via text on Sunday.
The kids have gone to the Finals for a few days every year that Lisa has competed there, and this year they’ll go for a few more days than usual. They will fly out for the first weekend, come home for a few days for school, and go back out for the final weekend. She doesn’t want her kids to miss too much school, but she also wants them to be a part of the trip. “It’s definitely a family thing and they’re not going to miss it.”
The humble cowgirl loves to run barrels, loves horses, and is a competitor at heart. “Win or lose, it’s fun to play the game, and be doing something I love. Even a little success will keep you going.”