Down to the wire: Area cowboys, cowgirl cut it close in qualifying for the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Being on the rodeo bubble isn’t a fun place to be.
Just ask Lisa Lockhart, Ty Breuer and Garrett Shadbolt.
The three of them, all pro rodeo contestants, were bouncing around in the top fifteen in their events at the end of the PRCA pro rodeo season, which ended Sept. 30.
On Oct. 1, the top fifteen in each event qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and Lockhart, Breuer and Shadbolt wanted to make it to their next Finals.
Lockhart: For Lockhart, a perennial NFR barrel racer, a month without one of her good horses, Rosa, set her back.
Rosa was sidelined days before Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, so Lockhart relied on her two other horses, Levee and Cutter.
A sixteen-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, this pro rodeo race was the tightest she’s ever been in.
In late August, after a disappointing month, she decided to keep going, “just to see where it would take me.”
She rodeoed in the Northwest, and as of mid-September, had $71,000 won. At the time, the fifteenth-place barrel racer had $10,000 more than that, so Lockhart knew her goal.
With only a few weeks left in the rodeo year, nearly all of the big rodeos are over. Wherever she went, she had to win money.
“It all became a blur. I knew I just had to win, win, win.”
In September, Lockhart’s biggest win was in Ellensburg, Wash., a win she calls “a game changer.” She won money at fourteen of the eighteen rodeos she entered, including: White Sulphur Springs, Mont.; Puyallup, Spokane and Othello, Wash.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Pendleton, Ore.; Omaha, Neb.; Springhill, Louisiana; Mona, Utah; and Amarillo, New Braunfels and Stephenville, Texas.
It was a matter of scheduling and logistics, determining mileage from one rodeo to another, where to leave horses (and who would stay with them), and time for travel.
“My rodeos were 800 miles apart,” she said. “I was driving fifteen hours a day. We had a job to do, and it was to compete.”
She and husband Grady had a “mantra”: “Is it likely (for her to make the Finals)? No. Is it mathematically possible? Yes,” they said. “With a whole lot of try, probably some stupidity and some luck thrown in, and that’s all I needed to go for it.”
Lockhart credits everyone who helped her, especially her sister, Angie Lockwood, her husband, and her father-in-law, Keith Lockhart. Grady and Angie helped with the scheduling, driving, and horse care, as Lockhart criss-crossed the country, competing at every rodeo she could make it to. Keith took care of the home place when Grady was on the road with Lisa.
“There’s such a strategy to all of this,” Lockhart said, “how you’ll physically drive it and arrive before the rodeo starts.”
“It’s cliché to say it takes a village, but it’s no cliché. I’ve had more help this year than I’ve ever had, but I’ve had a more strenuous schedule than I’ve ever had.
“I didn’t want any regrets,” Lockhart said. “If you want it bad enough, you have to go for it. If there wasn’t so much money to be won at the (National) Finals, none of us would do this.”
Breuer: Bareback rider Ty Breuer, Mandan, got on twelve airplanes in the last five days of the rodeo season, to finish in fourteenth place in the world standings.
He flew from Bismarck, N.D. to Amarillo, Texas, competing there, then flew to Salt Lake City to compete in Mona, Utah. Then it was off from Salt Lake to Omaha, for a rodeo there. Then from Omaha, he went to San Bernadino, Calif., rode there, then flew to Pasadena, Texas. None of the flights were direct; every one made at least one stop.
The travel is more demanding than the rodeo, he said. “You hope you’re going to make (your destination) and hope the flight isn’t delayed because you have a lot of money invested in it.
“The riding part wasn’t as stressful as the travel. It’s pretty relaxing when you get to the rodeo.”
He entered every rodeo he could get to in the last few weeks of the season. “You enter them all. It doesn’t matter what you draw.”
Breuer traveled with fellow bareback riders Mason Clements and Wyatt Denny, who were also on the bubble but who didn’t qualify for this year’s National Finals.
“We were all going for the same thing and were rooting for each other. I had a lot of fun rodeoing last week.”
This will be Breuer’s seventh National Finals qualification and sixth time to compete (he qualified in 2020 but did not compete due to a torn bicep.)
Shadbolt: A concussion forced Garret Shadbolt out of rodeo for a month, which caused him to be on the bubble in the final weeks of the rodeo year.
When the bareback rider made a 91.5 point ride in Dodge City, Kan., in August, the horse bucked him off at the whistle, causing a concussion.
“It was my call, to sit out” for a month, he said. “I’ve had concussions in the past, and I’m really glad I took off the month and went home.” On the family ranch south of Merriman, Neb., Shadbolt tried to work but couldn’t do much without getting headaches and nausea. “I was in rough shape for a while,” he said.
“I want to take care of my brain. You only get one of them, and I’m looking farther down the line.”
Shadbolt crunched the numbers, figuring that coming back to rodeo by Sept. 10, he would still be in the top fifteen in the world.
He had two good weeks prior to the concussion, winning more than $20,000 in Cheyenne, Dodge, Phillipsburg, Kan., Gordon, Neb., and Lovington, N.M.
“When I took the thirty days (off), I was sitting in seventh place and was $8,000 out of fourth place. It was a bummer, because right about the time I took the thirty days off, I was starting to get my eyes on going into the Finals in first or second place. I was within a swing of it.”
When Shadbolt came back to rodeo in mid-September, he rodeoed hard but didn’t have much luck, earning about $2,000. He finished $5,000 ahead of the number sixteen man, Wyatt Denny.
“Fifteenth place is not where I wanted to be, coming in,” he said. “The call I made (to take a month off) was correct, but it was a nail biter.
“It was pretty nerve wracking to sit there and watch (the standings change) and not go rodeo.”
Only $245 separates Shadbolt, in fifteenth place, from Breuer, in fourteenth place.
Lisa Lockhart is now able to get a good night’s sleep, although the first night she was home, her eyes popped open in the middle of the night, as she wondered “where do I need to go? What do I need to do?”
She enjoyed the adrenaline rush. “Close races are always fun,” she said. “It shouldn’t come down to the buzzer, but sometimes it does. It makes it more exciting for the fans. The wins are bigger wins, the losses are bigger losses.”
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers from the area include: bareback riders Cole Reiner, Buffalo, Wyo. (first place); Caleb Bennett, Corvallis, Mont. (third place); Breuer (fourteenth place) and Shadbolt (fifteenth place); saddle bronc riders Sage Newman, Melstone, Mont. (first place); Brody Cress, Hillsdale, Wyo. (third place) and Tanner Butner, Daniel, Wyo. (fifteenth place); steer wrestlers Ty Erickson, Helena, Mont. (sixth); and Timmy Sparing, Helena, Mont. (fourteenth); team roping headers Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont. (second) and Jr. Dees, Aurora, S.D. (ninth); team roping heelers Levi Lord, Sturgis, S.D. (ninth) and Trey Yates, Pueblo, Colo. (tenth); and tie-down roper Haven Meged, Miles City, Mont. (third);
In the women’s events, the area boasts five qualifiers: three in the breakaway roping and two in the barrel racing. In the breakaway, qualifiers include Joey Williams, Volborg, Mont. (eighth place); Rickie Engesser, Spearfish, S.D. (ninth) and Samantha Fulton, Miller, S.D. (fourteenth). In barrel racing, in addition to Lockhart, Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D. (thirteenth place) will compete.
The Wrangler National Final Rodeo will be held Dec. 1-10 in Las Vegas.
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