Levee: Lockhart’s Latest Champ  | TSLN.com

Levee: Lockhart’s Latest Champ 

 For the third time, Lisa Lockhart is crowned champion of The American Rodeo. The Oelrichs, South Dakota cowgirl won back to back titles in 2014 and 2015 on the iconic buckskin, Louie. The dark gray horse called “Levee” was her pick for Globe Life Field last week, and despite the limelight he has enjoyed since the National Finals Rodeo in December, the seven year old gelding has humble beginnings on a cattle ranch in northern Montana.  

Levee (Promise Me Fame Guys) was raised on the Keller Sandy Creek Ranch. He was fed with the cows for most of his juvenile life, started as a two year old, used for working cattle, and was patterned the next year. “He was a natural,” says his breeder, Tenley (Keller) Epperson. “He just floated on his feet.” Levee’s dam is Epperson’s college rodeo mare, Bar Blue Lass, “Abby”. He was the second embryo taken from her while she was still competing, and Epperson had the foresight to choose Aint Seen Nothin Yet as Levee’s stallion, well before he rose in popularity. Futurities and incentives were not yet on Epperson’s radar–she just thought they would make a great conformational cross.  

Lisa Lockhart and her latest star athlete, “Levee”, are both Montana-raised. Their latest title together is The American Rodeo. Springer | Courtesy photo

Epperson soon realized the talent Levee had, and she hauled him with her older horses to exhibition as a three and four year old. In July of 2020, she was six months pregnant, so Epperson gave the reins to South Dakota trainer, Samantha Flannery to finish and futurity. “She added the speed and she gets the credit for seasoning him,” says Epperson. “It was a good team effort by everyone. Everywhere that Sam entered him, they won or placed,” she says.  

It was during this futurity season in Texas that Levee caught the eye of 15-time NFR qualifier, Lisa Lockhart. Beyond his color, Lockhart noticed that Levee was predisposed for consistency, a quality she values highly. Despite being young and green, “He just did his job,” she says.  

In Lockhart’s mind, there are two types of barrel horses: the “rockets” or horses with consistency. The rockets are able to make mistakes and still clock due to their speed. However, the horses with consistency are reliable and solid. “Louie was not the fastest horse, but he was so consistent. That showed for so many years. Do you want the rocket or consistency? It’s great to have both, but oftentimes that’s not a choice,” she says. So, Lockhart teamed up with Teton Ridge to purchase Levee.  

It was a difficult decision for Epperson to sell Levee. Yet, she prayed about it and received a feeling of peace, knowing that she had neither the time nor interest to haul the prospect to his full potential. “People like Lisa don’t come around too often,” she said. Currently at 32 weeks pregnant and an ICU nurse, Epperson’s focus in this season of life is her family. “You can’t be greedy. It really eats at me when I see a horse that I’m not doing anything with consistently. I was taking care of my six month old and I knew it wasn’t my time and that’s okay,” she says.  

Levee has no full siblings and never will, making him truly one of a kind. Though Epperson tried for two years to flush Abby, she was unsuccessful in getting an embryo to repeat the cross. Instead of sending her to a facility for months for a chance at success, Epperson decided against it. Abby helped pay for her nursing degree and college rodeo career, has a list of accolades, and “owes me absolutely nothing,” she says. “She can live out her days on the ranch.” Levee does have two maternal half sisters, out of which Epperson plans to flush embryos to Aint Seen Nothing Yet to produce the closest cross possible.  

Lockhart currently has a few horses in her trailer to choose from, but when she heard that the pattern at this year’s American Rodeo was offset and the right barrel was on the fence, Levee was her pick. “He is adaptable to any situation. He doesn’t really care if it’s big or small…he takes on whatever you throw at him,” she says.  

Even drawing the bottom of the ground in the Championship Round did not prevent the team from clocking the fastest time of 15.248. In her interview, Lockhart teared up while mentioning the support of her family. Though her husband, Grady, has never been able to come to any American Rodeos due to calving season, he is still her “rock.” She says, “There’s nothing that I don’t run by him and he’s such an asset to what I do. He knows me and my horses. If I’m questioning something, he’ll tell me what he thinks, and he’s always right.”  

Speaking of family, Epperson says that all the ties to Levee have become familial, including Lisa Miladinovich, owner of Aint Seen Nothin Yet; Flannery; and the Lockharts. “Mom cries every time Levee wins,” Epperson says. Levee is branded with a Lazy DY, the brand of Epperson’s great, great grandfather. ” It’s pretty cool to see that run across the Thomas and Mack,” she says.