February 24, 2024


Connolly Saddlery of Billings, Montana designed and manufactured the WPRA Reserve World Champion saddle presented by WPRA President Jimmie Munroe to NFR barrel racer Lisa Lockhart at the conclusion of the 10th Round of the 2023 National Finals Rodeo.

Lisa’s round and average win that night moved her year-end winnings to 2ndplace. Tears overflowed as she began to process what had happened in the space of only a few minutes. Although her world revolves around time measured in hundredths of seconds, this was colossal. She was Go-Round winner, Average winner, and Reserve World Champion.

Joe Kusek stands out as Montana’s finest sportswriter in his ability to cover rodeo. No one tells the story with an inside scoop, up close and personal like Joe does.  Here is Lisa Lockhart’s story captured by Joe Kusek.


January 8, 2024

Lockhart Lands Third Average World Title After Action Packed 10th Round

By Joe Kusek

Lisa Lockhart and her horse Levee were almost at the warm-up tent when Grady Lockhart tugged at her sleeve to get his wife to stop.

“You’ve won the average. Get back out there,” said her husband, motioning toward the loud arena and the victory lap horse.

Lockharts were just as stunned as everybody else inside the sold-out Thomas and Mack Center.

In just minutes, Lisa Lockhart vaulted from fourth to first to win the barrel racing average at the 65th Annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Teton Ridge.

“I was getting ready to take the horse back to the trailer,” said the horsewoman from Oelrichs, South Dakota. “How quickly things change.”

Lockhart and her talented seven-year-old gray gelding made 10 clean runs in 137.18 seconds to earn $209,096 at professional rodeo’s premier event. She won the final round in a time of 13.54 seconds as the icing on the cake. She also won the third round in a time of 13.51 seconds. When all things were tabulated, Lockhart finished as reserve world champion in the final standings with $343,688.

In the ninth round, the 17-time Wrangler NFR qualifier became the WPRA’s career money leader with a second-place finish.

Lockhart has earned $3,510,066 since joining the WPRA in 1993. She passed four-time world champion Sherry Cervi ($3,388,790) while new world champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi is third with $3,348,318.

The mother of three is also the WPRA’s career money leader at the Wrangler NFR with $1,712,318 won under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

“Thirty years ago, when I got my pro card, there were no goals of this magnitude in mind,” said Lockhart. “It was just ‘Work hard and be the best you can be.’ And I’m still working at it every day.”

That work ethic put her in position for a wild finish.

Entering the 10th round, only .98 seconds separated Tonozzi, Kassie Mowry, Jordon Briggs and Lockhart in the average.

Lockhart, the second one out, opened with a time of 13.54 seconds. “I wasn’t sure if 13.5 was going to hold up and place,” she said.

Mowry, Tonozzi and Briggs followed and all uncharacteristically had downed barrels, allowing Lockhart to climb the average standings.

“A lot transpired in 10 minutes. This is pretty emotional because it was such a surprise,” said a teary-eyed Lockhart, trying to digest the massive momentum shift. “Obviously, it means more when it’s unexpected. The element of surprise is rewarding itself.

“I know how hard it (the average title) is to attain. It means that we were rewarded for our effort. It has been a good journey.”

The 2023 NFR average title was Lockhart’s third in her illustrious career with the other two coming in 2014 and 2016.

“I could have never scripted this,” continued Lockhart. “Winning the round, average and reserve in the world was totally unexpected.”

Lockhart entered the Wrangler NFR fifth in the world standings. After opening with a time of 14.16 seconds, her last nine runs were all sub-14-seconds with a differential of just .55 seconds.

She and Levee placed in seven rounds, winning rounds three and 10. Their best time was 13.41 seconds which placed second in the ninth round.

“Levee just got stronger as the NFR went on,” Lockhart said of the horse registered Promise Me Fame Guys by Aint Seen Nothin Yet and out of Bar Blue Lass.

Lockhart and Levee have put together 19 flawless runs the past two years at the Thomas and Mack Center and have earned $377,422. The pair also won the Badlands Circuit Finals title in November.

Lockhart’s two previous average titles came aboard superstar horse Louie. Lockhart ran Louie 85 times at the NFR.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to do it on another horse and he did it well,” said Lockhart of Levee. “I am blessed to have a horse so consistent. He’s an even-keel horse. Levee is the model of consistency. He never surprises me and that’s what I love about him.”

She plans to keep that average buckle close.

“It usually goes to the trophy room,” Lockhart said. “I might wear this one for a while. It was a special year.”

And fans can expect those earnings records to keep growing. She has no plans of hanging up the reins.

“Why not? The horses are still young,” she said of Levee, Cutter and Rosa. “I remember the first time leaving Las Vegas and turning to Grady. ‘I want to come back,’ I told him.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. That’s the goal. I want to come back.”

Only Charmayne James and Sherry Cervi have competed at more NFRs with 19, so that is yet another record Lockhart will be aiming at in the coming years.


In this article, we delve into what it means to be Reserve World Champion and its monumental and enduring significance. The circumstances and events that led to greatness in this person took place in the hidden years when few were looking, and no one cared.

Reserve World Champion is a title that is hard to earn. Reserve Champion is not merely about a single spectacular ride or moment of brilliance. It signifies the rider’s consistent excellence and their courage to keep going. Hours of work and endless miles of travel are required. It’s a testament to the rider’s skill to adjust to different circumstances; a showcase of adaptability, determination, and the capability to perform well under constantly changing conditions.

Behind every Reserve Champion, a horse plays an indispensable role. Horses are not mere instruments. They are sentient beings that respond to their rider’s cues, forming a unique bond built on trust and communication demonstrating the athleticism, grace, and willingness required for success. Fellow competitors, trainers, and supporters understand the dedication required to reach this level. The title becomes a point of pride for the entire team that has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the horse’s well-being and preparation.

The commitment is intense, requiring meticulous attention to detail. Each competition, each test, and each obstacle surmounted contributes. The competitive edge of every run is so sharp it is measured in hundredths of a second, and that one last run culminates a year’s worth of runs.

The mere fact that a Reserve Champion is awarded recognizes the enormity of being World Champion. This achievement inspires riders to continue pushing their limits and setting new goals. Pursuing excellence becomes a perpetual cycle driven by the desire to reach the highest pinnacle of success.

In conclusion, earning this honor is a milestone that carries personal significance. It also contributes to the fabric of the barrel racing community, inspiring others to chase their dreams and celebrate the extraordinary partnership between humans and horses.

It takes: Grit – firmness of mind and spirit…unyielding courage…in the face of hardship or danger. Tough, tenacious, and fiercely relentless determination to pursue a mission with unflinching resolve.

Lisa Lockhart models grace, courage, and grit like no other. Hopefully, some of all three qualities will begin to seep into our lives as we cling closely to her story.

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