BILLINGS — OK Aunt Lisa, now it’s your turn.
When the National Finals Rodeo begins on Dec. 7 in Las Vegas, Lisa Lockhart will be trying to become the second member of her tight-knit family to win a world championship.
Less than a month ago, nephew Jess Lockwood of Volborg became the youngest competitor to win the Professional Bull Riders world title. Now his aunt will try to match his success in the same city.
“Oh my gosh,” Lockhart said of watching Lockwood win the PBR gold buckle. “Words can’t even express it. We had heartfelt pride at what he accomplished. It was so amazing, words can’t describe it. There is nothing that is going to top that.
“Jess hasn’t said anything about it (her winning a world title). All he said was that he was going to be at the NFR and, ‘Who do I owe for tickets?’ Those are some great expectations to live up to.”
But she will try.
Lockhart, of Oelrichs, South Dakota, enters her 11th consecutive NFR ninth in the world standings with $96,454 won.
“Eleven years in a row,” the Circle native said. “That’s pretty unfathomable.”
Lockhart ranks second all-time in the WPRA with $2.147 million won during her career.
Lockhart, and her prized horse Louie, will have a lot of ground to make up chasing world standings leader Tiany Schuster of Krum, Texas. Schuster, a first-time NFR qualifier, has won $250,378, a WPRA single-season record. It is the most won by any competitor, male or female.
“We’ve never approached it that way,” Lockhart said of chasing a world title. “We’ll just go and do our thing. Go out there and win some money. It’s (the world title) just not a thought of mine. But I’m not saying it can’t be done.
“Point blank, from where we’re at in the standings, we’re just glad to be there.”
A year ago, Lockhart and Louie set the NFR average record with a total time of 137.98 for 10 runs. The two also won the average in 2014. Lockhart has placed third, second, second, third and fifth at her last five NFRs.
Louie underwent surgery after the NFR and did not return to the arena until the Fourth of July run this past summer.
“Louie, he is definitely the comeback kid,” Lockhart said of the 14-year-old buckskin gelding. “So many horses would have had to stop competing. He just keeps going.”
Lockhart, also using her horses Rosa and Chisum, used a sizzling run in late July and early August to climb into the top 15 of the world standings. She won nine rodeos in 2017, including five in Montana, and almost another $30,000 at the Calgary Stampede. Lockhart and Rosa also won Lawton, Oklahoma, with an arena-record time of 16.93 seconds.
“We entered something almost daily,” said Lockhart, who has competed in 59 rodeos this year, up from 38 the previous year. “We were just trying to get qualified.
“We’re not quite in the position where we wanted to be, but it was a business thing. No doubt, that’s part of it.”
Rosa, a 7-year-old buckskin, will join Louie in Las Vegas.
“Louie goes right, Rosa goes left. That’s the only way to tell them apart for some people,” Lockhart said.
The mother of three also opted to pull off the road before the fall rodeo season, wanting to watch her sons Thane and Cade play high school football.
She planned to race Louie at rodeos in Brookings, South Dakota, and Casper, Wyoming, as tune-ups, but they conflicted with the PBR World Finals.
“No way were we going to miss that,” Lockhart said. “Everything is good.
“At the Finals, we’ll try and go win first every day. Who is to say it can’t happen? The goal is to win as much money as you can. You tally it up and it tells you where you stand.”
And cashing checks from the Thomas and Mack Center is something she has done well. Lockhart has earned more than $945,000 at the NFR. She has placed in 66 rounds, winning 13.
Lockhart is one of two NFR veterans competing. Two-time world champion Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi is also making her 11th NFR appearance but first since 2013. Schuster is one of six first-time qualifiers who will run under the bright lights.
“Lot of new faces,” Lockhart said. “When you’ve been there that long, it gives you some perspective. You don’t take it for granted.”
That hit home when Lockhart recently showed a friend her 10 rings from qualifying for the NFR. “I had them all lined up. Holy cow! That’s a lot of rings there,” she said.
“It doesn’t get old, having success. The driving, that gets old.”