BILLINGS — Lisa Lockhart faced a decision.
Continue her phenomenal climb up the world barrel racing standings by competing in the high-paying rodeos in the northwest this month or park the rig and trailer to watch her oldest son Thane play high school football.
“Friday Night Lights won out,” said Lockhart.
The 10-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier had a sizzling July and August to put herself back in NFR contention. The Circle native basically pulls off the road ninth in the WPRA world standings with one month of the 2017 regular season remaining.
The PRCA/WPRA season ends Sept. 30. The top 15 in each event qualify for the NFR this December in Las Vegas.
“There is always a risk of not making the finals,” Lockhart said. “But I feel like I’m sitting pretty good in the standings. I planned to go to the northwest rodeos in September but I decided Friday night football is more important than barrel racing.
“With those rodeos, when you go up there, you have to stay. You can’t run back and forth to home.”
Lockhart lives in Oelrichs, South Dakota. Thane will play football for Hot Springs, a 40-minute drive from the Lockhart place in southwest South Dakota.
Lockhart has won more than $90,000 this year and has a $30,000 cushion between herself and 16th place.
She competed during the winter and spring season without her prized horse Louie. The 14-year-old buckskin gelding had to have surgery following the NFR last December.
Lockhart rode her veteran horse Chisum at the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in January, earning $5,524 and the year-end title.
During the winter at Denver, Rapid City and San Antonio, Lockhart rode Rosa, a buckskin mare.
“Rosa and Louie look very similar. A lot of people confuse Rosa for Louie when we run,” said Lockhart.
She didn’t bring Louie back to the arena until the annual Fourth of July run. At one point during the early part of the summer, Lockhart was 76th in the world standings.
“I absolutely started to panic,” Lockhart said with a laugh. “It was the same situation as last year (Louie being out). Grady (her husband) told me the same thing he did last year, ‘Relax.' "
Lockhart placed fifth at Red Lodge and ninth at Livingston for checks. “Even around the Fourth, we were still pretty rusty,” she said of the tandem. “It took us a lot longer to get back to where we had been before. It took us a few runs under our belt to get us going again.”
It was at Mobridge, South Dakota, her final rodeo of the Fourth of July, when Lockhart found her million-dollar horse again.
“I called Grady and told him, ‘I think we got our horse back.' "
Staying regional with both horses, Lockhart won at Glasgow, Great Falls, Sidney, Circle and Wolf Point. She also won at Lawton, Oklahoma, and placed second in Strathmore, Alberta, Canada for $5,023.
Lockhart took a big jump in the world standings with almost $20,000 won at the Calgary Stampede and another $15,200 at Salt Lake City. She was also a tipped barrel from a nice check out of Cheyenne Frontier Days.
“Having Louie back makes a big difference,” said Lockhart.
Ironically, her $18,722 won in the Big Sky state would be leading the MPRC standings. However, she opted to return to the Badlands Circuit for 2017.
“It was a scheduling thing,” Lockhart explained, adding the MPRC bumped up its requirement for out-of-state competitors to 23 rodeos. “That’s a deciding factor.”
While Friday nights will be spent at football games, Lockhart is not done racing.
“I still have some stuff to go to,” she said. “I’ll stay around here and go to some of the smaller venues and hope for the best.”