Lisa Lockhart and Chisum

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A couple of years ago, five-time Badlands Circuit champion Lisa Lockhart decided to spend the summer rodeoing in Canada to season a horse she'd been training. Not only did he get seasoned, but Chisum, then 8, racked up so many paychecks that he sent Lockhart straight to the Canadian Finals Rodeo. There, on her other number-one, a gray gelding named Sterling, Lockhart became the first American to claim the Canadian barrel racing championship.

She says the two years since then have been "a blur." That could be because Lockhart, of tiny Oelrichs, S.D., is raising three children under the age of 10 with her calf roping husband, Grady, and is either shuttling kids or calving heifers or training five to eight horses a day when she's not on the road. But it's probably because her dream season never ended.

Add Chisum and Sterling to a young granddaughter of Bugs Alive In 75 coming on strong, and Lockhart found herself with three good horses and no reason not to stay hooked. Despite being drawn out of the 2007 winter rodeos, she rapidly broke the top 15 last summer and punched a ticket to her first NFR by splitting the win at Caldwell, Idaho on Chisum.

Then, in Las Vegas, she again got on her gray indoor horse, now 17, and won the third round on him to finish as No. 5 in the world. (Lockhart bought the Colonel San Peppy- and Doc Bar-bred Sterling, registered as "IR Peppy's Breeze," from Allene Nelson in 2004.) But sometime during the early rounds in Vegas, Sterling had suffered a stifle injury and wound up being sidelined through this spring following surgery.

"I thought life was over," Lockhart said of losing Sterling at the Finals. After all, little pens were not Chisum's forte. But the chestnut powerhouse stepped up, placing her as deep as second in later rounds.

This season he and the gritty 7-year-old Bugs ("FCS Bugs Out Of Sight") have carried the load handily, helping Lockhart bank a cool $17,037 in July at Ogden, Utah; Deadwood, S.D.; and Cheyenne, Wyo.; and putting her right back in the top 10 and headed to Vegas this December.

Lockhart bought Chisum from Tim Bagnell of B Bar Heart Performance Horses in Montana, who'd sent him to Lockhart when he was coming 6. Nicknamed because he looks like John Wayne's horse in the movie of the same name, Chisum is registered as "Fast An Gold." Fast he ought to be, as the grandson of two famous Thoroughbred racehorse sires. Chisum's sire is El Roco-by Beduino out of a daughter of Ettabo-and his dam is by Raise Your Glass out of a daughter of Easy Jet.

Lisa's grateful to Classic Equine, Detye Vet Supply, B Bar Heart Performance Horses and Cowgirl Tuff Company for helping her get down the road. Still, the humble and humorous Dakotan, who turns 43 on Nov. 11, says it's attitude and desire that make or break you in this game.

Not only is she tough (a broken

leg had her on crutches for two months with a four-month old baby just before she won the 2004 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo), but she works hard at it, and she loves training barrel horses.

"They're like my kids," she says. "I put my heart and soul into them."

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Winning second at Cheyenne Frontier Days in July

Part of the reason Chisum does so well at Cheyenne is because he handles all types of ground, whether it's deep or shifty or really hard. He tries no matter what the ground is.

He's fun to ride and has what I think is an easy style. I just lift and hold and get him to where I need him. I simply use inside rein and inside foot-more if it feels like he's coming in a little tight.

He works off my leg pretty easy and is fairly correct in his turn. To me, it's an ideal type. It's what I strive for in all my horses. They don't all get to turning that way, but I try to start them that way, with inside rein pressure and responsiveness.

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Winning the third round of the 2007 NFR
Sterling is lower-headed and stiffer than my other horses, so I have to really ride to my point and use a lot of inside leg to get him to bend a little. He's also kind of pushy, and Grady says he has a personality only a mother could love.

He doesn't like being helped, but he requires more than he thinks he needs. Like a lot of horses, the more you try to pick him up, the more he drops. So instead of using my hands too much, I use more body English and try not to help him too much too soon.

I won this round but, looking at this picture, I truly believe Sterling was hurt already. It's just not him to be dropping that much or to hit a barrel, and he clobbered it in the next round. He's sound now and I'm taking him to the last rodeo of the regular season.

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Splitting Caldwell, Idaho, in 2007
Chisum just always had that feel, and was so trainable. I can just shape him and lift. He's real supple; a dream to ride. I wish they were all like that. And he doesn't have a typical pedigree, but it takes all kinds. Look at Gills Bay Boy.

I ride Chisum in a chain gag or three-piece broken snaffle. Chisum lets me help him more on the barrels than Sterling, and Bugs wants to turn so much that she requires me to ride her up further in the hole to keep her from turning too soon. Also, I run her in a sidepull.

All three are different and I have to let each do their job, reflective of their different personalities and styles.