Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Louie" – NFR's Barrel Racing "Horse of the Decade"

by Con Marshall

Although he’s now retired, Louie, the buckskin gelding that carried Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs to barrel racing prominence, has been accorded a special honor.


The November issue of Western Horseman, which calls itself the “World’s Leading Horse Magazine since 1936,” has tabbed Louie as the greatest barrel racing horse at the National Finals Rodeo during the past decade.


The magazine put Lisa and Louie on the cover and have another full-color photo of them on the inside, where it explains why he received the designation.

The story notes that Louie, who was born in 2003, initially belonged to Tim and Kelly Bagnell of Polson, Mont., and was often a money winner in reined cow horse competition. But the Bagnells turned him over to Lockhart to train as a barrel horse for their daughter, Lexi.


Before long Lisa and Louie had won the Canadian Finals Rodeo barrel racing title and qualified for the 2010 NFR in Las Vegas, where they finished third in the averages, won $107,426 and finished fourth in the world standings for the year. 

Not wanting to break up the dynamic duo, the Bagnells sold Louie to Lisa in 2011.  (Photo  of Louie shown here is credited to Mallory Beinborn)

Before Lisa and Louie were matched up, Lisa had qualified for the National Finals Rodeo three times (2007-09) while riding Chisholm, another buckskin gelding she had obtained from the Bagnells, but the almost unprecedented success story was just beginning.   


Counting 2010, Louie was Lockhart’s primary horse for nine years in a row through 2018. During that stretch, she placed second in the world standings in both 2014 and 2015, third in 2013 and 2016 and fourth in both 2010 and 2011. She also was fifth in 2012, seventh in 2017 and 11th in 2018, when she rode Rosa, a buckskin mare, part-time, while Louie began a phased retirement.   

Lisa and Louie were especially successful in 2015 and 2016. They were the only tandem to place in as many as eight go-rounds at the NFR in 2015. They won the barrels at the American Rodeo in Dallas for the second time and the Calgary Stampede for the first time.  Both paid the winner $100,000.


In 2016, they left all 30 barrels upright in Las Vegas while winning the averages, which was worth $68,000, and their total time of 137.98 on the 10 runs was the NFR record.  Lisa and Louie competed in just 39 rodeos that year while the other NFR qualifiers averaged 75.

Western Horseman says Louie was the highest earning horse in the barrels at the NFR during the decade, winning more than $803,000. 


The article says, “While Louie is now 18 and retired from pro rodeo, he’s left his mark on the industry, in fans’ hearts and in Lockhart’s life.

The story ends with a quote from Lisa:


I’ve always said that his reputation far exceeds mine, and I couldn’t be more proud to follow him in what he has accomplished for us.” 


Last week after the magazine came out, Lisa noted that Louie also had been voted the “horse with the most heart” a couple of times during polls of pro barrel racers.


She agrees with that designation.  “He may not have been the fastest, but he had a ton of heart and he was the most efficient, hardest working and most determined horse I have every ridden. This is an awesome honor that he received.” 


Lockhart added that Louie’s consistency helped make him great.


All 85 of his runs at the NFR from the first one in 2010 through the last one 2018 and even the two in 2019 were nearly identical,” she stated. 


Although Lockhart no longer rides Louie, she had a great September while aboard a black gelding, Cutter, to make up lots of ground and is one of the 15 barrel racing qualifiers for the National Finals for the 15th consecutive year in early December 2021.