It’s clear when you visit with both Lisa Lockhart and Dr. Terry Swanson that they have a deep and mutual respect for each other. Although it's hard to estimate the degree to which their equine chemistry impacts her horses' performance, it is safe to say that it should not be underestimated. It’s one of those rare relationships where one plus one adds up to much more than two. The biggest beneficiaries of this collaboration are Lockhart’s horses, arguably some of the best barrel racing horses in the industry.
Through hectic schedules and health setbacks with her horses, Lockhart and Dr. Swanson have navigated the seasons with grace, always putting the health of her horses first. Lockhart has made 16 consecutive trips to the WNFR on multiple horses, putting her at the top of her sport. Like any successful run, it hasn’t been without its challenges and injuries. How she and Dr. Swanson have handled these setbacks is clearly part of her formula for success. "He’s always my first phone call. It takes me 7 hours to get to Littleton Equine Medical Center from my home in South Dakota, and I don’t mind making that trip one bit," says Lockhart. "When I can’t get to where he is, we work from emails, texts, photos and calls at all hours of the day and night." Swanson is quick to commend his client, "She has a great feel for what is going on with her horses, especially when she is on the road and calls with an issue. She can really communicate her horse’s situation well."
Dr. Terry Swanson is an industry leader in his own right, though he'd likely be reluctant to admit it. His expertise in many areas of equine veterinary medicine is lauded, with special consideration in his approach, diagnosis and treatment of equine lameness. True to form, Swanson is humble when asked about his veterinary approach, "I've learned over the years that horse owners know their horses better than I do. Lisa can read the changes in her horse very well. That makes my job very easy."
Lockhart feels that his ability to relate to her as a horse owner sets him apart. Horses have always been a part of Swanson's life since growing up on a ranch in Wyoming. Still today he enjoys team roping, and when he's not at the clinic, he can be found in his barn cleaning stalls and enjoying his own horses with family members. As he puts it, "Horses are not only my vocation, they are also my avocation."
Lockhart's horses have continued to enjoy extended athletic careers. Her first NFR horse, Sterling, ran in his last professional rodeo at 23 years old. She was also able to compete on the 2011 WNFR Horse with the Most Heart, also known as Louie, until he was 17 years old. In this strenuous sport that demands hauling long distances for months out of the year, competing at this elite level on horses well into their teens is unheard of. Lockhart is the first to credit Dr. Swanson’s thoroughness as the reason for her horses’ soundness.
"I have such respect for him. I appreciate that he is both conservative and proactive in caring for my horses." In addition, Lockhart talks a lot about Swanson's humble demeanor. "He doesn’t discount my gut feelings, and his respect for me as a horse owner builds more confidence in me as a caregiver to my horses when we are out on the road. He tells me all the time to follow my intuition. And I always do what the good doctor says."
“(Dr. Swanson) doesn’t discount my gut feelings… he tells me all the time to follow my intuition.”
— Lisa Lockhart, WPRA Barrel Racer
In addition to being one of the best barrel racers in the world, Lockhart is a wife and mother of three active children. In order to maintain a balanced family life, Lockhart tries to limit herself to about 50 rodeos a year. She is keenly aware of the importance of each competition and consistently does all the little things she feels are essential to good equine care including being dedicated to a routine. She says, "Horses find comfort in consistency. It takes lots of little things to have success." This outlook no doubt makes her a veterinarian's dream client. As Swanson puts it, "She's a very conscientious horse person. When I make a recommendation, I have no doubt that she follows it and complies exactly. The welfare of her horses is what is most important to her."
The result of their partnership speaks for itself. Lisa has qualified to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 16 consecutive times, won RFD-TV’s The American twice, earned over $3 million so far in her career and she has no plans of slowing down any time soon with her youngest mount Levee winning over $150,000 at the 2022 WNFR. Lockhart is the first one to tell you results like that are due to a team-based effort. Between her husband Grady, who is the team farrier, and Dr. Swanson, Lockhart has an A-list of supporters. Swanson acknowledges his role in the partnership by saying, "I know what her goals are, and I'm comfortable with how she approaches them. It truly is a team effort between Lisa, Grady, the horse and myself."
Lockhart continues, "I’m blessed with these horses right now. Success really motivates me. As long as I have the horsepower, I will see where it can take me."
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