Before He Was 'Louie'
Before He Was 'Louie'
By Katie Navarra for The American Quarter Horse Journal
An Oakie With Cash is any breeder’s dream: He inherited the best from both parents. He’s cowy, he can drop his hind end in the ground and drag his tail, and he is fast. Very, very fast. That mix of athletic traits has been a winning combination in a multitude of events, and it was first apparent in reined cow horse events. That’s where “Louie,” now a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo round winner with barrel racing all-star Lisa Lockhart, got his start.
The 2003 buckskin gelding is by Biebers Oakie, a ranch and performance stallion, grandson of National Cutting Horse Association Derby champion Doc’s Lynx. Louie’s dam, Lady Kaweah Cash, is by top barrel racing sire Judge Cash. Judge Cash, a former racehorse, is a son of American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Dash For Cash. That’s just one of many places Lady Kaweah Cash sports Hall of Fame bloodlines: She also traces on the bottom side of her pedigree to famed racehorse Easy Jet.
“There was never a cow that could out-run Louie. He was never a runaway, but he always wanted to go,” says Bill Fischer, who operates Bill Fischer Performance Horses and trains for Tim and Kelly Bagnell, Louie’s breeders and original owners.
The Bagnells sent Louie to Bill for training as a 2-year-old, who then showed the horse as a 3- and 4-year-old. The sensitive, level-headed youngster gave his all every time he was under saddle. He had so much try that Bill sometimes worried the horse would hurt himself.
“When you asked for something, he gave you all of it, sometimes too much,” says Bill. “I had to be careful that I didn’t overtrain on him.”
Bill Fischer and An Oakie With Cash. Photo courtesy of Bill Fischer.
In 2006, Bill and Louie won the Montana Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity limited open championship, as well as multiple Montana Reining Horse Association accolades.
"I don’t believe that I ever showed him anywhere in the cow horse that he didn’t win a check,” Bill adds. “He was super athletic and trainable – you never had to ask more than once.”
Louie could have continued a lucrative career in the show pen, but Bill could tell the horse’s heart wasn’t in the sport. And the Bagnells were looking for a barrel horse prospect for their daughter, Lexi.
But before he made it to Lexi, first Louie needed to learn how to be a barrel horse. Enter $2 million barrel racing champion Lisa Lockhart. The Bagnells had known Lisa for nearly 30 years and had already sent her multiple horses to train, including Fast An Gold, “Chisolm,” who helped advance Lisa’s career.
When Lisa started riding Louie, the fact that he was so well trained as a reined cow horse made the process challenging. She had to learn new ways to communicate with him.
“He’s an over-achiever. I’d wiggle the reins and he’d react. I had to learn new things to accommodate him,” she says. “He was so willing and wanting to please.”
Lisa took training slow through Louie’s 5- and 6-year-old years, taking the gelding to local jackpots or hauling him alongside her first-string horses to get him seasoned. Louie was green and, like any young horse, had his ups and downs.
“It didn’t go that well to start, but he had glimpses of brilliance, so I could see his potential,” she says. “Everyone always asks me if I could tell that he would be great. I had no idea what he would become.”
Tim occasionally checked in with Lisa on Louie’s progress. The speedster was coming along, but Lisa was concerned he was a lot of horse for a young rider. He stayed at Lisa’s and started to demonstrate the raw talent he possessed.
At the 2010 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association National Finals Rodeo, Louie had to step up to the plate. During a practice session, Chisolm fell and sustained a hematoma on the stifle and was out of commission. Before the first run, Lisa remembers thinking that Louie was nowhere near ready for this stage. He was nervous and danced around, which was out of character.
“I had to ask my husband Grady to hold him because I couldn’t even get Louie to stand still while I put his leg boots on,” Lisa recalls. “I still remember thinking, ‘Dear Lord, let us make the pattern.’ ”
They did more than run the pattern: They won the go-round.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Lisa recounts. “The Bagnells came to the buckle ceremony and I gave them the buckle – he was still their horse. Grady thought I was crazy, but it made me determined to go win another.”
Lexi’s buckskin barrel horse was proving he had what it took to compete on the big stage. Lisa knew that one day she would get the call that the Bagnells would be taking Louie home. Instead, the call Lisa got in the spring of 2011 surprised her.
“Lexi told me that she felt Louie and I were a great team, that I needed to keep him and could buy him,” Lisa says. “I always knew in the back of my mind that I couldn’t get close to him, but I couldn’t help it. When she offered him to me, I couldn’t stop crying.”
Since then, Lisa and Louie’s partnership has been one for the history books. The 15-year-old gelding has amassed more than $1.6 million and was named the Equi-Stat highest-earning horse of the decade. His countless accolades include being named the 2011 WNFR Horse With the Most Heart, the 2014 and 2015 RFD-TV’s The American $100,000 Champion and multiple Canadian Finals champion.
“It's a special thing when a horse gets in the right hands like Louie with Lisa,” Bill says. “I knew he was good, but didn’t know he would turn out to be as great as he has.”
Katie Navarra is a special contributor to AQHA Media. To comment, write to email@example.com. This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of the Journal. To subscribe, go to www.aqha.com/qhj.