It Doesn’t Happen Overnight: Canadian Lisa Zachoda Making American Waves on Possibly Dynamite

Get to know the Canadian sensation who's been banking American dollars in 2024.
Liza Zachoda barrel racing
Canada's Lisa Zachoda and Possibly Dynamite won The American Western Regional Finals in Las Vegas. Image courtesy The American Rodeo.

Canadians know Lisa Zachoda as a lifelong hand on the Western front, but Americans are finally learning all about this trainer thanks to her string of American success in the past several months.

But if you think Zachoda is a new kid on the block, just know there’s been years of hard barrel racing work that has gone into her apparently breakout 2024 season within USA borders.

“I used to work as an accounting manager,” Zachoda said. “For the past six or seven years, it’s been full-time barrel racing: raising, training, competing.”

Zachoda (42) recently began turning heads in the South whenever she blitzed The American Rodeo Western Regional Finals in Las Vegas back in January. Then, her name started popping up in ProRodeo placings across the map. After taking a hard stumble in Abilene’s The American Contender Finals that blocked her from qualifying to Globe Life Field, Zachoda took that momentum and went on a rampage across the Southeastern WPRA circuits, adding steam to her 2024 heater.

Okay…so how did Lisa Zachoda get here?

Like many young women, Zachoda first caught the horse bug as she entered her teenage years.

“My parents put me in a ‘learn to ride,’ program when I was 13 over the summer,” Zachoda said. “I loved it, but I was the most timid rider. It took me two months to try loping a horse, but I loved it so much.”

The speed came later.

“I got my first horse the next fall and started riding english. I met my friend Jenna, a barrel racer. She got me into it. My parents took me to clinics. We lived about 10 hours North of Calgary, so there wasn’t a ton of places to learn.”

One of the barrel racers Zachoda credits as making the trek to the Northern tundra is multi-time NFR qualfiier Judy Myllymaki. Legendary barrel racer, Kay Blandford and Canadian champion, Isabella Miller also influenced her in her early barrel racing years. Zachoda’s also worked for a reining trainer and with renowned trainer and owner Rayel Little, the most recently behind the mare heading to Globe Life Field on Mar. 9 with Brandon Cullins, MJ Segers Fast Lane.

Possibly Dynamite— a 2011 gelding by Perfect Possibility and out of Lenas Flashy Maiden by Doc O Dynamite and a lifetime earner of over $100,000 recorded in QData— may be the stick that Americans recognize Zachoda on, but he isn’t her first winner.

“You’ve got to learn to love the process and try not to lose sight of what you want and what’s important. There will be tough days when you’re pursuing your goals.”

Lisa Zachoda

Zachoda’s faced the same realities that many trainers in the barrel racing industry have faced—she’s campaigned promising or even great horses in the past, but she’s chosen to sell them to other homes and turn back to training her next great one. “Junior,” is one of the first Zachoda has had the ability to hold onto. And the superstar gelding doesn’t just represent what Zachoda can do as a trainer—he’s a product of her budding breeding program and is carrying on a legacy Zachoda starting forging in her teenage years.

“I bred and raised him,” Zachoda said. “He is out of a mare that we bought when we were down for the (National High School Finals Rodeo) in Gillette, Wyoming, in 1999 from Jackie Whitcher. She was 10, but unseasoned when we bought her. I was so green back then, but she was an outstanding mare. I bred her to the Canadian stud Perfect Possibility, and my first foal, “Jack,” qualified me for my first Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2014. I ended up selling him to a great home. Junior is my only other foal out of that mare, unfortunately.”

Junior and Zachoda finally hit their stride down in the USA in 2022, but when Zachoda returned home after the winter rodeos, Junior fell ill and was sidelined. Now he’s back at full health and running as strong as ever.

“There’s no quit in him,” Zachoda said. “He’s very smart, responsive, quick on his feet. He’s probably the most coordinated horse I’ve ever been on. He’s just been a natural.”

Now, Zachoda is multiplying her earning potential by dabbling her toe back in nominations for the World Champions Rodeo Alliance. She’s been holding down a top 10 spot on the Rodeo Corpus Christi leaderboard, and she’s excited to be back on the nomination trail.

“Two years ago I nominated toward the WRWC,” Zachoda said. “When Junior got sick, I couldn’t come back and go to it. When it came time for The American Contender Tournament, there was so many points to be won because one nomination carried through the tournament.”

Moving forward, Zachoda is entering up and planning on riding her stateside success until she returns to Canada to capitalize on the spring and summer rodeos North of the border.

“It’s been a long journey,” Zachoda said. “It’s been a lot of persistence. This game—there’s so many variables, it’s incredible. I’m just fortunate to be able to focus on it and have a supportive husband. But it hasn’t happened overnight.”

Zachoda was sure to thank her sponsors, Pureform Equine Health and Weaver Leather, plus her A+ veterinarian team at Moore Equine, with a special thanks to her veterinarian of over 15 years, Dr. Shawn Mattson, and Dr. Gillian Hansen, who saved Junior’s life during his illness.

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