Lisa Gilardoni grew up on her grandfather’s Santa Rosa ranch and doesn’t remember the first time she mounted a horse.
“I’ve been riding since I’ve been able to,” she said.

Lisa Gilardoni of Santa Rosa with her roping horse, Jeep. Press Democrat photo by Jeff Kan Lee

She started competing in barrel racing when she was 7 years old, then moved into gymkhana and speed events. In high school, she added rodeos and roping, eventually winning a state championship.
Gilardoni, a recent Montgomery High School graduate, said education also is important and always comes first.
“As long as everything is going well in school, I can still ride and compete, she said. “School has come easy. I have always been a 4.0 student.”
In the fall, she will enroll in the pre-med program at UC Davis.
“I am not sure if I want to be a full-on doctor,” Gilardoni said. “I have always been strong in the sciences. I decided to go that way and see if something caught my interest.”
UC Davis seemed like a good fit because it is an agricultural school, she said.
“I feel close to that. I have grown up in the agricultural lifestyle,” Gilardoni said. “I like the campus, and there are a lot of rodeo events in that area.”
Because rodeo has been such a large part of her life, Gilardoni hopes she can continue competing.
“I just got into it because it has been in my family, but I love it,” she said. “It is a way of life for me. Instead of going shopping or doing sports, I just went and rode.”
She competes in team roping, where she ropes the horns of a steer and gets it stopped so her partner can rope its hind feet.
“You can’t just pick up a rope and win,” Gilardoni said. “You have to devote yourself to it, spend a lot of time every single day, roping dummies, then practicing on horseback.”
Competing has taken her throughout Northern California. The highlight was during her freshman year, when she won the Division 1 state championship in gymkhana.
“That was a big win for me,” she said. “I have placed locally fairly often, when you get lucky and everything goes right.”
Her family built their own house and still live on the ranch founded by her grandfather Joseph Gilardoni, who was a horse trainer. She has followed in his footsteps, working with horses and coaching children who want to compete.
“I didn’t know him well,” she said. “He passed away when I was young, but everything he did is handed on down to me.”

You can reach Bob Norberg at or 521-5206.

Lisa Gilardoni
Age: 18
School: Montgomery High School
Lives with: Parents Richard and Teresa Gilardoni and brother Daniel
Pets: The family has six horses and four dogs, including her horses Slider and Bandy and her dog Spud.
Favorite music: Country
Favorite food: Everything, but a lot of Italian food and pastas
Job: Works part-time exercising horses and coaching children who want to learn competitive roping or barrel racing
Most inspirational figure: Fresno horse trainer Katie McCaslin (“a pretty amazing person, an iconic figure”) and grandfather, Joseph Gilardoni. “I followed in his footsteps.”