Alyssa Lombardi, of Frankfort, will compete in equestrian for Kansas State University. | Supplied photo
Updated: February 18, 2013 6:03AM
When Alyssa Lombardi was 3 years old, she went for a ride on miniature pony that essentially parlayed her toward equestrian success.
“We went to the pumpkin patch (Bengtson’s Farm in Homer Glen) for Halloween and they had the pony rides there and I got to ride the little miniature ponies,” Lombardi said. “From then on I always loved horses and I just wanted to keep riding them.”
The Lincoln-Way North High School senior literally has ridden her way to Kansas State University, where she will be on the equestrian team.
“I’m super excited,” said Lombardi, 17, of Frankfort.
Lombardi certainly doesn’t horse around. She earned both academic and athletic scholarships to Kansas State. She was recruited by five schools, but Kansas State was her first choice.
“Definitely (because of) the equestrian program. That’s the first school I wanted to go to,” she said. “The coaches are all really great, and the girls on the team are all super nice and they are very caring, so definitely that atmosphere.”
Competing at the NCAA level has been a lifelong dream for Lombardi, who attended Hilda Walker and Summit Hill Junior High schools.
Her bedroom was decorated with horses. And shortly after the now-famous pony ride, Lombardi’s parents enrolled her in a weeklong summer camp at Nova Quarter Horses in Mokena, which was offered through the Frankfort Square Park District.
After camp, Lombardi’s parents got her lessons for Christmas. She began taking riding lessons weekly.
“Literally, since she started riding, there has not been a moment that she has not wanted to ride,” said Lombardi’s mom, Valerie.
Since she turned 10, Lombardi has traveled to places such as Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana competing in shows — more than 200 — riding American Quarter Horses.
“I do the all-around, which is Western and English riding, showmanship,” she said.
Lombardi’s equestrian and academic achievements certainly didn’t come without hard work and sacrifices.
“Hanging out with friends ... I had to sacrifice a lot of that and I would be gone every weekend at horse shows, so I can’t hang out with my friends on the weekends or go to parties or dances or stuff like that,” Lombardi said.
For many years, she has spent close to 30 hours a week riding her horse. Dublin, one of the two she has owned, is a big part of who Lombardi is as a person.
“I’ve had him the longest out of all my horses and our bond is definitely the strongest. I walk by the stall and he puts his ears up and I give him a treat,” Lombardi said. “When I scratch his neck, he wags his tail.”
Dublin resides in Galva, Ill., about a 21/2-hour ride west of Frankfort. It’s where Lombardi spends most of her weekends.
What she loves most about equestrian is the horse-to-human relationship.
“It’s the bond with the horses,” she said. “You have to be able to communicate with them.”
Lombardi also is involved with Pi Sigma Pi (a history honor society) and Mu Alpha Theta (a mathematics honor society), and she volunteers with organizations such as Ronald McDonald House.
She also will serve this year as president for the Illinois Quarter Horse Youth Association.
Come August, when it’s time to head to Kansas, Lombardi plans to begin studying secondary education.
“I would like to become a high school social science teacher,” she said.
Another dream for the future?
“I want to get another horse,” she said.