Julie Sobers of Saylorsburg corralled a Grand Championship at Penn State's Ag Progress Days.

She competed against 4-H members from across the state in the 4-H Equine Skillathon, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association (PQHA) and Penn State. The Skillathon is an educational contest designed to test 4-H'ers familiarity with a variety of horse-related topics.

The event included three separate competitive learning activities for 4-H'ers in the junior (ages 8-11), intermediate (ages 12-14), and senior (ages 15-18) age groups. Competitors in each age group evaluated the conformation of a class of horses, took a written test focusing on equine knowledge, and tackled a series of stations that required them to identify everything from horse coat colors to equine tack and equipment. Monroe County was represented by a team of four equine members.

Julie, 11, rode away as the Grand Champion winner in the Jr. Division.

"I was really happy and excited. It was really cool to win," says the Pleasant Valley Intermediate sixth grader. She is the daughter of William and Anne Sobers.

Other Monroe County winners were: Megan Stock, Henryville, 6th place overall in junior division; Matthew Stock, Henryville, 7th place overall in junior division; Allyson Flurer, Kunkletown, participation ribbon.

Julie began riding at the age of four on her pony, Princess, with the help of her mother, Dr. Anne Sobers, a veterinarian with her practice in Brodheadsville.

She started riding lessons at the age of six years old at Double Eagle Horse Farm in Saylorsburg. She is currently riding at Hickory Hill and Hidden Creek horse farms.

Julie is a member of the Mountain View Wranglers 4-H Club.

With her own money, she purchased a pony, TJ.

"I've been saving money since forever," she says. Each year she works at the West End Fair and whenever she was given money as a gift, she stashed it away.

She wanted the pony to raise and train so she could enter it in state competition in the production category.

She got her wish.

But not only will she be taking TJ to the Pennsylvania State 4-H Horse Show Oct. 22-25 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex in Harrisburg, she will also be taking her five-year-old Appaloosa horse, Teddy.

In order to qualify, she had to first place in first, second or third at the local 4-H County Round-Up. She won a 3rd in Showmanship, 1st in Jr. Eqauatation, 1st in Hunter Under Saddle, 1st in Hunter Hack, 2nd in Trail and 1st in Costume Class, just for fun.

Going on to districts, she had to place in 1st or 2nd. She won a 2nd in Showmanship and a 1st in Hunter Under Saddle Horses.

Besides training for these upcoming competitions, Julie is also involved in Saddle Up for St. Jude which is a fun, family-oriented fundraising event based around horseback riding that raises money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

And mom and dad expect her to keep her grades up.

"I was on the honor roll three our to four semesters last year," she says and has plans to make all four this year.

After high school, Julie says she'd really love to be a horse trainer but also plans to become a large animal veterinarian. She admits her mom is her role model.

"Julie has always had a knack with horses. No matter what she sets out to do with them, she is successful. I'm very proud of her," she says as she leans over and kisses the top of Julie's head.

When Julie isn't "horsing around," she enjoys spending family time with her mom and dad and two younger sisters, Kayla, 7, and Molly, 4 and helping at the family day-care business.

For more information on joining 4-H or becoming a volunteer leader, contact Sherri L. Abbruzzi at (570) 421-6430.