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‘We Just Kind of Clicked’

Girl, 12, Is in Charge of Jackpot

  • Sophia DeDell, 12, picks out Jackpot’s stall at home in Woodstock last month. Sophia’s parents support her horse endeavors, but taking care of Jackpot is Sophia’s responsibility. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Sophia DeDell, 12, picks out Jackpot’s stall at home in Woodstock last month. Sophia’s parents support her horse endeavors, but taking care of Jackpot is Sophia’s responsibility. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sophia always keeps Jackpot’s tail well-groomed and as tangle-free as possible, often decorating it with braids. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Sophia always keeps Jackpot’s tail well-groomed and as tangle-free as possible, often decorating it with braids. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • After getting up before 6 a.m. to feed and let Jackpot out for the day, Sophia blow dries her hair before catching the bus to Spanish class. Sophia is homeschooled, but takes Spanish through the public school system twice a week. (Valley News - Libby March)

    After getting up before 6 a.m. to feed and let Jackpot out for the day, Sophia blow dries her hair before catching the bus to Spanish class. Sophia is homeschooled, but takes Spanish through the public school system twice a week. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Aided by her mother, Terri DeDell, Sophia works at home in Woodstock on a family tree project for her Spanish class. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Aided by her mother, Terri DeDell, Sophia works at home in Woodstock on a family tree project for her Spanish class. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • As her mother Terri DeDell sets up a practice course, Sophia DeDell rides Jackpot in a field at home. (Valley News - Libby March)

    As her mother Terri DeDell sets up a practice course, Sophia DeDell rides Jackpot in a field at home. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sophia DeDell’s dresser shows her collection of ribbons and trinkets. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Sophia DeDell’s dresser shows her collection of ribbons and trinkets. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • At home in Woodstock, Sophia DeDell, 12, leans against Jackpot, a 9-year-old horse she is leasing, riding and taking care of. (Valley News - Libby March)

    At home in Woodstock, Sophia DeDell, 12, leans against Jackpot, a 9-year-old horse she is leasing, riding and taking care of. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sophia DeDell, 12, picks out Jackpot’s stall at home in Woodstock last month. Sophia’s parents support her horse endeavors, but taking care of Jackpot is Sophia’s responsibility. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Sophia always keeps Jackpot’s tail well-groomed and as tangle-free as possible, often decorating it with braids. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • After getting up before 6 a.m. to feed and let Jackpot out for the day, Sophia blow dries her hair before catching the bus to Spanish class. Sophia is homeschooled, but takes Spanish through the public school system twice a week. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Aided by her mother, Terri DeDell, Sophia works at home in Woodstock on a family tree project for her Spanish class. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • As her mother Terri DeDell sets up a practice course, Sophia DeDell rides Jackpot in a field at home. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Sophia DeDell’s dresser shows her collection of ribbons and trinkets. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • At home in Woodstock, Sophia DeDell, 12, leans against Jackpot, a 9-year-old horse she is leasing, riding and taking care of. (Valley News - Libby March)

Woodstock — Her five older siblings took to dance, team sports and ice skating. But Sophia DeDell, 12, was born horsy.

Her fascination with the animals was evident by age 3, when her mother, Terri DeDell, brought home a movie about a young girl who survives a terrible car crash. The girl becomes withdrawn after the accident, but working with horses helps her heal. Sophia watched the film over and over, fast forwarding through the speaking scenes to get to the animals.

“She drove everybody nuts,” DeDell said, laughing.

Soon after, inspired by Sophia’s interest, the DeDells visited family friends who owned horses. Sophia was sitting on one of the animals when her older sister, Olivia, decided that she wanted to get up, too. The moment she sat on the horse, it reared up. They took Olivia, 7, off, but Sophia hung on, clinging to the horse’s mane.

“We figured that would be it,” DeDell said.

But the 3 1/2-year-old wasn’t spooked.

“The horsey doesn’t like Olivia. It just likes me,” DeDell recalled her daughter saying.

Her parents bought her a lesson for her sixth birthday, and a few years ago, she started riding regularly at a farm in South Royalton. There, she rode several horses, including Jackpot. He had previously been ridden Western style, and Sophia helped train him to ride English.

“He seems to like jumping and he’s really calm,” Sophia said. “After a while, we just kind of clicked.”

At one point, the farm had too many horses and not enough space, DeDell said, and recently, the family began leasing Jackpot.

They built him a barn, which he shares with the family’s roosters, and put Sophia in charge of his care. Her responsibilities include feeding him, cleaning his stall, and walking or riding him, depending on the weather.

“I brush him out and play around with him,” she said. “That’s not much of a chore, though.”

To pay for feed and wood shavings, she takes on odd jobs and sells items, such as snacks, through a fundraising company. She was a mother’s helper until that family moved to California.

“It was too hard to commute,” DeDell quipped.

Sophia is active with Upwey 4H Club, which her mother helps lead, and also attends horse camp. The summer camp is expensive, DeDell said, $800 or $900 a week, and Sophia raises the money herself.

When she has the chance, she enjoys competing on horseback. Last summer, she was junior high point champion at Mid State Riding Club in Randolph. One of her favorite things about having Jackpot is jumping with him, Sophia said. “When you jump, it’s like you’re communicating with your horse.”

But really, there’s no “best part.”

“I like all of it, pretty much,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a horse ... so having one is kind of dream.”