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13-year-old girl from Palmerton top-ranked junior equestrian in U.S.

Ellie Apollo has been riding horses and competing for years, winning a national championship for the first time with her horse, Sparkle.

PALMERTON, Pa. — From the moment Ellie Apollo could hold her head up with a helmet on, she was on the back of a horse.

"When you ride them, it's really having a connection with them and feeling what they feel, and it's really having a bond, and really you know, learning to trust somebody else, and I think that even when I was younger, that was just really special to me," said Ellie Apollo.

Ellie, 13 years old, has come a long way since then, training with Olympic-level riders.

It was a passion that started with her mom Delia, who owns Apollo Farms in Palmerton, which offers lessons and youth and senior programs.

"Helping develop the ponies and then having her kind of take over, it's really neat. It's really great, you know, like a family affair, and I feel really blessed and fortunate that we get to spend as much time as we do," said Delia Apollo, Ellie's mom.

Ellie is homeschooled, so she spends many of her afternoons on horseback training after class and homework.

Ellie's been riding horses and competing for years, winning a national championship for the first time with Sparkle.

Her consistent high scoring in competitions led her to become the top-ranked junior equestrian rider in the country by The United States Equestrian Federation in the medium green pony division.

"I think my goal with Sparkle was to really just enjoy the moment and to really enjoy, you know, the time with her and to see how much hard work I've had to put into her training and everything that we've had to do with her," Ellie said.

Ellie's mom believes her natural talent and understanding of riding are what make her a great rider.

But Ellie says it's just good old-fashioned hard work.

"If you want to be good at something, you definitely have to work at it," Ellie said. "It's not just easy. It's definitely a lot of hard work."

It's hard work Ellie will keep putting in to continue to be one of the best riders in the country.