She#039;s just a cowgirl at heart

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 1, 2002

When 17-year-old Julie Huddle began working with horses, her dog Jane was jealous.

"She saw a picture of the horse, sniffed, snorted and walked away," she said. "She knew then that there was another animal. A roast beef sandwich took care of that."

Julie may need many more roast beef sandwiches for Jane because she will be spending a considerable amount of time with horses -- the Rock Hill High School senior is the 2003 Miss Rodeo Ohio.

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When she received her sash and tiara last Sunday, she said she was overwhelmed with emotion.

"I cried, I really did," she said. "It was amazing."

In January of 2004, Julie will represent Ohio in the Miss Rodeo USA pageant in Oklahoma City, Okla. This is one of several awards for her this year. She also won the "Showman of Showmen" competition at the Lawrence County Fair and a first-place award with Jane at the Ohio State Fair.

Dee Staley, Northeast region coordinator for Miss Rodeo USA and a resident of Aid Township, said Julie and her daughter show dogs together. She convinced Julie to enter the competition, which consisted of sending in a resume and an essay.

Julie had to write an essay about an organization she would promote, and she chose Andrew's Buddies, an organization which helps people like a longtime friend of hers, Miranda Cremeens, a young woman with Spinal Muscular Dystrophy (SMA).

Julie's parents recently bought her a two-year-old Appaloosa horse, named Slider because he slid under a fence after he was born. He resides in Staley's barn.

Staley was also Miss Rodeo Ohio from 1977-78. When Julie goes to Oklahoma, Staley said she will have her work cut out for her. The 10-day competition includes one or more personal interviews with judges every day, quizzes on current events and rules and regulations of the International Pro Rodeo Association. Also, she will be judged on her dress, attitude, treatment of others and horsemanship.

Many competitors will be from the West, in which some prepare for rodeo queen competitions their entire lives, Staley said. Nevertheless, Julie is undaunted. She and Staley also believe that this competition requires more than a pretty face.

"They don't just look pretty and smile," she said. "This takes intelligence. These girls are gorgeous, but it's more than just a pageant."

Staley remarked that other Miss Rodeo Ohio alumnae are now working as cardiac nurses and surgeons.

Until 2004, Julie's time will not only be spent finishing high school and beginning college, but also working with several horses at Staley's farm. In Oklahoma, Julie will have to ride a horse that is not her own in a figure-eight-like pattern. Also, she will make several appearances throughout Ohio, including one at Children's Hospital in Columbus.

Her parents, Dave and Teresa, are thrilled.

"Honestly, she never ceases to amaze me," Mr. Huddle said. "I'm thankful we have the privilege to share it with her."