Both CeCe Burgess and Hank Burgess have been riding horses since they were little. The journey of growing up with the animals eventually led them both to competing in rodeos, traveling across the state and country to do so.
Though the siblings have already experienced what it's like to compete against some of the best in their events, they are now slated to compete in a national event at the same time for the first time in their careers.
CeCe, a recent graduate of Dalton High School, and her younger brother Hank, who will be a sophomore in the fall, leave Sunday for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association's National Finals Rodeo Tuesday through July 7 at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Hank, who has competed nationally in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, will be joined by his sister for her first national competition.
The eldest two children of four said they are more than excited to share the experience together.
"I did rodeo by myself for a few years before he started, and then he kind of picked it up," CeCe said. "He was always there so he just started doing it, too.
"Neither one of us have ever qualified for this so it's a new thing for everyone. We've been to rodeos close to home, but it's also fun being able to travel."
To qualify for nationals, the duo had to place in the top seven of their event at five different rodeos during the year. The organization allows competitors to travel to different states if in need of any more top-finishes. CeCe will compete in three events -- barrel racing, pole bending and breakaway roping -- while Hank in another three -- calf roping, team roping and ribbon roping.
Leading up to the competition, training hasn't been any different than it has been for the two all year.
"I'm roping a dummy every day, and we ride horses at least three times a week," Hank said. "We also go to a roping practice at least once or twice a week.
"A lot of people hate being so consumed in it because they want to be able to do other things, but we like it."
In addition to the Little Britches organization, CeCe qualified for the National High School Rodeo Association's National Finals Rodeo in both barrel racing and pole bending in mid-July in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
It was her last chance to qualify for the competition in her final year of high school. She needed to place in the top four in each event at the Georgia State Finals in Perry during the last weekend in May to move on, in which she placed fourth in pole bending by just a few points and tied for fourth in barrel racing.
As both gear up to compete, they admit they are nervous to see how they finish. Hank said he is hoping to win, while CeCe is hoping just to have clean runs.
"I had a really bad weekend (in Perry). I just kept hitting poles and barrels," she said. "I was scared that all of that was going to knock me down in the points. Somehow I made it.
"I'm nervous but I'm more excited because it feels like I really accomplished something."
Once all of the competing is finished, CeCe is moving on to North Georgia College in Dahlonega this fall in hopes of becoming a nurse.
Both siblings said they will miss each other's company, especially during rodeos when they help each other with things such as feeding their horses and changing saddles.
All in all, however, Hank said there might be a silver lining.
"We'll have one less horse to take care of at rodeos," he said laughing.