HUGHESVILLE - A successful brother-and-sister team have ridden their way into some of the top 10 positions in junior rodeo competitions.
Emma Watts, 13, and her brother Trey, 14, both Hughesville High School students, have ridden horses since they were toddlers.
They've learned the ropes, sometimes in a literal sense, and now their hard work has come full circle.
Emma recently was awarded the 2013 Reserve All-Around Junior High Cowgirl and was honored as the champion in ribbon roping and reserve champion in team roping and pole bending by the Pennsylvania High School Rodeo Association.
This qualified her for the Junior High National Rodeo Finals, held June 23-29 in Gallup, N.M.
She returned from there ranked third in the nation in breakaway roping.
"(It's) the biggest (achievement) so far," she said.
Trey's recent accomplishments include being awarded the 2013 All-Around Junior High Cowboy title and earning champion standing in tie-down roping, ribbon roping, chute doggin' and goat tying. He was reserve champion in team roping in the Pennsylvania High School Rodeo Association competition.
Trey is moving from the junior high division to high school rodeo this fall.
Emma and her mother,?Sherry, recently spoke with the Sun-Gazette, but, at that time, Trey was in Indiana to train with a man who competes in rodeos for a living.
"He is actually taking time learning with him and hauling to rodeos out there," Sherry said.
Emma has more belt buckles than she can count on her hands and toes. She also has won about six saddles as prizes from rodeo competitions.
"She was one of the top four in the state to go to that rodeo," said Jason, her dad.
Emma actually went into one competition in 11th place, Sherry said. When she went into the arena, Emma sat off by herself.
"That's a lot of pressure on seventh- and eighth-graders," Sherry said.
When the day was over, Emma had finished better than many of the other competitors, Sherry said.
"You have to keep working at that," she said.
Several local sponsors contributed to a fund that enable Emma and Trey to go to New Mexico.
"It would not be possible for Trey and Emma to compete at the national level without the help of their sponsors,"?Sherry said.
In the competitive arena, Emma puts her horse through a variety of events, from team roping - which she does with her brother - to speed events such as barrel racing and pole bending.
Emma competed in her first horse show when she was 2, her mom said.
The family later had friends who were involved in rodeo. They gave it a try and found it was a good fit.
"I just got a new horse in barrels and poles. I just started to hook-up, so it's been getting really fun," Emma said.
Barrels and poles have become her favorite events. "I love breakaway, too, and team roping."
"Depends on what day of the week you ask her," Sherry said with a smile.
Emma has multiple horses that are used for certain events and she trains with them all.
"For barrels, I just do slow work with them, so I can get used to my hands position," she said.
The family has chutes on a property and Emma said they bring in the calves and rope.
"(It's) a lot of different thrills, with the horses, and with her ... a lot of extra hours. You have to make sure (they) are in shape, especially the speed horses," Sherry said.
Emma has to practice roping to train for the roping events.
"(She's) constantly thowing the rope, over and over again. Jason calls it getting the muscle memory down," Sherry said.
Emma trains practically every day, she said, unless she has something else scheduled. She also was in dance class and played soccer.
While she was at competitions in New Mexico, Emma would hang out with her friends she had met through rode and practice, warm-up and participate in other events such as relays.
Jason said she has made a lot of friendships from going to rodeos, especially long-distance friends from many states.
"Last year, since it was my first year (in nationals), I was very nervous," Emma said. "My dad talked to me a lot in the arena."
Jason was only allowed on the outside of the arena, but Emma said due to a rule change this past year, her dad was able to be in the arena with her. She said this helped boost her confidence.
"Mom tells me to think over what I do when I get in. If I get too nervous, I go and walk with friends," Emma said.
The family rallies around the kids, but, Sherri said, so does the rodeo community.
Although Emma competes against some of her close friends in rodeo, sportsmanship is something the family often discusses.
Emma said she feels bad when she beats her friends.
"We also talk a lot about caring for the animals as well. The animals come first over competitions," Sherry said.
They've found that their rodeo competitions have a faith-based component.
"We start with a team meeting and end with a prayer that no one gets hurt - animals or competitors," Sherry said. "You will see that at every level. It's very much a close-knit community."