Roping brothers Clay and Spencer Donald and their family are embarking on an epic 4000km round trip to compete in their first Australian Professional Rodeo Association national titles.
The Donald family from Lal Lal will spend four days driving to the central Queensland town of Emerald where the boys will compete in the team roping event against each other for the title of junior 'heeler'.
The boys have been rodeo riding for several years, and added roping to their competition schedule about a year ago and it is in this discipline they qualified for the national title.
The pair practice their roping skills at home almost every day, combining it with working and caring for their horses.
"This is probably our fifth year of rodeo. They started off barrel racing, then the bucking bronc but the roping side of things I would not have thought 12 months ago that we would be planning this trip," said mum Melissa.
Both boys are 'heelers' in the two-person calf roping crew, roping the legs of the calf. They will be paired with older rodeo riders who will be the 'headers' and catch the calf's head.
They will take part in three rounds over two days, with times and scores added to determine the national champion.
With the junior category running all ages up to 18, it's a tough ask for the brothers to go up against rodeo riders up to seven years older but they're just out to do their best.
The family had planned to leave early Sunday for the 2000km drive to Emerald, with horses in one truck and towing a caravan, but Clay's selection in the Central Highlands under 13 interleague football team meant they left later than anticipated after the CHFNL took on Colac and District Football League in Colac.
With neither parent involved in horses and rodeo, Mrs Donald is as surprised as anyone that her sons are on the national stage.
"It's just the kids involved, which is really rare on the rodeo scene," she said.
"We got our first pony when Clay was about six or eight, and it just snowballed from there. We started off doing a few little barrel races, then he got a bigger and faster pony and was more competitive and he slowly kept introducing new events."
Clay and Spencer's three sisters, aged six, eight and nine, also have their eyes set on rodeo competition, doing barrel racing, bronc riding and practicing their roping skills.
"All the kids definitely love it, and if you love something and stick with it and practice then the sky's the limit," she said.
The family aim to make the 2000km drive over about four days, arriving in Emerald on Wednesday or Thursday in time for the competitor number presentation on Thursday night.
Competition starts Friday and runs through the weekend.
And Spencer is riding someone else's horse up there, so he's keen to arrive in time to ride and get to know his new mount.
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