The Tschanz family, of Beldenville, has been riding horses for as long as they can remember. However, five years ago the family made the transition to rodeo and haven't looked back since.

"Rodeo is tougher competition, so it provides more of a challenge than what we had been doing before. We had kind of maxed out at what we were doing before, so it was kind of fun to take on a new challenge," said Tabby Tschanz, 18, who recently graduated from the St. Croix Central Virtual School. "Anna (14), Bekah (16) and I are all in the high school division, so we all compete against each other. We support each other, but you are telling each other 'You did well, but we are going to beat you.'"

According to the sisters, they have been riding horses since they were able to because their mother, Deirdre grew up riding. The family is so invested in the sport that they built their barn themselves, with the girls giving up a lot of their weekends and evenings for about four months. In addition to practicing with their horses pretty much every day, the sisters also feed and exercise their horses every night.

The three youngest Tschanz siblings recently competed in a pair of national competitions. Tabby and Anne - a ninth grader at River Falls High School - qualified to compete in barrel racing and breakaway (calf) roping at the Little Britches National Final Rodeo in Guthrie, Okla., in July. Bekah - an 11th grader at SCC Virtual - earned a spot on the Minnesota State National High School rodeo team that traveled to Rock Spring, Wy. in July to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo in barrel racing.

"I didn't do very well either, but it was a very different type of pen that I was running in than I'm used to. I was happy that I went though, since I got to learn how to ride my horse in a different type of situation," Beckah said. "I like barrel racing because of the change in speed from fast to slow. But pole bending is really fun for me because you have to constantly be thinking. When you pass one pole the next pole is right there and you have to be thinking way ahead to keep yourself in line with the poles."

In addition to making it to the national competition, Tabby earned the Top Hand award for winning five rodeos in her local Little Britches region as well as a scholarship and a position in college rodeo at Kansas State University.

"The competitions didn't go as well as we had planned, so that was a little disappointing. But I definitely learned a lot and it was a good experience for me. It is always good to get into that kind of atmosphere at a national competition and work out your nerves there," Tabby said. "I do plan to go again next year as well and try to get more used to the facility."

The Little Britches competition also didn't go as well as hoped for Anne, but she was happy with her breakaway run.

"It was my first time, so it was a lot to get used to and kind of intimidating. But it was still really fun to get a new experience and prepare for next year when I go again," Anna said.

To get to the Little Britches National Final Rodeo, Anna and Tabby had to finish fifth or better five times in each event, while the National High School Rodeo competition required Bekah to collect enough points throughout the season to finish in the top four in each event to make it to the national event.

"Rodeo is fun because you get to run your horse and the adrenaline of it is really exhilarating," Bekah said. "And it is nice to have each other there to motivate ourselves and help each other. But at the same time we are all in high school so we are competing against each other as well."

One of the reasons the sisters are so invested in rodeo is they pay their own way into competitions.

"Because we have such a big family, my husband and I will pay for all the standard stuff, but the girls have to pay their entry fees. So they work part-time jobs to cover their expenses," said Deirdre.

Next year, the sisters are hoping to make it back to nationals and do better than they did this year. In addition to competing in the Little Britches competition, Anna wants to compete in more Minnesota High School rodeos in order to earn her way to nationals in that division as well. She also wants to give ribbon roping a try, which adds an extra element to the regular breakaway roping competition.

"Barrels is my speed event where I can go and go. Breakaway is the one where you have to step back and think about what you are doing since it is all about you," Anna said. "The horse is just there to get me to the calf and it is up to me to finish and catch it."

Bekah hopes to be competing in both the Little Britches Nationals and the National High School competition next summer, while also doing her best to earn a top title in the Minnesota High School rodeo division. Tabby is hoping to become more consistent in the barrel racing competition to be as competitive as possible at the college level next fall.

"I like barrel racing because you are going full throttle and then slow down and turn on a dime. You can feel the horse's muscle surging and such," Tabby said. "Breakaway is just so different than barrel racing. In breakaway, you have to rely on yourself and you have to be better, rather than in barrel racing where you rely on your horse a lot more. Breakaway is also way quicker, so you have to have a really low time to be competitive."