If you did not know where Gold Road was, you would probably drive right by.
Tucked atop the winding, clay and dirt road lies the home of the Burdettes. A quick left turn a mile up takes you up to the two-story gray home.
Cattle roam the left side of the drive in their pasture, while dogs from all over lie and bask in the last bit of sun before it sets behind the orange and green leaves that shape the outskirts of the property. Chickens cluck beside your wheels, oblivious to the world.
Once you arrive close to the actual house, you can park anywhere. There is a spot near the family goat, or up by the rodeo arena the family has built. The dogs will greet you. They only pretend to be scary.
The horses have seen you for a long time. Their tails swat away the flies and their big, black eyes stare right into you from afar. There might be about five horses, there might be over 10. Ask eight-year-old Ketch how many horses there are and you may get a different answer every time.
This is the life of Reeltown’s youngest rodeo stars, Paisley and Ketch Burdette. For as long as they can remember, they have lived the farm life, like their parents before them.
As early as the brother and sister combo could walk, they were out on the farm. While many students of Reeltown Elementary simply wake up and get dressed, Paisley and Ketch are far ahead of them. They have animals to take care of.
The horses need their blankets in the cold. Food needs to be put out. While many may begrudgingly do their chores, Paisley and Ketch do it with smiles. They love their farm life.
“They can do everything, they are super independent,” said the children’s mother Nicole. “The horses practically raised the kids.”
As soon as the two were old enough to stand on two feet, their parents had them out with the animals.
“They have been riding since they were born. They had the best little pony, Champ, that made them fall in love with horses. Once they were old enough to be on the back of a pony, they were up on the back of that horse,” Nicole said.
Paisley, at just six-years-old, won her first All Around Cowgirl title. Probably only four years or so versed in the way of goat tying, team roping and swerving horses through poles, she beat out dozens of other young rodeo stars.
A one-off win at such an age might seem reasonable. But not for Paisley. She's collected over 40 various victories and prizes since then.
“We have been around this stuff for a long, long time,” Paisley said.
Many of Paisley’s saddles she has won hang over the second story loft’s ledge, overlooking the family room. She can name where and when each one was won and how. Her dad has some in-between.
Those saddles include winning All Around Cowgirl in 2019 and 2021 for the Southern Association Youth Rodeo and Champion Header for American Junior Rodeo Association in 2022.
Ketch has a belt buckle, a prize for some victory of his, hanging on a dining room chair. Beyond that, are pictures of the kids in action. To someone way older than the two, riding and roping on a horse or tying up a goat on the ground may seem like daunting work. Maybe it was, when they were just four. Now, Ketch leads his pack of eight-year-old rodeo buddies out onto center stage.
He likes steer riding and team roping the best.
“You have to have a lot of confidence to do that,” Ketch said.
And from what everyone can see, he certainly does not lack in that department.
As for what the kids do in rodeo, it is a laundry list. Paisley partakes in breakaway, pole bending, goat tying, barrel racing and chute dogging. Ketch steer rides, rides bucking ponies and barebacks on steers.
Together, they team rope, with Paisley on the head side and Ketch scooping up two feet on the heel side. While it is a family competition to see who can win the most individually, when they come together, they compete seamlessly as a team.
“They work to beat each other, but also work to cheer each other on. Even with their rodeo friends,” Nicole said.
Sign up for our Free Newsletters
Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.
Error! There was an error processing your request.
All in, Paisley has won three saddles and over 40 belt buckles. Her brother is close behind with one saddle of his own, winning All Around Cowboy for Hillside Rodeo in 2021 and about 30 buckles, including the one in the kitchen.
“Someday I am going to beat her,” Ketch said, who won his first all-around saddle at seven years old.
Each kid looks after and competes on two separate horses, trained for two very different ways of life.
Paisley looks after Gus and Rootie, who compete in barrel and pole racing, goat tying, team rope and breakaway respectively. Ketch has two of his own, Toot and Bolt. Toot is his horse for roping and team, while Bolt is used for goat tying, barrel racing and pole bending.
Adding to the familial side of the Burdette rodeo lifestyle, while Paisley and Ketch compete in the team competition they ride Rootie and Toot. Toot is Rootie’s mom.
As the kids grew up, so did Rootie right beside them. The trio have been together since any one of them can remember.
“These horses are pretty much our dogs and cats,” Paisley said.
On the backs of the horses, the kids have traveled all over the south. They have gone out to Guthrie, Oklahoma, down to Florida and over on into South Carolina. They have a few competitions left in Alabama this year.
The kids compete for the Alabama Junior Rodeo Association and the Southern Association Youth Rodeo, each taking place in the warmer months of the year.
Training for the rodeo may not seem like an easy or accessible task for most. Not for the Burdettes, as all they have to do is strap up their boots and head on outside. It is all right there.
“We try to train every day,” Ketch said. “We mostly try to go out for two to three hours a day to exercise the horses.”
The practice regiment depends largely on the setting of the sun. Nowadays, as the sun sets earlier, the kids come straight home from school and go out and practice. They then eat and do schoolwork.
When the sun sets later, they reverse their tasks. All the while, the two maintain excellent grades and maintain a standard level of sportsmanship that allows them to continue to compete. To their mom, competing in rodeo is a gift, not a right.
“Yes, we have to practice like any sport, but grades always come first,” Nicole said. “You do need a good job too to support this hobby.”
Rodeo is an expensive undertaking. It is not like wrestling, which Ketch also competes in, that all you need is some shoes and a headgear. It takes plenty of funds to be able to keep this up. That's why the kids have a ton of sponsors, who help them with anything from washing horse blankets to patches on their competition shirts.
“We are incredibly blessed to have some amazing sponsors that love these kids and help support their dreams,” Nicole said.
For their young ages, these kids have already accomplished a life’s worth of goals. Paisley could talk about rodeo like a lawyer could explain the law. Ketch can describe the rodeo better than someone on ESPN.
Looking to the future, the two kids see rodeo as more of a hobby than a career. It is a fun way to connect with the animals they love, while embracing the totality of sport.
“It's more like a hobby, but it's something that we want to keep doing,” Paisley said.
The goal one day at the Burdette house and arena is to install more lighting outside of their rodeo and to install seating, potentially to be able to host events in their own backyard. They want to bring the rodeo even closer to home.
“You see the horses compete with these kids, that is worth a lot,” Nicole said.
Lights and seating may be another expense, but in the end, to see her family compete and excel at the sport her and her husband have loved for so long, it is hard to say no.
“We want this to be somewhere people in our community can come and fall in love with rodeo and the farm lifestyle,” Nicole said.