Extra Credit Should Be Given If...

Cattle have nubers on them.

Any imagination in set up and design.

Set-Up Options

Arena Fencing Required:
Indoor or Outdoor Arena
Types of Fencing Allowed
Painted or Natural

Post and Rail

Post and Plank

Chain Link

Solid Plyboard

Plyboard with Top Rail

Stock Tube Pipe Rail

Interior Arena Wall

Footing Required:


No grass base

No rock base

Backboard or Natural Setting:


Team Penning or Ranch Sorting

Team penning is a western equestrian sport that evolved from the common ranch work of separating cattle into pens for branding, doctoring, or transport. A team of three riders on horseback separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30, and put them into a 16' x 24' pen through a 10' opening, at the opposite end of the arena. The cattle are typically yearling beef cattle (mature cows or bulls are not allowed), with numbers affixed to their back, three each wearing a number from 0 through 9. Timing starts once the line judge has dropped his flag as the lead rider's horse crosses the foul line. At that time, the announcer identifies the cattle to be separated by calling out a randomly drawn number or collar color. The riders must cut out the three head that have been nominated, take them to the opposite end of the arena, pen them and call for time. Teamwork is the key with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen.

(1) A team of three must cut from the herd and pen three head of cattle with the assigned (same) identity number. The fastest time wins.
(2) The numbers and working order will be drawn by the judge and show management before the start of the contest.
(3) All cattle will be bunched on the cattle side of the starting line before the time begins.
(4) There shall be two flagmen, one at the entrance to the pen and one at the start/foul line. The judge must be located at the start/foul line, and may or may not actually flag the contest at his/her discretion. There shall be at least two timekeepers. The first timer shall be the official time and the second timer shall be the back-up time, in the event the first timer misses the time or his watch fails.
(5) The line flagman will raise the flag to signal when the arena is ready.
(6) Contestants will be given their cattle penning number when the line flagman drops his flag as the nose of the first horse crosses the starting line. Riders are committed once they cross the start line.
(7) Once committed to the cattle, the team is responsible for their animals. It is the team’s responsibility, before working the cattle, to pull up and call for a judge’s decision if, in their opinion, there is an injured or unusable animal in their numbered cattle. Once the cattle are worked, no excuses are accepted.
(8) A snaffle bit or hackamore may be used no matter the age of the horse and may be ridden two handed. A curb bit may be used on any age horse, but must be ridden one handed.
(b) Measurements:
(1) Numbers must be minimum of 6 inches (15cm) tall. Numbers must be applied to both sides of the animal, high up on its side, with the top near the midline of the animal’s back between the shoulder and the hip.
(2) The optimum number of cattle per herd is 30; however, a maximum of 45 are allowed and a minimum of 21 per herd is required even if there are less than seven teams. All cattle within a herd must be numbered in groups of three.
(A) There must be three head of assigned (identical numbers) cattle per team in the herd as each new team begins a run.
(3) The starting and foul line must be designated by markers located on the arena fence, and easily viewed by the line judge and the exhibitors. The foul line shall be between 30 percent and 35 percent of the arena length from the cattle end of the arena, and the foul line shall be determined and advertised as such by the Event Producer. The foul line may be extended by 5 percent for each 10’ beyond 110’ in width, to accommodate bigger, wider arenas. The entry gate to the pen shall be situated 25 percent of the distance from the arena back wall, but shall not be less than 55 feet from the arena back wall.
(c) Time
(1) Show management may use 60, 75, or 90 second time limits for each division, but must advertise accordingly. Youth classes will be held using the 90-second time limit.
(2) A warning must be given to the team working the cattle at 30 seconds, prior to a final time being called.
(3) To call for time, one rider must stand in the gate and raise a hand for the flag. Flag will drop when the nose of the first horse enters the gate and the rider calls for time.
(4) Time continues until all unpenned cattle are completely on the cattle side of the starting line.
(d) Penalties - All penalties incurred will be added to a qualified run even if the penalty time exceeds time limit.
5 Second Penalty:
•per exhibitor will be assessed if the hat or helmet is not on the exhibitor’s person until completion of the run.
No Time:
•will be given if an animal is knocked or cut into the pen after time is called.
•if an animal escapes from the pen, when team is calling for time.
•if animal escapes from the pen, when team is calling for time prior to the time when all unpenned cattle are on the cattle side of the starting line. Escaped animal is one with any part of the animal coming out of the opening of the pen.
•if team calls for time with any wrong numbered cattle in the pen.
•excessive use of a whip, rope, crop, bat or reins anywhere on the horse.
•if more than three (3) head of cattle are across the start/foul line at the same time. Any part of the fourth animal that crosses the line will invoke a no time.
•contact with cattle by hands, hats, ropes, bats, romal or any other equipment. No hazing with whips, hats or ropes allowed. Romals or reins may be swung or popped on chaps.

RANCH SORTING Ranch sorting is a timed event class consisting of two riders with the objective of sorting ten head of cattle from one pen into another in a designated sequence. The team that sorts the most cattle in the correct order with the fastest time will be declared the winner. Points will be awarded based on the number of teams entered. For every five teams there will be a point awarded to each of the two winning team members.

RULES OF RANCH SORTING (a) The basic concept of ranch sorting is that there are ten numbered cattle, 0-9, and two unnumbered cattle for a total 12 head at the beginning of a run behind a foul line in an arena with two people mounted on the other side of the foul line.
(b) Ranch sorting will take place between two pens of approximately equal size with the Event Producer’s option of working cattle back and forth or only one way. Two ranch sorting arenas may be placed side by side with odd numbered teams in one arena and even numbered teams in the other arena. If cattle are to be worked back and forth, they need to be moved to the opposite pen and back before each new herd entering the arena is worked. Recommended sorting area to be 50’ - 60’ in diameter with no 90 degree corners, i.e. 60’ round pen or octagonal “stop sign” design.
(c) The start foul line will be recommended as a 12’ - 16’ opening between the two pens.
(d) There will be either a 90, 75, or 60 second clock for each class, at the option of the Event Producer. The official clock is the electronic display clock and is required at all sorting shows. The official time of each run is determined by the amount of time used until all 10 cattle are sorted or the time limit has expired. Time will continue until all cattle are sorted in the correct order or the time limit is reached, either of which becomes the official time for that team.
(e) A lap timer is to be used in all sorting classes to break ties where the cattle count is equal in runs of less than 10 cattle sorted. The stop watch used for lap time purposes will also be the back-up timer in the event of a malfunction of the electronic display clock. Lap times are cumulative in multiple go round events as well as the number of cattle sorted, but do not replace the official time of each run. Lap times only come into play when the cattle counts and the official times are identical.
(f) There will be a minimum of one judge for sorting, to be positioned evenly with the foul line.
(g) All cattle will be bunched on the cattle side of the gate within the designated area before the time begins. At the conclusion of each run, the judge will designate the need to bunch cattle.
(h) The judge will raise the flag to signal when the arena is ready. The flag will drop when the nose of the first horse crosses the start/foul line and the announcer will provide the number to be sorted first. The riders will be given their number instantly. Any delay in crossing the foul line may result in a “no-time” for the team. With particular interest, that no one or two cattle are isolated.
(i) All cattle must have approved back numbers; neck numbers are not acceptable. The cattle are sorted in order. If any part of a numbered cow crosses the start/foul line prior to its correct order, then the team receives a no-time. If any part of a sorted cow re-crosses the start/foul line the team will be disqualified. If any part of any unnumbered cow crosses the foul line before the tenth cow is cleanly sorted, it will result in a no-time.
(j) The order of sorting is determined by the picking of a random number by the announcer/timer and then that cow must be sorted first. For instance, if 5 is drawn as the first number, 5 is sorted first, then cow 6 must be sorted, 7, 8, 9, 0, 1 and so on. A cow is considered sorted when the entire cow is completely across the start/foul line.
(k) If there is a malfunction of the sorting pen or a numbered cow jumps any fence and either leaves the arena or ends up in the opposite pen, but did not pass through the gate, it will result in a reride for that team at the end of the herd, (assuming it was not caused by roughing of the cattle). In the instance of a re-ride, exhibitors will receive a full (90, 75 or 60 second) clock, but the exhibitors time cannot be improved. However, the number of cattle sorted during the allotted time can be improved. (Example: If a team had five (5) head in 55 seconds (with a 60 second clock) when the cow jumped the fence, they would get a re-ride with the full 60 second clock. In the re-ride, the same team sorted ten (10) head in 50 seconds. Their official time would be ten (10) head in 55 seconds).
(l) Should a herd be numbered incorrectly or have too many non-numbered cattle, the team(s) will receive a re-ride at the end of that set of cattle. If a team is given a number that has already been used within a given herd, a rerun must be given immediately, using the correct number within that same herd.
(m) Any unnecessary roughness to cattle or horses or unsportsmanlike conduct may result in disqualification.
(n) Any excessive use of a whip, rope, crop, bat or reins anywhere on the horse will be cause for disqualification.
(o) A snaffle bit or hackamore may be used no matter the age of the horse and may be ridden two handed. A curb bit may be used on any age horse, but must be ridden one handed.
(n) Exhibitor will be assessed if the hat or helmet is not on the exhibitor’s person until completion of the run.

Examples of Team Penning or Ranch Sorting:
Photo Credit:
Ranch Sorting

Adrenna Lynn, shown as a black overo Paint mare, is a Smokin HotChic by Sherry Clayton. Owned and shown by Andrea Robbins. Caption: Team rider and horse are helping to push the last numbered cow (in this case Zero) through the opening as the flag man prepares to signal the completion of the go.

Photo Credit:
Team Penning

Ruggedly Handsome Hawk, shown as bay tobiano Paint stallion is a Breyer Rugged Painted Lark. Owned by Andrea Robbins. Caption: Two teammates (the third is off camera) push the last of the three required cows with the number eight into the holding pen to complete their round.

Required Tack:
Western saddle of any style of reins. But usually a saddle with a second cinch is used to ensure less stress on the horse's loins and back. If a second cinch is used remember to use a rear-cinch connecting strap. Five and under horses show in a bosal or a snaffle bit. Breast collars are often used. Exception is Western Riding where no leg protection is used. Only one hand on the rein unless the bridle is a snaffle or a hackamore bosal.

Optional but Strongly Suggested Tack:
Leg protection is necessary on all four legs and horses wearing it should be given credit over bare legged entries. A standard sliding, rundown or skid boot on the rear fetlocks and splint boots or bell boots on the front legs are optional appointments in the following classes; Team penning, cutting, working cow horse, reining, steer daubing, games and roping. The use of soft leg wraps will be permitted.

Martingales, gag bits, nosebands, crops or whips, tapaderos, wire curbs or a chin strap under one-half inch wide are forbidden equipment.

Attire is jeans, trousers or pants over western boots, long sleeved shirts, (vest, tie and jacket are also permitted) belt through loop, and western hat. Chaps are required.

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Updated: January 14, 2013