Ranch sorting, very similar to team penning, cutting and reining, is a western equine sport. Before it became a sport it was and still is the practice of ranch work where cowboys would sort and separate cattle for branding, doctoring or transport. Although it is not as common in the form of pure ranch work as it was before the year 1942, when it first become a sport, it is still practiced to this day. Team penning was first turned into a sport when two brothers, Ray and Joe Yanez, and a Canadian cowboy, Bill Schwindt, decided to turn there daily ranch chores into a competition to see who could get them done quickest and showing their true horsemanship.
Today the United States Team Penning Association (USTPA) is head-quartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Although it is a team penning organization it is also the organization in charge of ranch sorting. The USTPA is a member based non-profit organization that was formed in 1993 to represent team penners of all ages.
A team of two riders must go against the clock to sort eleven calves in order one at a time from the current pen to the other. The calves are numbered on the sides so the riders can identify them. The pens are each fifty to sixty feet long with a gap about twelve to sixteen feet between the two pens and both pens are the same size. The corners of the pens are cut at 45 degrees.
The eleven calves start on the opposite side of the ring as the riders. When the judge raises the flag he will call out a number chosen at random. Once the riders cross the gap into the pen of calves the clock starts. They must sort the calves in numerical order starting with the number called by the judge. The fastest time will win but the riders must be careful not to let any calves enter the pen out of order or else they will be disqualified. There are different levels of competition to enter in, each level is based on the ability of the riders. The levels are identified with level one being a beginner and level nine, the highest level, being a professional.
There are different classifications for the inbetween levels as well.
Level one: Beginner
Ranch Sorting Breeds
Any horse breed is welcome in this event which brings great diversity to the sport. Many feel that a stock-type horse breed, such as an American Quarter Horse, is better suited for this event but competitors are not limited to any standard, whether registered or not registered. Horses bred on ranches who have jobs working with cattle tend to have a cow sense which is described as being able to mimic or anticipate a cows moves. These horses are very quick, agile and able to turn on a dime.
The USTPA have formed a relationship with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) which allows the earnings of registered Quarter Horses to be tracked and also makes them eligible to special awards.
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