Team Penning and Ranch Sorting

These two sports are related and once you choose your horse, rider and tack, you can enter both Team Penning and Ranch Sorting.

Team Penning

What is it?

Three riders cut three cows from a herd and drive those three into a pen, in under 60 seconds.

What props do I need?

If the horse is cutting the cow from the herd, you will need enough cows to make it look like there is a herd. Also a line of fencing or back board to represent the pen or arena.

If the horse has already cut three cows out, you'll need enough fence to make a J shaped box to be the pen the cows must enter to score points.

What horse do I need?

Stock horses- Quarter Horses, Appaloosas and Paints are common. The United States Team Penning Association allows any breed, registered or not.

What tack does the horse wear?

Same as Ranch Sorting (see below)

What does the rider wear?

Same as Ranch Sorting (see below)

What should the rider be doing?

One horse and rider approaches the herd to cut the first cow out. The second horse should be positioned about twenty feet from the herd waiting to select the next cow. The third horse is close to the pen.

In a circular motion, cow one and two are driven to the middle of the arena as the third horse moves in to cut out the last cow. Horses one and two must keep the herd together while making sure cows one and two don't get back to the herd.

As soon as the third cow is moving towards the pen, all three riders chase the numbered cows into the pen.

Assuming you don't have three horses, three riders and a dozen cows - you'll need to choose what part of the round you are showing. Write up a nice description such as "Marlin chases the second cow to the pen. Off camera Harley goes after the third cow in the back of the herd."

RAnch Sorting

What is it?

Two riders move ten cattle in numerical order.

When a random number is called, one rider tries to herd the cow wearing that number into the other pen while the second rider blocks the entrance so the wrong cows don't get in.

After the first cow is in the corral, the second rider tries to herd the cow with the next number in. If the wrong cow goes in, the team gets a no time.

What props do I need?

You need two pens about that are round or octagonal.

  • For Traditional Breyer horses the dimensions would be 5½ to 6 feet.
  • For Classic Breyer horses the pen would be 5 feet.


The foul line is an opening between the pens. This is where the judge is positioned.

  • For Traditional Breyer horses the dimensions would be 1⅓ to 1¾ feet wide.
  • For Classic Breyer horses the foul line would be 1 foot wide.

If you don't have enough fencing,  you can set the horse guarding the foul line or bunch the cattle in front of a curved section of fence.
An electronic clock is required at all sorting shows (but yours can be "out of the photo" if you're photo showing).

What horse do I need?

Stock horses- Quarter Horses,  Appaloosas and Paints  are common. The United States Team Penning Association allows any breed, registered or not.

 A standing horse can be blocking the foul line. Moving horses can be pushing cattle. However, this is still not a good competition to put Secretariat in, even though there is no penalty for excessive speed.

Make sure the horse and rider are looking at the cow they are cutting out or chasing.

What tack does the horse wear?

Horses may wear hackamores, snaffle bridles, or curb bridles, no matter what age they are. Whips and bats are allowed on the horses but not the cattle.
Cows must wear back numbers.

What does the rider wear?

The rider wears regular working western clothes including a log sleeved shirt that is tucked in and boots. He can wear a cowboy hat or helmet. In extreme weather,  jackets could be worn if the Director decides they are needed.

The Hat Rule - In USTPA events a $10 dollar fine is collected for every hat that falls to the arena floor. If the horse goes down or the rider falls off then the fine is not collected.

What should the rider be doing?

One rider is guarding the opening in the fence and the other is cutting a cow out of the herd.

The rider may use two hands on the reins if the horse is wearing a snaffle bit or hackamore. If the horse is wearing a curb bit he can only use one hand.

The rider may not touch the cow with her hands, clothing or any equipment such as ropes or bats. The horse may not run over, step on or bite cattle, he may not cause the cow to collide with the back panel or fence.

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