Sort It Out

Ranch sorting grows in popularity among American Quarter Horse owners.

Ranch sorting grows in popularity among American Quarter Horse owners.

From America’s Horse

Three Bars get excel in arena events like ranch sorting.
Three Bars (TB) excelled in arena events like ranch sorting.

Two riders, two horses, two pens, 12 head of cattle — and only 60 seconds to work. Sound like fun?

A relatively new team class — ranch sorting — became an AQHA class as of January 1, 2007, with points awarded and qualification possible to the World shows. The class is offered in the open, amateur and youth divisions.

Ranch sorting begins with 12 head of cattle shuttled into two round pens connected by a narrow entrance. Ten of the cattle are wearing numbers 0 through 9, and two of the cattle are unmarked.

The two riders enter the pen without cattle in it and are given a number by the announcer. From the second they enter the pen with cattle in it, the two riders have just 59 more seconds to work.

Horses with Three Bars (TB) blood excel in arena events. Find out more about this prepotent sire with the Three Bars (TB) Bloodline report.

The riders hear a number — 3, for example — and first push the cow with the No. 3 on its back into the empty pen. Then the No. 4 cow, then the No. 5 and so on until all the marked cattle are in one pen and the unmarked cattle in the other.

If an unmarked cow gets through the entrance or the No. 5 cow slips in ahead of the No. 4 cow, the team receives a “no-time.”

It’s an athletic event, with accuracy and teamwork at a premium.

The riders can take turns sorting the cattle and blocking access to the second pen. As a rider approaches the gate with his numbered animal, he calls out the number of the cow the other rider needs to find and sort.

Know a horse that descends from Three Bars (TB)? Learn more about how this important sire made his mark when you read the Three Bars (TB) Bloodline report.

Both pens are about 50 feet across, which makes finesse more important. Some competitors maintain that a smaller pen helps level the playing field, since it means that anyone with a good horse can sort, and you don’t need a horse that is incredibly fast. A horse that has a large amount of cow sense is important, since there is a very small space to work; the horse has to be aware of what is going on with the cows at all times. The horse also must be forgiving and quick in short bursts, to be able to cover the 50-foot distance quickly.

Ranch sorting takes skill and cow savvy, and relies heavily on a competitor’s horsemanship skills.

You can see top ranch sorters in action at this year’s World Championship Show, which runs November 6-21. If you’re going to Oklahoma City for the World Show or want to keep up with the action, make sure you order a World Show program, which is free to subscribers of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

3 thoughts on “Sort It Out”

  1. We have been doing some Ranch Sorting at our arena. If you havn’t tried it yet – don’t wait. You will love it. I don’t have years of riding experience, but the idea is simple and easy to catch on to. I would recommend it for all ages. a great sport!

  2. I agree with Connie, I run a Team Ranch Sorting Arena In Canfield, Ontario, Canada.
    We have all ages, disciplines and breeds come out to try their hand at it, it’s all about having fun with family and freinds at our arena.
    If you ever get a chance try it you won’t regret it.

  3. To begin with the toe length the Max. for a Hunter or a Western horse is 5 innuldicg pad and shoe (MO103.5). As to what type shoes a horse should wear that should be determined by the horse way of going, balance and cadence. I’ve had horses that have been shown in both divisions barefoot behind due to the way they went. By the same token, my Western horse now is shod the same as if he was still doing Classic again based on how the horse goes.As to your comments about needing a trainer that seems to vary widely based on regions. We in NY have a lot of Am. Owners who go it alone, many with great results. The key to this is to be sure your turn out and presentation is done in a professional manner when you go to shows pay attention to detail, that is often the thing overlooked by some Amateurs. My best advice is go to the shows and have fun. If your horse is the best that day more often than not you will leave with the blue ribbon with or without having a trainer there to help.Mike

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