Get Ready to Ride for Some Ranch Sorting


The newest competitive event sanctioned by the American Quarter Horse Association is ranch sorting. Similar to the popular sport of team penning, ranch sorting involves a pair of riders, some cattle with numbers on their hides, a designated holding area and a ticking clock. However, fans of ranch sorting claim that there’s a bit more finesse and tactical maneuvering involved than in team penning. Who knows what the cattle think.
Ranch sorting is, indeed, based on precision. A team of two riders enters the arena to face 12 head of cattle. Ten of the cattle are wearing numbers zero through nine, and two of the cattle are unmarked. The two riders hear a number randomly called and have exactly 60 seconds to numerically sort the cattle into a nearby round pen, starting with the number called. For example, if the riders hear three, they first will push the cow with the number three on its back to a round pen followed by the No. 4 cow, then the No. 5 cow, and so on until all are penned without disturbing the unmarked cattle. If a cow is sorted out of order, or if one comes back across the foul line from the other pen, it is judged a ‘no time.’ Teamwork is key with two riders working in harmony to cut out the correctly numbered cattle and drive them to the other pen while keeping the wrong numbered cattle back.
Sound like fun? If you’re an AQHA member, you can search for more information on how you might qualify to compete at the annual AQHA World Show in ranch sorting. Otherwise, look for ranch sorting events in your area that might be hosted by local riding or ranching associations.

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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.



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