Friday, August 14, 2009

Ranch Sorting

The ranch where we keep our horses hosted their first (in a long time) Ranch Sorting last week. It wasn't necessarily a competition, but an opportunity for all the boarders to get together and learn the ins and outs of the sport.

Pretty much everyone who showed up that night had never participated in a Ranch Sorting before and most all the horses had never been in close contact with cows before. To say this was a learning experience may be an understatement.

You begin with a group of cows, usually ten, which are numbered 0-9.

Quite the motley crew, don't ya think?

The cows are put into two round pens, which share a side. The panel between the two pens is removed, so that the cows (and horses and riders) can move back and forth between them.

Anne and Jack went over the basics of the competition, explaining the method and rules for us. Then her and Laura gave a fabulous demo. As I said, pretty much everyone there had no idea what a Ranch Sorting was all about.

Teams of two horse/rider combinations are formed. Before beginning, the team is given a number between 0 and 9. That is the number of the first cow they have to get.

The cows are moved one by one, in numberical order, from one pen to the other. If your team started with 9, you would first sort 9, then 0, 1, 2, etc. You get the idea. Usually, in competition, you have one to two minutes to sort the cattle.

Typically, one rider holds the "gate" or the open space between the two pens, while the other rider sorts out the correct cow. The "gate" person is responsible for making sure that only the correct cow gets through (cattle like to "mother" or pair up) and also keeping the already sorted cows from escaping back to the herd. If cows pass through the gate out of order, or if any sorted cows get back to the herd, the team is no-timed.

The night was a blast. The ranch had a great turnout of boarders, and everyone stayed till dark, when we had to shut down to to lack of lights. In fact, it was such a huge hit that we repeated the fun this week, with the addition of cattle numbers, lights and a BBQ!

Bella apparently felt right at home, because she spent most of the evening dozing off just outside the sorting pens!

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