Team Penning and Ranch Sorting are sporting events that involve the movement of cattle on horseback by rider teams. Created to preserve that traditional skill sets of working cow horses and handlers, Penning and Sorting challenge modern riders and mounts to compete in a timed event to identify, move and pen specific cattle from a herd in a limited amount of time. Penning and Sorting are timed events that involve speed, precision and strategic planning in order to quickly and accurately cut and pen the cattle.
In Penning, teams of three horse and rider combinations use their combined athleticism, horsemanship and general "cowiness" to humanely separate particular cows and herd them into the penning area in under 60 seconds. Time is of the essence in Penning and Sorting, making this challenging sport even more exciting as the clock ticks. In seconds, the most skilled horses and riders can find their specified cow, separate it from the herd and move it to the penning area without ever touching the animal. Penning and Sorting offer participants the opportunity to incorporate all of their working cow horse skills in a fast-paced, fun, team-oriented competition while embracing the roots of the western lifestyle.
Ranch sorting requires that two riders move a herd of ten cattle in numerical order from one round pen into a separate adjoining pen in sixty seconds or less. There is a twelve foot opening between the two pens, and also two un-numbered 'trash' cows that are mingled throughout the herd. In both penning and sorting, the numbers do matter - so any cow that crosses the line, either out of order or carrying the wrong number, will result in a 'no time' for the team.
One of the most appealing aspects of Team Penning and Ranch Sorting is the diversity of horse breeds in the sports. While some may consider these riding discipline best suited for stock-type horses, USTPA competitions are open to every breed of horse, registered or not. USTPA does maintain working relationships with specific breed associations, including the AQHA, to promote the use of uniform rules for all Team Penning and Ranch Sorting competitions.