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365 Days in Horse Country – Ranch Sorting

Blog by Michael Stuart Webb | January 24th, 2014

365 Days in Horse Country – Ranch Sorting



On cattle ranches throughout the West, the sorting of cattle takes place on a daily basis.  Like many ranching tasks involving horses and cattle, sorting has become a competitive activity.

Ranch sorting is a timed event that can be done by one rider, or by a team of two or three.  Eleven head of cattle are placed in a 50 or 60 foot (15.2 or 18.2 m) pen, and they are given numbers from 0 to 9, with one cow left unnumbered.  The unnumbered cow is a “trash cow”, meaning it is not supposed to be sorted but is included just to make things tougher for the horse and rider.

A second 50 or 60 foot (15.2 or 18.2 m) pen is attached to the one containing the cows, with a 12 to 14 foot (3.7 to 4.3 m) opening between the two pens.

The rider (or riders) goes from the empty pen to the pen containing the cows, and the time begins.  The rider or riders must separate the cattle in numerical order and move each cow individually into the adjoining pen.  The rider (or team of riders) with the fastest time is the winner.