Team Penning Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below
The discipline sport of team penning has grown immensely over the last years. Everybody likes to play cowboy, and this event is as good an opportunity for that as one can get at a horse show. The good thing about it is, one does not need a highly specialized, high-priced horse to compete, or any special or expensive equipment. No specialized training goes into the horses ridden in this event, and basically everyone with a well-broke horse can compete.
THE CONTEST AND SCORING
Sorting out cattle, driving them into pens, is part of every-day ranch work, so riders rightfully feel a bit like cowboys when competing in team penning. The cattle are settled on one far end of the arena and are all numbered, or wear neck straps of different colors. The same numbers are worn by sets of three cows, or identically colored neck straps.
The task for the team of three team penners is to cut out the three cows that were assigned to them, and drive them over to the other end of the arena, where a pen is set up, with its gate ajar, and drive them into the pen. This really takes a team effort to accomplish.
Team penning is run against the clock. The team with the fastest time wins, but it is not that simple sometimes it is wiser to call for time when only two cows are penned. Teams that succeeded to pen all three cows always place higher than ones that pen only two, and teams penning two always place higher than teams penning only one, but depending on how other teams fared, and how many are still to compete, it is sometimes smarter to be satisfied with less than three, if there is an especially tricky cow among the group to be penned. In team penning, there is also a time limit. Thirty seconds before time runs out, the team is given a warning signal. Now they must decide whether they still want to go for a missing cow, or be satisfied with what they have, to avoid a no time.
Between the herd and the pen is an imaginary starting and foul line. Once the nose of the first horse crosses that line, time is being counted. When the team enters the arena, their number, or color, is announced. Immediately they go to search for their cows. The line is also called foul line in team penning because at no time must there be more than four cows beyond this line; if five or more cows crossed that line, a no time is given.
Usually one or two riders check for the designated cows and bring them out, while one stays back and receives them. When two or more are driven towards the other end, one rider goes to the pen, which is placed at a distance from the wall, blocking that space and watching the gate. The other two riders drive what cattle they cut out all the way to the pen’s gate, where the third team penning rider makes sure they do not run by the pen, but go in. When the last one goes in, the rider at the gate raises his hand for the flag to be shown.
Horses for this discipline need to be quick and agile and at their riders disposal at all times. It surely does not hurt if they have what is called cow sense
This sport is always loved by the spectators, and emotions run high. It is usually hard to say who is enjoying the whole spectacle more, the crowd or the team penners.