Team penning is a sport for all ages, and also delivers a huge adrenaline kick for participants and audiences. It’s a fast-paced event giving a team of three riders a total of 60 to 90 seconds (depending on the class) to separate three head of specifically identified cattle from a herd of around 30 head. Once they’ve been separated from the herd, the team’s job is to get the separated cattle to the opposite end of the arena and in to the ‘pen’, hence the name Team Penning.
But there is a catch – no more than four head of cattle are allowed to cross an invisible line known as the time or foul line at one time or the team is automatically disqualified. Of course the other variable – the cattle!
The sport takes place in 60 30 metre arena. At one end is the mob of cattle, at the other a gated pen that measures up to five metres.
What is the Run?
The ‘run’ is the time it takes the team to perform all the tasks required in the event. A team consists of three members, a ‘first man in’, a ‘second man in’ and a ‘turn back’, each having an individual role.
To start a run, the riders cross the time or foul line in the direction of the herd and the timer starts. The first man in locates a cow with the correct identification and cuts it from the herd, the turn back blocks the rest of the herd (dirty cows as they are known) from breaking out.
Once the first man has cut his cow out, the second man in follows the same procedure and again the first man in cuts the third cow from the herd. From here all three cows are herded down to the pen.
Time is called when all three cows and the riders are in the pen and one of the riders raises their hand above their shoulder to signal that their run is completed. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
How can you get disqualified?
Any unnecessary roughness towards cattle or horses will lead to disqualification, as will contact with the cattle by the rider or any of their equipment. There are other ways to be disqualified, and some of the main ones are a team calling for a time with any wrong numbers in the pen, too many cattle on the pen side of the time or foul line or if the riders delay the start of their run 30 seconds after the first call of the announcer. What should I wear?
A western hat, long sleeved shirt, western pants and western boots are the typical attire – approved standard helmets may be used.
What equipment should my horse wear?
Team penning competitors use western style equipment including western saddles, split reins and bits or hackamores. Western saddles differ from English saddles in the sturdiness. Saddles are made of wood covered in thick leather. Many saddles also have carved patterns in the leather to reflect the style of the rider. Western saddles have a horn for grip as well as heavy, wooden stirrups.
Team Penning horses
The horses in team penning are the most important participants. Team penning horses are typically stock horses with quarter horses being a popular choice for all rodeo events. Stock horses are supple and responsive as well as being quick, particularly over short distances. Their athleticism allows them to stop, turn and accelerate quickly.
Quarter horses are also extremely athletic with many cowboys saying that a quarter horse can turn on a dime. Their muscular hindquarters allow them to make a quick, full stop and take off again with great speed. Quarter horses, and other stock horses, also have what many refer to as ‘cow sense’.
Cow sense is the horse’s ability to understand where cows are located and instinctively how to herd them. The horse is able to do this without assistance or aids because it is pure instinct. The horse pulls the stock away from the herd and uses its athleticism to keep the cow away from the horse.Where can I find more information?