Cattle sorting is similar to team penning which I wrote about a few weeks ago and you can read about here. In sorting you also have a team of three riders, but you only have 10 head of numbered cattle (1 each from 0-9) at the other end of the arena instead of the 30 cattle in team penning. The numbers are basically like a huge dog collar with two large vinyl panels with a number on each side. They are put on for the practice and then taken off before the cattle are turned out to pasture for the night.
There is a foul line about 40 feet from the end of the cattle side of the arena instead of a pen you're trying to put them in. Once your team is in the arena and ready, you are given a number from 0-9. You then have 1 1/2 minutes (90 seconds) to bring your cattle across the line IN ORDER with no cattle crossing the line before their turn. Example: my team is given #4. We have to bring them out 4,5,6,7 etc. The team with the fastest time and the most cattle out in order wins.
It's a fun event that the whole family can participate in. You will see a lot of little kids and even some older folks having a good time at the cattle sortings. It's a little easier for beginners to ease into as it's not as fast-action (to start with) as team penning and you can use "greener" or less experienced horses while learning yourself. Playing with cattle and good horses is always fun!
There is also a version called "ranch sorting" that is done in a large pen and with only two riders on the team. The big difference is that you must take the cattle through a gate in order instead of across a line. Both versions are a lot of fun, but I usually prefer the ranch sorting.
I like the ranch sorting because I grew up doing this when it wasn't even an event. It was just plain old ranch work where Dad would put me in the gate while he sorted calves off the cows to be shipped to market. I got to be a very good gate man(girl) and ended up getting a lot of dirty looks from crotchety old cowboys that Dad would hire for day work. They didn't like the idea of a kid, much less a "little girl" doing a man's job. I always had fantastic ranch horses and was a good rider so I could compete with most of the grumpy old farts for the choice jobs. I had been working cattle for my dad and many other ranchers from a very young age and earned a good reputation. Kicker was that even though I was getting a paycheck for day work, I was really there to help my daddy and enjoy the heck out of myself. (Didn't realize that I was championing women's rights when I was nine years old!)
Being "in the gate" was a coveted position when working cattle as you got to work your horse and really enjoy the ride. When working the gate your horse is sliding from side to side and making lots of quick moves to keep cattle from escaping past him. It was always the most fun part of the day to be on a cowhorse that was "getting down in the dirt". I still enjoy it today on my mare Cinderella. It's better than a roller coaster ride by far.
Our day started out with a few minutes with Fred (or as I call him Ferd). Dad rescued him after one of the barn cats abandoned him when he was just about 2 weeks old. He was a fighter from day 1 and is now the ruler of the roost. He has Dad and anyone who comes over wrapped around his little furry paws.
"It's about time you got here to visit me!"
"Why won't you come and play in my house?"
Michael checking the cinch on his horse "Whiskey"
We went to dinner with Dad after we were through with the sorting practice and all of the animals were (well) fed. A very lovely way to end a nice weekend. Now it's back to boxes.