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Competition Index
First Posted June 23, 2008
Aug 3, 2010

Team Penning

Image at National Western.com

National Team Penning Association

Team Penning is a really fun competition and sport. Anyone can participate. It does not take any special equipment, only a solid, well-broke horse that is not afraid of cows!

The cows are numbered with a tag on their ears or wear neck straps with different colors. They are brought into the penning area at one end of the enclosure. The same numbers are

worn by sets of three cows, or identically colored neck straps. There are three team penners with different jobs to do. They must cut out three cows that were assigned to them, (a specific number or colored neck strap) and drive them over to the other end of the arena, where a pen (hold) is set up. The gate to the pen is ajar. The cows are driven into the pen. This really takes a team effort.

Team penning is a timed event and also has time limits. The team that pens the cows with the fastest time wins. However, it is not that simple. Sometimes it is wiser to call for time when only two cows are penned. The cows can be difficult to get into the hold. Two cows can penned can possible be better than three. This all depends upon how the other Penning Teams perform. 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. In team penning, there is also a time limit. Thirty seconds before time runs out, the team is given a warning signal. Decisions to call time or continue are usually made quickly at this time. What you do not what to happen is to get a "no time." That basically can take you out of the competition.

Layout of the Competition Arena

There is an imaginary starting and foul line. It is between the herd and the pen (hold). Time starts as soon as the nose of the first horse crosses that line. When the team enters the arena, the number or color of their cows to be penned, 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. Five or more cows crossing that line constitutes a "no time."

One team member stays back while two team members separate out the three designated cows and drive them toward the pen or hold. The rider who stays back stops all other cows from crossing the foul line. When two or more cows are driven towards the pen end, one rider goes to the pen. The pen 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 cow enters the pen, the rider at the gate raises his hand to stop the timer. A flag is shown and the time is stopped and recorded.

Many team penners use Quarter Horses for the competitions. These horses are quick and agile. My husband and I actually boarded for five years, at a Team Penning Barn. Almost all of the contestants had Quarter Horses. They use to make fun of us because we were riding Tennessee Walkers and Rackers at that time. They would make jokes about our horses. At one competition I was invited to try the team penning. I had never done it, nor did I know anything about it. My horse had never been exposed to cows. Oh well--why not? Bareback and on my Tennessee Walker/Racker, Gambler, we entered the arena. I was the team player to hang back and stop the unwanted cows from crossing the foul line. It took one try to understand the way everything works. At one point one of my team members yelled, "Go to the hold," and I screamed back, "What the hell is the hold?" We did not make time that first time, but the next two times that evening we made time and penned all three cows. My Gambler put his head down and moved the cows along. He was great. Me--I stayed on and followed orders. It was great fun. After that no one made fun of our horses. I say we made our bones that evening with the team penning crowd!

Team penners are a fun group. They yell and scream, eat and drink, play hard and fast, and come back week after week to compete. The quick maneuvers- stopping and starting, spinning, etc. is hard on the horses. It seems to be much like a working saddle on the range--moving cattle--but, more intense for a shorter period of time.

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Team Penning

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