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Being relatively new to the sports of Ranch Sorting and Team Penning, I have relied heavily upon the skills and expertise of my husband, David King, who has been a nationally ranked competitor in this field for over two decades. While I have a long ways to go, and continue to learn something new nearly every time I ride, the tips and tricks listed below are tried and true ones that he has drilled into me and everyone around him repetitively, sometimes unmercifully, but always with a sincere desire for everyone to be the absolute best competitor they can possibly be.

*The tips outlined below are listed in no particular order.


1.) Remember to Communicate.

Stay in constant contact with your teammate and always speak loudly/clearly enough for them to understand you. Call the next number to be sorted (seems simple, but it helps eliminate the temporary dyslexia that has a tendency to creep up and ruin the best of rides). Just like when shooting pool, outline your game plan, tell them if you are planning to take your cow right or left, up the wall or thru the middle of the pen. If you see a trash cow that you feel is going to be a trouble maker, point it out to your partner in the hole. Ask them, "Am I clear?", "Are you good?", etc. if you are not able to look at the hole and assess the situation.

2.) Put the eye of your cow between you and your horse and where you want the cow to go.

The cow's eye is your point of control. Use it to make a decision for the cow, do not put yourself in a position where the cow thinks he has the chance to call the shots.

3.) When you are having trouble heading a cow, go "where the cow is going". 

Exaggerate your movement. If you know he is running back to the rest of the herd, don't run to his nose. Play it safe and run ahead of him to the edge of the herd and cut him off. Don't make it easy for him to beat you.

4.) Work to keep your horse "quiet", both mentally and physically.  

You do not want your horse to make any excess movement. Excess movement sabotages your cut, scatters the herd, and ruins the "rhythm" of your ride. Your goal should be pinpoint accuracy when you set your crosshairs on a cow, and a horse that is stealth in the herd will make it much easier to accomplish that goal.

5.) Don't split the herd.  

Your teammate in the hole cannot be in two places at once, so don't send cows running at him from both sides of the pen. Try to always carry your cow to the hole via "the path of least resistance". If your cow is standing to the right by himself, take him to the right away from the rest of the herd where he has a clear path to the hole. If your cow is buried in the back left corner, tip toe in behind him and try to push him to the wall disturbing as few of the other cows as possible.

6.) When a cow gives you "the look", take him that second.

Don't hesitate! Many times that split-second is the only moment that a cow will submit to the pressure applied by you and your horse. When a cow locks his gaze on you and/or your horse he is telling you to take him. If you miss that golden opportunity, what could have been a phenomenal cut usually turns into a wild chase around the pen after an uncooperative cow or hunting for a cow that buries himself back in the herd.

7.) When making a cut from the middle of the pen, go deep.

This trick is truly magical. It is absolutely amazing how well it works when executed properly. Sometimes you have a cow that steps from the middle of the herd and looks directly at the hole. When a cow does this if you step in behind him deeply enough he will shoot straight out of the herd and make a beeline for the hole without disturbing any of his herd buddies, making you look like a sorting superhero.

8.) Pay attention to your teammate in the hole.

If they have their hands full, check up and slow down. Give them a chance to clean things up before you cram more trash cows down their throat. At the same, try your best to maintain a position of control on the cow you are trying to cut.

9.) If you are coming to hole with your good cow and the trash cows are rolling off the top fluidly, maintain a steady pressure on your cow. DON'T STOP! Stay in control of your cow and keep the momentum rolling towards the hole. Your teammate in the hole has to have that momentum in order to roll those trash cows, if you stop you take away that momentum. Then you just have a bunch of trash cows stalling at the hole and looking for a fight.

10.) Remember to go around your teammate in the hole with your good cow if you have a bad cow next to the fence.

This move is so simple, and works so well, yet so few people do it. Think about it, if you run your good cow around your teammate then as soon as you push your good cow out of the hole you are in an optimum position to tag team the trash cow/cows with you partner. If you are paying attention they don't stand a chance.

11.) Push the cow you are sorting from the shoulder, not the eye. Position your horse behind your cow's eye, just behind the shoulder. This position maximizes the level of control you have over your cow.


You would think this would go without saying, but trust me, it happens. If you pass the eye of the cow you are sorting, guess what? He's shutting down and going back to the herd. You just lost him.


13.) Remember to communicate.



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