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Mastering Team Penning: The Ultimate Guide for Horse Riders

Introduction to Team Penning

If you’re a horse rider looking for a new way to challenge yourself and your equine companion, team penning is definitely worth checking out. This timed event requires three riders and horses to work together to move three cows from one end of the arena to the other and pen them in a designated area.

Though it may seem straightforward, this task is not as easy as it sounds. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at team penning and discuss what you and your horse should know before you give it a try.

Things You and Your Horse Should Know

To succeed in team penning, both you and your horse must be comfortable around cattle. You must also be familiar with all the cues and commands necessary to make quick turns and spins, as well as the specific qualities required of your horse’s breed.

Typically, cutting horses are especially well-suited to team penning, given that their skills in herding and isolating cattle are second to none. Another key aspect to bear in mind before you take part in this event is that you’ll be required to observe the cattle before you’re assigned a number.

This will give you a chance to figure out which ones are the easiest to move and which ones are likely to give you trouble. Pay close attention to how the cows move and behave, as this knowledge will serve you well once the timer starts.

Rules You Should Know

As with any sport, there are specific rules that govern team penning. Here are some of the most important ones:

Herd: The cattle are usually pre-selected and will be released from a holding pen at one end of the arena.

Assigned Number: Three numbered cows must be moved from the herd and penned in a designated area at the other end of the arena. Timed Event: The event is timed, and participants are expected to complete the task as quickly as possible.

Dress Code: Riders are expected to wear a Western-style outfit that meets the requirements of the particular competition they are taking part in. Fouls: Repeated infractions or rule violations may result in the loss of points or disqualification from the event.

‘No Time’: If the riders are unable to pen all three cattle within a certain time frame, they will receive a ‘no time’ score. Team Penning vs.


While team penning may seem similar to team sorting, there are some important differences. Here’s what you need to know:

The Difference Between Team Penning and Sorting

Team penning involves three cows that have been pre-selected and numbered, while team sorting involves 10 cattle that need to be moved in consecutive order from one pen to another. Additionally, in team sorting, there are also “trash cows” that should not be moved, and riders must remove them from the line as they sort the numbered cows.

The Basics of Team Sorting

In team sorting, there are usually two riders and horses, and the event is also timed. The goal is to move the cows in consecutive order as quickly as possible.

Smaller round pens are used in team sorting, as this makes it easier to separate the cattle. The trash cows must be identified and removed from the line, and there is no penalty for doing so.

It’s important to note that no time is given for team sorting either, so speed is of the essence.


Team penning is definitely not a sport for the faint-hearted, but if you’re up for a challenge and enjoy working with cattle, it’s definitely worth giving it a go. With the right training and preparation, you and your horse can master the art of teamwork and precision, and maybe even come out on top in your next competition.

So why not give it a try and see what all the fuss is about?

3) Team Penning Divisions and Winning

Team Penning Divisions Available

Team penning is a rapidly growing sport, with many associations and rankings dedicated to class divisions and open classes for riders of all levels. Each association has different rules, guidelines, and criteria for its divisions, but they all offer a great way to compete and challenge yourself.

For instance, the United States Team Penning Association (USTPA) divides classes according to rider experience. The Novice class is for beginners while the Open class is for experienced riders.

These classes are further divided into age groups, and there are also classes for children, senior riders, and ranch riders. Another association that offers team penning rankings is the National Team Penning Association (NTPA).

They provide a wide range of classes ranging from beginner to advanced levels, based on the rider’s skill level and age group. They also place emphasis on the horse’s ability and offer classes based on breed, gender, and age.

How to Win Money in Team Penning

In team penning, riders are awarded prize money based on the number of cattle they can pen within the least amount of time. The team that pens the most number of cattle in the shortest time gets the highest prize money.

Riders should have a strong team because the task is not simple and requires a combination of speed, accuracy, and teamwork.

Teams that can work together efficiently and effectively using trained horses earn the greatest rewards.

Choosing easy-to-handle cattle is an excellent strategy for novice riders, particularly because they need a good start, but experienced riders may require tricky to challenge themselves.

4) Where to Find Team Penning Competitions

Where to Look for Competitions

If you are searching for team penning competitions, a great resource is to check team penning associations’ event calendars and sign up online. Signing up is mandatory, and registration fees must be paid based on the association’s rules and regulations.

Before signing up for a competition, ensure that you are eligible as per the rules and regulations of the association, and that your horse is trained and in good health. Another option to consider is purchasing day passes.

Day passes allow you to participate in a team penning competition for a single day without having to be a member of the association. This is a best option for riders who want to try out team penning without committing to a membership fee.

In the United States, a great team penning association to consider is the USTPA. It is one of the largest team penning associations with top events and members all over the country.

They also offer the Dixie Region Team Penning Association based in the southeast. If in Canada, you can look at the Canadian Team Cattle Penning Association.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Team penning is an exciting and remarkable sport that requires a lot of team effort between the horse and rider. It is an excellent sport for beginners because you can start in novice classes, giving you a chance to learn and grow your skills.

Once you gain confidence and experience, you can move up to more advanced levels and open classes. Additionally, if you are looking to have fun and bond with your horse while enjoying a competitive sport, team penning is the perfect choice.

The sport is beginner-friendly and offers riders of all levels a chance to showcase their abilities. It’s a great way to challenge yourself, meet new people, and form new friendships.

Overall, team penning is a thrilling and engaging sport that can be enjoyed by horse riders of all ages and experience levels. Whether you’re looking for a challenge or an exciting new hobby, we highly recommend giving team penning a shot.

It may just surprise you how much you enjoy it!

Team penning is an exciting horseback riding sport that requires teamwork between rider and horse to move three cows and pen them in a designated area as quickly as possible. Cutting horses are well-suited to this event, and riders must be comfortable around cattle and understand the specific rules and dress codes associated with competing.

There are different divisions, classes, and age groups, and prize money is awarded based on the team that pens the most cattle within the shortest time. Finding competitions is easy through event calendars, association websites, and online registration.

In conclusion, team penning is an engaging and thrilling sport that riders of all ages and experience levels can enjoy and share with their equine partners, forming new friendships and challenging themselves in the process.


Q: What is team penning?

A: Team penning is a horseback riding sport that requires a team of three riders and horses to work together to move three cows from one end of the arena to the other and pen them in a designated area. Q: What skills does team penning require?

A: To succeed in team penning, riders must be comfortable around cattle, have quick turn and spin abilities, and understand their horse’s breed-specific qualities. Q: How are teams awarded prize money in team penning?

A: Prize money is awarded based on the team that pens the most cattle within the shortest amount of time. Q: Where can I find team penning competitions?

A: Team penning competitions can be found through team penning association websites, online registration, and event calendars. Q: Is team penning beginner-friendly?

A: Yes, team penning is beginner-friendly, with classes and divisions catering to riders of all ages and experience levels.

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