Bitterroot Ranch - Friday Afternoon - Team Sorting

In the afternoon, we were doing team sorting. I was on Nebraska and my husband was on Comanche. Everyone did this together, beginners and experienced riders. We all took the cattle from the stable area over to the corral which was it’s own challenge as the cows found every single escape route that they could. At one point, we had to herd them out of a corral they ran into because they wouldn’t just walk along the road. Having all the beginners didn’t really help either.

Once we got to the arena, they separated out 10 cows with ear tags all numbered 1-10 into the arena. The rest of the cows got to go into a corral. The goal of team sorting is to move the cows in numerical order from one side of the arena to the other. Because none of us really know what we’re doing, we got extra time and riders than at proper sorting events. So we had teams of 4 and 4 minutes. If it takes more than 4 minutes, you’re eliminated. If a cow goes across the line out of order, you’re eliminated. If one of the cows you already moved over goes back, you're eliminated. There are a lot more ways to lose than win.

We watched Mel and the two wranglers do an example round. It was particularly fun to watch as Mel was riding a tiny little pony. Then it was our turn. My husband and I acted as sorters, cutting out the cow we wanted and sending it across the line, another man named David and one of the wranglers acted as blockers stopping wrong cows from crossing the line and keeping good cows from going back.

We started with #2 (they with the starter cow to keep them from learning the pattern) and got to #7 before we had a runaway. #1 took off across the line and didn’t get blocked so we were eliminated.

We left the arena and watched the other teams all get eliminated as well. Then we got a second turn. This time we started with #6 and only made it to #8 before a naughty #5 cow streaked across the line. So we got eliminated again. One of the other teams finally managed to get all 10 cows across with out getting eliminated. It helped that they had a nice biting horse. Some of the horses will go after and bite the cows. Our would just push at them mildly.

I forgot to turn my camera on for our second turn :(

After the sorting was done, we had to herd all the cows back to the ranch and then through the stable yard, up the hill, and through a horse pasture out onto the range. This seriously took forever. All of the same escape routes were utilized and much time was spent chasing cows out of streams and trees, and all over the place. Some beginners were particularly egregious and got shouted at quite a bit.

My husband and I and 3 other riders went with a wrangler to take the cows up the hill and across the pasture. This also took forever as the cows just meandered along at their own glacial pace and whenever I’d chase them, the other riders would just keep on walking slowly so the herd would just fall back along their side. Again, a biting horse would have come in handy. The cows are so used to this at this point that they just sort of meander along even if you ride right up to them. Mel and the wranglers had crops to smack them with. I started taking my foot out of the stirrup and kicking them in the ass. That worked, but it was hard to get it lined up so I couldn’t do it all the time.

We finally got them into their area and rode back to the barn. We hopped off, turned in our horses and headed for the showers. I actually really like cow work. It’s a good test of riding ability with a purpose. I’d like to do more of it with a good cow horses. There's a place near me that offers team sorting so maybe we'll try that out in the spring.