Ranch Sorting 101

Learn about the growing sport of Ranch Sorting with our 101 breakdown of the event.

Ranch sorting is a fun, dynamic sport that has something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced rider or just getting into it. Let’s dive into what ranch sorting is all about. Including the Ranch Sorting National Championships (RSNC), how you can jump in and compete, and where to find more information about the sport.

What Is Ranch Sorting?

Ranch sorting is where traditional ranch work meets modern competition. It is a sport that evolved from separating cattle into pens for branding, doctoring, or transport on the ranch. The objective is simple yet challenging. Separate and sort cattle from one pen into another in numerical order, against the clock, testing speed, strategy, and teamwork between horse and rider. Two riders compete in pairs, and people sometimes refer to this event as team sorting.

At the beginning of the competition, there are 11 cows in one of two connected round pens. Each pen is 50 to 60 feet in diameter. Ten cows are numbered from 0 to 9, while one is unmarked. The event starts when two riders pass through the 12-foot gap separating the pens. This triggers the start of the timer and prompts the judge to announce the number of the first cow to be separated. The cows must be moved into the second pen in numerical order, with the unmarked cow remaining in the original pen. Any cow crossing the boundary out of sequence results in immediate disqualification for the team. For example, if the team’s number is 8, they sort the cow bearing that number, then the cows numbered 9, 0, 1, 2, 3 and so on, in order. (Meanwhile, the unnumbered cow must remain in the original pen.)

The team with the most cows sorted in the fastest time wins.

What is RSNC?

The Ranch Sorting National Championship (RSNC) was established in 2007. It formalized the rules and turned ranch sorting into an organized discipline. Since then, it has grown exponentially in popularity. This is thanks to its accessibility, affordability, and the sheer fun it offers to competitors and spectators alike.

The RSNC, or Ranch Sorting National Championships, is the governing body of ranch sorting. They founded it with the goal of making competitive riding accessible to a broad audience – from beginners to experts. RSNC events are known for their family-friendly atmosphere and competitive spirit. Entry fees starting at just $20 for beginners. Which makes this sport an affordable way for families to enjoy a day out while engaging in healthy competition.

Can Anyone Compete in Ranch Sorting?

Yes, absolutely! One of the most appealing aspects of ranch sorting is undeniably its accessibility. Thanks to the RSNC’s 9-point rating system and handicapping system, winning is within reach for anyone who can ride a horse. This makes ranch sorting an excellent choice for riders of all skill levels who wish to test their mettle in a fun and competitive environment. It’s a sport that values the bond between horse and rider, emphasizing teamwork and communication over sheer speed or power.

RSNC’s unique rating system ensures that there’s a level playing field for all participants. They rate contestants from #1 (Beginner) to #9 (Professional) according to skill level. Beginners are categorized as #1, Rookies as #2, Novice #3, Amateurs are classified as #4 – #6, and Open or Professional participants are designated as #7, #8, and #9.

Additionally, horses of all breeds are welcome to compete. You will find horses of all shapes and sizes trying their hand at the sport, especially in the beginner and rookie classes.

The RSNC has made the sport of Ranch Sorting accessible to riders of all levels. Photo by C Bar C Photography.

Where Can I Learn More About Ranch Sorting?

If you are wanting to learn more about the sport, the RSNC website (rsnc.us) is a treasure trove of information. Here, you can find details on upcoming events, read The Ranch Sorter Magazine, and sign up for an RSNC membership. The RSNC has grown the sport by offering resources for riders of all levels to improve their skills and participate in events.

Whether you’re looking to compete, improve your riding skills, or just enjoy a day out with fellow horse lovers, ranch sorting offers a unique and thrilling experience. The RSNC community is a welcoming place for anyone passionate about horses and traditional cowboy disciplines. Through their efforts, they have introduced over 34,000 members to the sport.

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