How Does it Work?

Cattle are numbered in groups of three and are herded down on one end of an arena.  Teams of three riders cross a start line as the announcer calls out a number.  The team separates the three cattle from the herd, pushes them to the other end of the arena and gets them into a small square pen.  The team with the fastest time wins.


Team Penning is a 3 rider team, attempting to pen 3 designated cattle. A run starts with team members on the opposite side of the start line from the cattle.

All pennings will be run progressive and teams must pen in order to progress to the next go. 10 teams will go to the finals if 10 or more teams entered the class and have a qualified time in the previous goes. All teams entered will participate in the first go. The second (final) go will consist of up to the top 10 teams except when more than 50 teams have entered, 20 teams may participate in the final go at the promoters’ discretion. All ties for the final go round will be brought back to the finals which may result in additional teams in the finals.

At the beginning of each cattle change, the next ten (10) teams will be called to allow riders ample time to be ready to ride. Upon hearing your name or team called, you will have 30 seconds to be in the arena ready to ride. At the end of the thirty (30) seconds, if the team is not in the arena, the judge will drop the flag and time will be started. Riders may enter the arena after the clock starts. Unless specified by the announcer two (2) riders must remain in the arena after their ride to settle the herd. There may be a time penalty assessed against riders teams who do not hold herd.

All cattle will be bunched in the center of the arena on the cattle side of the starting line. The judge will raise the flag to signal when the cattle are ready and the announcer will announce when the riders should start their run. Contestants will be given their cattle number when the judge drops the flag as the nose of the first horse crosses the starting line or when the thirty (30) seconds between teams has expired. Riders are committed to the herd once they cross the starting line and no re-rides will be given because the “luck of the draw” will apply.

Upon crossing the starting line, the team has a specified time limit to pen 1 ,2 or 3 head of cattle bearing the assigned number called by the announcer. A warning may be given thirty (30) seconds prior to final time being called. Once committed to the cattle, the team is completely responsible for their animals. It is the team’s responsibility, before crossing the start line, to pull up and call for a judge, if in their opinion there is an injured or unusable animal in the herd. Before a team has committed to the herd, if in the opinion of the judge, it is deemed a numbered animal is injured or unusable, a judge may ask for that animal to be replaced.

If more than three (3) cattle are brought across the start/foul line at the same time, the team will be judged a “no time”. Any part of the cow crossing the foul line will be considered the fourth cow to cross the line.

A team may call for time with only one (1) or two (2) of the assigned cattle penned. However, teams penning three (3) head of cattle will place higher than the teams penning only two (2) or one (1) head of cattle, regardless of the time. In a multiple go –round contest, teams that pen in each go-round will beat teams that fail to pen in a go-round, regardless of the number of cattle penned or the time. EXAMPLE: Time in three (3) go rounds beats times in two (2) go rounds. Times in two (2) go rounds beats time in one (1) go round.

To call for time, one or more riders must enter the gate of the pen and raise a hand above the waist. Any rider not mounted on their horse will not be allowed to work cattle or help in any way while dismounted. The flag will drop when the nose of the first horse enters the gate and the rider raises a hand. However, time continues until all un-penned cattle are completely on the cattle side of the foul line. In the event an animal escapes from the pen after time is called for, but prior to the time that all un-penned cattle are on the cattle side of the foul line, the time will be judged a “no time”. An escaped animal is defined as being any part of a numbered animal on the outside, or opening, of the pen when time is called.

A team calling for time with any wrong numbered cattle in the pen or cattle partially in the pen will be judged a “no time”.

More Rules …

In the event of a mechanical or official error (clock, gate, etc.), the participating team will get a re-ride at the end of that set of cattle with the same numbered cattle. In case of such an error, no penalty will be assessed on the re-ride. If more than one re-run is given in any go round, they will be taken in order of occurrence.

No substitutions will be allowed after a team has made their first run, except in an emergency, at the judges discretion. If one or two members cannot complete a penning run, the remaining team members may elect to finish the run by themselves. No riderless horses may be used in place of another rider.

A rider may not enter more than five (5) times per class and must change at least one member of their team for each entry.

Teams should be signed up, using first and last names, before the end of the first go of each event unless announced otherwise.

If a team has a dispute about a run, a protest to a judge must be lodged before the team leaves the arena. The judges and arena director must confer and agree on a decision. If the dispute is sustained, the team will be given a re-run.

Decisions of the judges are final.