Ranch Sorting is a western-style equestrian sport that evolved from the common ranch work of separating cattle into pens for branding, doctoring, or transport. Ranch Sorting is an event that pits a team of two riders on horseback against the clock.
Teamwork is the key with both riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen while keeping the wrong numbered cattle back.
There are several variations of ranch sorting with one or two on a team, but all require sorting the cattle from one pen to the other in the correct order.
Ranch Sorting is performed in two pens that are fifty to sixty feet round with a twelve to sixteen foot opening between the pens. If pens are squared, corners are cut at 45 degree angles.
At the beginning, ten to twelve calves will stand at one end of the pen. Ten calves will be numbered on their sides for identification. (Total number of cattle in the pen will be ten to twelve based on the show producer's discretion). The judge raises the flag and when the riders cross the gap between the two pens the clock starts and the competition begins. The team of two riders have to move the cattle one at a time from one pen to the other in numerical order, starting with a random number called by the judge. The fastest time wins. If a calf gets from one pen to the other out of order, then the team is disqualified.
NSCHA riders are rated from a #1 (beginner) to #6 (professional) based on their ability level. #1 and #2's being amateurs, #3 to #6 being non-professional or a #3 to #6 professional.