Cattle Sorting

Olivia   July 17, 2017   32 Comments on Cattle Sorting

We were originally supposed to go to the Fireworks endurance ride this weekend. Then our horses conspired to be injured and ruin everything. Theoretically, Nilla is better now and cleared for a return to work, but she’s not ready for an endurance ride. So we decided to go try cattle sorting.

We tried cattle sorting for the first time this weekend. #mulesofinstagram #cattlesorting #cowmule

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We tried cattle sorting when we were on our Bitterroot Ranch vacation and I’ve been wanting to do it with our own horses since then. Nilla was living on a cattle ranch when I bought her. She wasn’t being used for anything, but I figured she’d at least seen cows and wouldn’t care about them. The inmates actually work the cows at the prison with the Mustangs so we knew Levi had had some experience working cattle although not straight cattle sorting.

The nice thing about this event as that it was a practice sorting so our lack of any skills, knowledge, or ability weren’t a problem. When we checked in, we were referred to some people who have done this for a long time and they were happy to talk to us and give us advice. One of the guys even came over to the fence while we were taking our turns and walked us through it. And – best of all given the insane heat wave we’re having here in the bay area – it was in an indoor arena.

We got there bright and early at 8:30 for sign up and then had time to warm up and check out the huge tack swap/sale that was also going on. Then we went over to the ring where the sorting was taking place and Nilla realized what she was in for. She was not impressed. Levi, however, was so excited.

omg cows

For anyone whose never seen cattle sorting before, I have created this very professional looking drawing to explain it.

There are two rounds pens attached with an opening between the two and 10 cows numbered 0 through 9 on one side. Two riders enter the arena and are given a random number. The goal is to move all the cows from one side to the other in order starting with the assigned cow. If a cow goes across in the wrong order, you’re out. If you get all of them across, the fastest team wins. Because this was a practice event, no one was getting every cow across and it was more of a who could get the most cows across in the given time frame sort of contest.

For our first round, I took the hole position (this rider stays in the center and keeps the wrong cows from running across) and my husband and Levi went first to try to sort out a cow. We were assigned cow #0 to start with. Levi was really into it, but they failed to get even one cow across.

For our next turn, my husband took the hole position and I tried to sort a cow. I also completely failed to get a single cow across in our allowed time, but the guy running it was nice enough to give us extra time so we could get better. One guy came over to the arena and walked me through sorting the one cow. Nilla, as I suspected, wasn’t scared of the cows, but was not interested in participating in the activity. She really hates games and anything she has to repeat. Here’s her trying to nope right out of there:

But with the additional time and the help of a really nice guy who came over to the fence and walked me through it, we got one cow across. Although Nilla remained unconvinced of the validity of this activity (as evidenced  by her excellent giraffe impersonation).

For our third run, since we were obviously now pros at this, we went back in and owned it:

Please note at 1:30 when Nilla decided she needed to escalate her objections by rearing. Duly noted mule. Levi was happy to step in though. Before we went, the most cows anyone had sorted without having a dirty cow (a wrong number across the line) was 5. We got 7. Boo ya!

After our third round, we took a quick break to let the horses have some hay and water and get some drinks for ourselves. Even with the covered arena, it was starting to get pretty hot. Back for our fourth round, my husband started out and got his cow across. I should have just let them do all of it as Levi was loving it and Nilla was just building a case against me, but we tried and failed to get the second cow across.

Lest you think Nilla’s life is really that bad, I present to you how she spent the entire time we were the in between our turns:

Just a little spoiled. #mulesofinstagram #mules #mulesrule #longears

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Once she figured out that my husband would scratch her ears, she would only stand in line at a 90 degree angle with her head facing him and begging for ear rubs.

There was originally supposed to be a jackpot event after the practice, but everyone was pretty freaking hot by that point so they were thinking they might not have it. We decided to head home and get out of the heat ourselves. When we got back to the barn, we found that Levi had untied himself in the trailer and must has tried to turn himself around or do something stupid because he was drenched in sweat. We put them out in the arena to roll and he decided to flop out.

I was a little worried with the heat and trailering that maybe he was colicing, but nope. He just needed a nap. He wasn’t rolling around in distress, he just laid like that for about 15 minutes while we cleaned stalls and got their food together. Then he was up and walking around, eating, drinking, and eliminating like normal. Poor guy, he’s back out with Eugene instead of Nilla and Eugene runs him around all the time. I think he’s just exhausted.

Has anyone else ever tried cattle sorting or ventured outside of your usual riding routine? I love trying new things and cattle sorting was a lot of fun; I would totally recommend it.

32 thoughts on “Cattle Sorting

  1. Teresa

    I am not sure what Carmen would think of Cattle sorting. Irish was born on a cattle farm and seems to think that they are all his best friends so that might be interesting.

  2. sarahczspots

    Paige and I may try one of these this fall, I have a buddy really wanting me to. He has a trained cutting horse though so I feel like I’ll look even more like a fish out of water hahah. Paige was VERY interested in the distant cattle on our trail ride this weekend so I’m kinda wondering how this will go! haha

  3. Leah

    I didn’t try sorting, but the neighbors have cows and they were practicing “boxing” for a Ranch Horse show, so they let me come down and move the cows around a little on the Azteca mare I used to have (Topaz). She was totally chill when she was “chasing” the cows, but once they started working on the boxing, one of the cows would come running straight at her, and she was NOT about that, haha. She got more and more unsettled until she finally stood straight up on her hind legs, and that was when I was like “OK we’re done!” It was really fun though, I’d love to try it on Ruby sometime. I don’t think Cinna’s baby brain could handle it now, but maybe in 10 years or so, lol.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I had to look up what boxing is, but that seems cool too. Another beginner friendly cow activity. I’m pretty sure Nilla would have also lost her mind if the cows had turned on her.

  4. SarahO

    Looks like you both did great for your first time! Years ago my 4-H club had a cattle sorting clinic, my horse at the time had never been up close with a cow before but it was fun to try! I haven’t done any cattle sorting with Kachina but I do occasionally help out moving cows and calves on a ranch and that’s always an interesting break from our normal routine.

  5. Appydoesdressage

    I did cattle sorting once on TWH, it was cool to be so far outside of our comfort zone. I was the only person in an english saddle and I didn’t feel as welcome as you did. I love breaking out of routine!

    1. Olivia Post author

      We used our endurance saddles and no one complained. But it wasn’t a competition and they were happy to have new faces. I’m not sure we’d have been as welcome at an actual competition.

  6. irishhorse

    I’d love to try! I’d need an intro class first: Intro to Scary Cows 101. The only cows we’ve seen have been in pastures (not scary) and the steer that was ridden on trail (not scary) but I’m sure a whole herd (“gang” in his mind) would be out to get him. So intro to cows first, then sorting. But it looks like fun!

    1. Olivia Post author

      The nice thing with the practice, was they could stand around watching other people sort the cows first. They let people who were very concerned walk their horse in among the cows before starting.

  7. emma

    omg that last picture of Nilla and your husband, what a ham!!!! sounds like a super fun day – something i would have loved to try with Isabel but somehow suspect might be a liiiiiiiitle challenging for my uncoordinated behemoth lol

    1. Olivia Post author

      It was so fun! You could totally try it with Charlie. I have never owned a more discoordinated goof than Levi and he was fine.

  8. Sara

    You guys do the coolest stuff with your horses (that was the full sentence. Not just y). Mills has so many opinions.

  9. Stubborn Together

    My previous vet is really great at cattle sorting and I got to see him sort cattle with his really young daughter. They were fantastic and they had this whole humorous dialogue going on the whole time as well. It really looked like fun!

  10. Kaity

    Sassy mule! This looks like so much fun (despite what Nilla apparently wants everyone to believe!) I want to try it!

  11. Liz

    God I need to get Griffin out to do this SOON. I love all of the gifs and video! Not something commonly seen with this sport.

  12. Stacie Seidman

    This looks so fun! And stupid hard. Levi really did look like he was having fun. Maybe not so much Nilla… But hey, you all figured it out pretty quickly!
    I’ve never done anything like this, but I’ve always thought it might be fun.

    1. Olivia Post author

      It’s actually not hard to do it. It would be very hard to be good at it. But I feel like it has a lower bar of entry than cutting or jumping or something more difficult.

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