ranch sorting

Ranch Sorting is a fast-paced equine event where riders team up to efficiently sort cattle.

LEWISTOWN, Mont. – Sorting cows on horseback is a practical way to get the job done. In recent years, however, sorting cattle has also become a popular equine-based timed-event, and it just so happens to be a very popular event at the Montana Winter Fair.

“The ranch sorting is probably one of our biggest draws. There is not a lot to do this time of year, so it’s nice to have an organized event in the middle of the winter,” said Chris Cooler, board chair for the Montana Winter Fair.

The ranch sorting has become so big at the Montana Winter fair, in fact, the event has its own weekend. On Saturday, Jan. 18, a ranch sorting clinic will be held, starting at 9 a.m., and concluding at 4 p.m. The actual ranch sorting event will happen on Sunday, Jan. 19, beginning at 11 a.m.

The ranch sorting clinic will be run by Brad Fogle. The clinic, which has been filled up for several weeks now, will offer individualized attention. Participants will get to work on their horsemanship and stock handling skills. If their horses have not yet been exposed to cattle, this clinic will provide a perfect opportunity. Most importantly, clinic goers will be able to grasp a better understanding of the rules and expectations of a ranch sorting competition.

For the actual competition, ten numbered cattle are released into a small pen. A team of two riders enters the pen and once the nose of the lead rider’s horse passes the “start line” a number is announced and the clock is started. The team must efficiently sort the cattle across a line in numerical order, starting with the number assigned to them. If cattle sort out of order, or if a sorted cow comes back across the line, a no time is given.

As previously mentioned, this is a timed event. The ten cattle must be sorted quietly and quickly, in under 60-seconds.

The event is not only fun and fast-paced, but it is an equine sport that can be enjoyed by anyone young or old, from beginner to advanced.

“We had someone compete last year in the ranch sorting at Winter Fair that was in their upper-80s,” pointed out Laura Fogle, superintendent for the ranch sorting at Winter Fair.

The Winter Fair event is unique in its structure. For $85, a person is entered for five runs. Partners are drawn, so if you are new to the area, this event will be a great way to meet like-minded equine enthusiasts. Moreover, drawing for partners keeps the playing field more level.

Fogle emphasized this event is geared to be fun for all ages by providing a competition in a laid back environment.

“This event gives people a chance to get started in ranch sorting,” Fogle said.

Competitors will be broken up into two broad groups. The open division will be for all those 15 years of age and older and a youth division will be for those competitors under 14 years of age. The ranch sorting will offer a 65 percent payout to the top five competitors in the open division and an 80 percent payout to the top five youth. Additional prizes will also be provided.

Fogle, explains, this sorting competition is truly a community event. The cattle are rented from the same local rancher every year, and although competitors travel from all across the state, the biggest constituency is horse and rider teams from around the Lewistown area. According to Fogle, between 50 and 60 teams compete annually at this event.

Even if you aren’t actually competing in the ranch sorting competition, Fogle encourages all spectators to come out and enjoy the event from the stands.

To learn more about the ranch sorting clinic, or if you wish to be put on the waiting list, please call Brad Fogle at 406-350-0299. For more information about the competition, please reach out to Laura Fogle either via e-mail at ljojohnson123@msn.com, or call 406-366-0508.