Ranch Sorting & Rules

What is Ranch Sorting?

Ranch Sorting started in the USA years before fences, when cattle grazed freely on the open ranges of America.

Cowboys from surrounding ranches worked together to round up cattle for branding or for sale. Once the cattle were circled in a herd, horsemen from the various ranches would slowly enter into the herd to sort out the desired cattle, and then ease (sort) the selected cow to the outskirts of the herd.

Today, this age old tradition has developed into a competitive sport called Ranch Sorting run in two round pens in a figure eight configuration with a four meter opening between the two pens.

Eleven head of cattle (ten are numbered) are placed in one round pen and two contestants sort and move ten head of cattle in numerical order through the ‘gate’ and into the second round pen within the sixty second time limit which is handicapped based on the individuals rating  – the team with the most cattle sorted in the time wins.

The evolution to the figure eight round pen set up is no accident, it allows the event to be run in many varied locations where the cattle are contained, the pace slower, both horses and cattle are easier to control and above all else offers a safe environment for expert and novice alike.

The emphasis is not on how much your horse and gear costs but how much fun you can have doing it! For sure, people will aspire to be more and more competitive and with that dedication will come the better horse and gear but for the people that want an avenue to enjoy their horse and work with cattle, ‘run what ya brung’ – it just has to be maintained and safe!

Just like Team Penning, Ranch Sorting is experiencing exploding growth worldwide. This a great opportunity for horse enthusiasts at all levels, from Novice to Professional, to have a go at this fun family event.

Find our entry forms here.


Western Heritage Sorting
This class is used to fine tune the cattle reading and handling skills of the contestant and also to attract a whole new population of contestants who may be intimidated by the speed of competition in many of our events. Those who excel in slow and quiet cattle management will now have a game to be very competitive in. In this class, all standard Cinch RSNC will remain, with the addition of two new ones.
a)  Limited to a trot or walk by the sorter:
Loping after one stride by the sorter will result in a no time. The gate person can go at any speed to defend the gate as a defensive move however they cannot lope toward or into the herd to sort cattle.
b) Verbal noise, by either contestant, intended to influence the cattle is prohibited. Shouting by either rider to intimidate the cattle will result in a no time however, non-verbal noises such as whistling, clucking, slapping chaps, etc… are all common practices among cattlemen and are allowed. Artificial whistles are not allowed.

General Rules

  1. All riders are required to ride in appropriate smooth soled riding boots, long trousers and long sleeved collared shirt. Competitors must be neat and presentable. HELMETS are mandatory for riders under 18years and all riders at a training day. APPROVED HELMETS MUST COMPLY WITH OF ONE OF THE FOLLOWING STANDARDS, ASNZ3838 or ASTM F1163 (US standard) or BS/EN 1384 (provided it carries the BS Kitemark. Senior riders may ride in an Akubra/Western style hat, helmets are encouraged, but no caps.
  2. All riders have to have their horse under control regardless of what type of gear they choose to use. Out of control horses can be eliminated at president or judge’s discretion. Equipment must be fit for purpose. No riding in halters.
  3. Judge/Committee will do random gear checks, if unsure of your gear please ask for a check.
  4. Bitless bridles are permitted but require a mechanical stop, no halter type allowed. The committee has the final call on if acceptable.
  5. No tie downs, rings, head checks or training aids are permitted
  6. No whips can be carried into the Arena. No hitting of cattle with any object will be allowed.
  7. No alcohol is to be consumed by competitors during the competition.
  8. Riders need to inform the Treasurer 48hrs before the event if they will not be attending, if they cancel after that time there will be NO REFUND. (Vet Certificate will refund a percentage.)

Basic Ranch Sorting Rules

  • A team consists of 2 riders.
  • Ranch Hand classes will be 1 competitor to sort cattle and 1 nominated gate keeper.
  • Cattle are numbered 0-9 and one unnumbered cow making a total of 11 head, 10 cattle are to be sorted in numerical order. A producer has the option to add 1 more unnumbered cow
  • The start line is behind the gate, in the opposite pen from the cattle. A run will start with the team members in the pen opposite cattle.
  • The judge will raise the flag when the pen is ready, alternatively call out.
  • The judge will signal the beginning of the run by dropping the flag/or a verbal signal when the nose of the first horse crosses the start/foul line and the first number to be sorted will be announced. – The announcer will draw a number, which will determine the first cow to be sorted.
  • The cattle will then be sorted increasing in sequence from that number.
  • When 2 cows are crossing the gateway consecutively the first cow must be through to its shoulder before the 2nd cow crosses to avoid elimination
  • The cattle must be sorted in number sequence. If any part of a cow crosses the start/foul line out of sequence before the correct cow starts across the start/foul line a disqualification will occur.
  • A disqualification will also occur if any part of a sorted cow re-crosses the start/foul line. Any cow not entirely across the start/foul line will not be counted.
  • The 10th cow must be completely across the line before the blank cow starts across or the team will receive a no time.
  • If entering in the open Ranch Sorting, this is a sanctioned event, one entry is a mandatory random draw, and you can nominate a team member for the 2nd run entered. Maximum entries is 5 per class.
  • If entering multiple times you can ride with the same partner only once per class.


For the comprehensive RSNC rule book please click HERE

Next Events

2021 – Valley Views Chittering

6th/7th February 2021

2, 3 & 4th April 2021

26th/27th June 2021

14th/15th August 2021

16th/17th October 2021

4th/5th December 2021


Contact us

President: Cathy Neale
Ph: 0417 978 806

Secretary: Vanessa Crispe (Membership Enquiries & Entry Enquiries)
Ph: 0497 286 511

Treasurer: Sally Kilgour (Account/Payment Enquiries)
Ph: 0430 442 675

Event information - please contact Vanessa Crispe 0497 286 511