Team penning is a Western sport that evolved from the common ranch work of separating cattle into pens for branding, doctoring, or transport.
The object of the sport: Within a specified time limit, a team of three riders must cut from the herd and pen three cattle with the assigned numbers. The fastest time wins.
"Spotting cattle": Spotting cattle in the herd for any team in the arena, by any person outside the arena, is prohibited. Assisting a team in the arena with finding their assigned cattle on the herd side of the foul line may, at the judge's discretion, subject the team in the arena to disqualification. Any team disqualified by a judge for spotting will receive a no-time.
Starting the Run: All cattle are bunched on the cattle side of the starting line within the designated area, before the time begins. The judge raises the flag to signal the arena is ready, then drops it when the nose of the first horse crosses the start/foul line. The contestants will be given their cattle number instantly. Any delay in crossing the foul line may result in a "no-time." The next team has 30 seconds to enter the arena and cross the time line following the previous team's run. The announcer will call the team a no-time unless waived for a good cause. No team member may enter the arena after the time has started.
Calling: To call for time, one rider must stand at the opening of the gate and raise a hand for the flag. The flag will drop when the nose of the first horse enters the pen, the assigned cattle are fully in the pen, and the rider calls for time. The team will receive a no time if the cows are entering the pen but are not fully in when they call for time. If an animal is knocked or put into the pen after time is called, a no-time will be given.
Time continues until all unpenned cattle are completely on the cattle side of the starting line. In the event that an animal escapes from the pen after time is called but prior to the time that any unpenned cattle are on the cattle side of the line, the team will be judged a "no-time." An "escaped animal" is one with any part of the body coming out of the pen opening.
Teamwork is the key, with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen while restraining the rest of the herd back.
Discipline Association: USTPA
Information provided by the United States Team Penning Association