Scott Belt says you need good communication, a well-trained horse and luck to win a team penning competition.
"You've gotta have a lotta luck, and your team has to be able to work well together," he said. "You can't make a living at team penning, but you can have a lotta fun."
Belt, a substitute teacher from Lawrence, was a member of the winning team of the first-ever team penning competition held Tuesday night at the Douglas County Free Fair on the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.
The event, which featured 80 teams from around the state, lasted more than 4 hours.
Team penning is a rodeo-like event in which teams of three horse riders attempt to move three specific cows from a heard of 24 from one side of an arena to the other without more than one additional cow crossing an arena centerline.
The 24 cows are numbered 1 through 8, giving three cows the same number. The riders must only round up, or "pen" the three cows with their assigned number, which is called out as the riders begin the penning run.
RIDERS, WORKING as a team, try to pen the cattle first by coaxing them across the arena, then making them move into a 144-square-foot pen as quickly as possible without touching them.
Luck plays a role in the competition by the location of cows at the beginning of each team's run.
For example, if all three cows labeled No. 1 move near the arena sideline and No. 1 is called out for the riders when they begin their run, it is much easier for the team to make their assigned cows move from one side of the arena to the other without disturbing the rest of the herd.
Belt, his wife, Lynn, and Rick Harrell, also of Lawrence, managed to put three cows in the pen in 28.5 seconds, the fastest time of the competition.
"I think that was the key to our winning run," Harrell said. "Scott was able to get one out and I was able to get two. They were right where we needed them to be."
FIRST PLACE prize was $247 for the winning team. Second through fifth place teams also won prize money.
The competition was sponsored by the Kansas State Penning Assn., which has about 200 members.
Organizers said team penning is one of the fastest growing equestrian events in the nation because almost anyone can enter the competition.
"We've got riders as young as 6 or 7 and some in their 70s," said Larry Carden, a penner from rural Eudora.
"This is a good thing because it's something that the whole family can do," he said.
Many riders also yell at the cows during the penning run.
"The biggest mistake people make at their first team penning is they come out to watch," Scott Belt said. "After they see it for a while, they wish they would've brought their horse."
TEAM PENNING, which was first held in the 1940s in California, has been held in Kansas six or seven years, organizers said.
Although it is not a sanctioned rodeo event, penners compete year-round for points and prize money at county fairs.
A team penning championship also is held in October in Topeka.
Other teams placing at the competition, their riders, hometowns, time and prize money are:
Second place, J.C. and Nancy Parkins, Pomona, and Buck Watts, Ottawa, 37.63 seconds, $206.
Third place, Ed and Lori Teets, Topeka, and Owin McGee, rural Mayetta, 40.31 seconds, $165.
Fourth place, Earl Buttonhoff, Topeka, Dan Stanley, Lawrence, and Art Conright, Edgerton, 41.03 seconds, $123.
Fifth place, Chris Fawl, Lawrence, Dean Walker, Scandia, and Nancy Othic, Lawrence, 42.5 seconds, $82.
Top novice team, Lexie Engleman, Bill Stark and Tim Taul, all of Lawrence.