Despite team penning's relative newness in Douglas County, the stands at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds arena were nearly full Tuesday night as more than 80 teams of men, women and children on horseback attempted to pen frantic cattle in this rodeo-like competition.
The team penning competition involves teams of three horseback riders who try to move three numbered cattle out of a herd of 24 from one side of the arena to the other and into a pen. The competition is in its second year at the Douglas County Free Fair.
As the riders begin their trek across the arena, the announcer calls out a number between one and eight. The riders must then chase the three cattle wearing that number across the arena, without causing the other cattle to follow.
Riders who have too many cattle cross the halfway line in the arena are disqualified, as some riders found out Tuesday.
RUTH MITCHELL, whose team placed first, said the key to being successful at team penning is to have a good team.
"I ride with a good team, good people," she said after she and her teammates, Chris Fawl, Lawrence, and Dean Walker, Scandia, accomplished their task in 35 seconds.
"It's a family affair and I get to meet a lot of good people," said Mitchell, Lawrence, who is a registered nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
Unlike some of the riders, Mitchell doesn't own cattle and doesn't ride every day. She practices about three times a week, she said.
One competitor who rides regularly was Kortney Smith, a six-year-old Lawrence girl who rode with her grandfather and a family friend in the competition, but failed to pen any cattle.
"She's an old pro," said her teammate Harold Stultz, Lawrence.
KORTNEY RIDES regularly on her grandfather's acreage about two miles outside Lawrence, where she spends most of her time with "Bruce," a 23-year-old horse.
"She's been riding ever since she was old enough to sit on a horse," said Benny Smith, her grandfather. "As a rule, she rides every day."
The Douglas County Fair Board did not have results of the competition available this morning.