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Team Penning is Horse Industry’s New Cash Cow

In the game of team penning,, it could be the game of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

(Wichita Falls, Texas) – Sounds simple. With two other partners, go into a herd of 30 cattle, cut out three with the same number on their backs and get them into a pen at the opposite end of the arena in less than sixty seconds. So simple, in fact, that when the United States Team Penning Association (USTPA) began in 1993, the sport took off with rapidly growing participation and interest. Before long, it was common place to see team penners competing for purses of $50,000 or more – practically unheard of in weekend horse competitions.

Since that time, the USTPA, the largest not-for-profit team penning association in North America, has been joined by other regional associations across the United States and Canada who offer their own variety of weekend fun. The sport itself has changed, as well. No longer is it the rough and tumble scattering of cattle, but it is now a game of calculated maneuvering among a team of horsemen and women. Tougher rules make roughing cattle a disqualification and smaller arena's now commonly used significantly reduces the stress placed on yearlings ultimately headed for the meat market. And team sorting has been added to the menu, which calls for competitors, usually two or three riders per team, to move 10-head of cattle from one pen to another in numerical order, beginning with a randomly called number between zero and nine, i.e. 6, 7, 8, 9, etc. through 5. The biggest change, however, has been the cash that has flowed in the sport in the past near decade.

“There are team penners who have been involved in this sport since it began who have earned more than $500,000 on their horses,” said Ronnie Gebauer, USTPA President. “Now, that’s a person who competes regularly and is in the top 20% of riders in the sport, but everyone who enters a team penning has an equal opportunity to come home with a paycheck. This is a test of true ability and horsemanship and you only compete against people of similar ability to your own.”

Of those events managed by USTPA Productions, a division of USTPA, more than $1.2 million in cash and prizes is offered annually to USTPA members. The USTPA National Finals, to be held November 4-8 in Amarillo, Texas, will offer $60,000-guaranteed added money with a total estimated cash purse of $500,000, along with titles to five Hart trailers, and a plethora of Circle Y saddles and Maynard buckles. The event is also sponsored by Wrangler, TransWest Trucks and Coors. According to USTPA Executive Director Mark Toby, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“USTPA sanctions a total of number 114 team pennings each year,” he said, “and those team penning competitions will offer a total purse of more than $3 million dollars to its riders. That adds up to a total of dollars nearly $4.5 million available annually through USTPA sanctioned events. Since we’re a member-owned organization, the majority of the entry fees and sanctioning fees are paid back to the member through these prize packages.”

Considering its relative youth in the horse industry (the National Reining Horse Association began in 1966 and the National Reined Cow Horse Association began in 1970, for example), the USTPA has catapulted onto the face of the horse industry with unprecedented speed. That rapid growth, however, spawned a fractured sport of small regional organizations with no governing sport federation, although most use USTPA rules and guidelines. USTPA, representing more than 6,000 team penning enthusiasts, is the largest not-for-profit team penning association in the nation, but it is estimated that more than 40,000 horse owners compete in the sport.

“This is a great sport with a great future,” said Gebauer. “It is one of the few sports in the country, horse related or otherwise, where whole families can come play and compete. USTPA is now focusing its efforts on making this sport stronger for and more accessible to those who want to be a part of what we think is the best kept secret in the horse business.”

For more information about team penning or how to join the USTPA, contact Mark Toby, Executive Director, at 940-766-6838 or go the their website at



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