Many of you loyal Stampede Blog readers should know by now that many of the agricultural based competitions that occur on Stampede Park during Stampede time have evolved from actual farm-related tasks. We’ve already covered Sheep Shearing, Sheep Herding, the Heavy Horse Pull, and the World Champion Blacksmiths’ Competition here on Stampede Spotlight alone.

Another such event is Team Cattle Penning. The sport of Team Cattle Penning (sometimes abbreviated to Team Penning for short) is, in my opinion, one of the Stampede’s best kept secrets when it comes to fast paced and exciting events appropriate for all ages, and the Calgary Stampede Team Penning Competition is happening in the Saddledome July 7 -12.

Here’s how it works: Horse and rider teams of three have 60 seconds to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30 on one side of the arena, and maneuver them into a 16′ x 24′ pen at the opposite side.

It sounds simple in theory, but in practice can be very difficult.

You see, most of those heifers have attitudes. Sometimes, a penning team might manage to separate out two of them from the herd, but the third one proves to be problematic. Or, the particular cow that they’re trying to separate out has made friends and they may have to deal with a wrong-numbered cow that may follow it out. Or, their friendship may be so strong that the team simply can’t separate any of them out and are forced to watch helplessly as the timer runs down and the cows silently mock them.

What makes it fascinating and exciting to watch is that success really boils down to teamwork and strategy. The team has to work together in tandem in order to outsmart the cows, and sometimes may have to choose to settle for two cows instead of three.

To further illustrate how the competition works, here’s some really amateur video (complete with shaky cam action!) I shot with my digital camera of one team’s successful run at the Calgary Stampede:

As you can see, this is a timed event, and the team with the fastest time will win. However, if they can’t get it done in 60 seconds, then the team is disqualified. This year, all teams are competing for a share of over a whopping $200,000 in cash and prizes!

Insider secret: Like with all the agricultural events that take place in the Saddledome (this includes the Stock Dog Competition, Heavy Horse Show, and others), seating is available pretty much anywhere outside of the luxury suites. So if you’ve always wondered what it’s like to sit in the lower bowl of the Saddledome, the agricutural events that occur in the Saddledome during Stampede time is an excellent opportunity to try it out! As for where the best seats are, it depends. Some prefer the lower bowl, while others prefer the second level to get a birds-eye view of everything. Since admission is free with Park admission, you can experiment with seating guilt-free!

And that’s all you need to know about the sport of Team Penning. Easy to follow and fun to watch, Team Penning is a fun spectator sport for all ages. So what are you waiting for? If you’re trying to plan your Stampede in advance, check out the Team Penning Competitions in the Saddledome, July 7-12.