Ranch cowboys from across North Texas gathered Monday night to compete and show their horsemanship skills in the North Texas Fair and Rodeo’s annual ranch rodeo, taking part in contests designed to mimic everyday ranch tasks.
The first event was team branding, in which one man on horseback rides into a herd, ropes a calf and drags it back to his teammates, who remove the rope and “brand” the calf with a chalk-covered branding iron. It is one of the oldest and most common ranch activities.
Sikes Ranch bested the competition with its time of 43.35 seconds. Close behind was Reding Ranch with a time of 43.37, and third-fastest was the Gainesville Livestock team with a 46.71.
Team sorting pits the natural herd instinct of cattle against the teamwork of four cowboys and their mounts. Communication is vital for success. A man on a horse rides into the herd of heifers, numbered 1 through 11. He is given a number and must cut that number and the next three consecutive numbers from the herd and drive them, in order, across a predetermined line. Any other cattle crossing the line or any crossing out of order result in disqualification for the team.
Reding Ranch jumped to an early lead and held it the entire event with a run of 49.97. Sikes Ranch posted a time of 102.97 for second place. Third was Gainesville Livestock with a time of 102.98.
Team doctoring simulates the act of catching an injured or sick cow in an open pasture. A team of four must catch with a head loop first, then a heel loop. Two men dismount and remove the ropes from the cow to stop the watch.
Reding Ranch again showed its skills on horseback, finishing in 38.87 seconds. Gainesville Livestock was not far behind with its time of 45.01 Rounding out the top three was the Sikes Ranch with a 101.39.
The maverick catch-in event is similar to team doctoring. The cowboys must head and heel the cow, then dismount and tie three legs. The cow must stay tied to receive a time.
Porter Ranches won with a time of 44.71, followed by Reding Ranch with a 47.75. In third place at 50.13 was the Ellis Ranch.
The final event was ranch bronc riding. Cowboys must ride a bucking horse with a working ranch saddle that they would use on a saddle horse. Unlike rodeo bronc riding, contestants are allowed use of both hands and do not have to have their spurs in the shoulders of the horse for the first jump.
Sikes Ranch’s score of 74 was good enough for the win, with Gainesville Livestock putting up a 73 and Reding Ranch scoring 70.
In the end, the consistency and teamwork of Reding Ranch paid off with a total of 42 points to beat Sikes Ranch by four points for the overall ranch rodeo victory.