Download & Print ATSA Rules


The basic concept of Team Sorting is that there are ten cattle numbered 0-9, and
two unnumbered cattle (for a total of 12 head) at the beginning of a run behind a
foul line with two people mounted on the other side of a foul line. A number is
called and the cattle are sorted in numerical order beginning with the assigned
number. The most cattle sorted in the fastest time wins.


Team Sorting will take place between two pens of approximately equal size with
show management’s option of working cattle back and forth or only one way. Two
team sorting arenas may be placed side by side with odd numbered teams in one
arena and even numbered teams in the other arena. If cattle are to be worked
back and forth, they need to be moved to the opposite pen and back before each
new herd entering the pen is worked. Recommended sorting area is to be 50-60
feet in diameter with no 90 degree corners, i.e. 60’ foot round pen or octagonal
(stop sign) design. (See diagram below)


The start foul line is recommended to be a 12’ foot opening between the two



There will be a 90, 75, or 60 second allotted time limit for each class, at the option
of show management. The official clock will be the electronic display clock-split
timer set at .01 seconds past the maximum time designated for the class I.E. 60.01
seconds. The official time of each run is determined by the amount of time used
until all 10 cattle are sorted or the time limit has expired. Should a split timer
function not be available then a stop watch with a split timer will be used and
will also be the backup timer in the event of a malfunction of the electronic display
clock. Split times are cumulative in multiple go around events as well as the number
of cattle sorted, but do not replace the official time of each run. Split times only
come into play when the cattle count and official times are identical.


There will be one judge (and one split timer should an electronic display clock not
be available) on the judge’s stand positioned evenly with the foul line.


All cattle must have approved back numbers, and will be bunched on the cattle
side of the gate within the designated area. The judge will designate the need to
bunch the cattle. The judge will indicate to announcer and team when the arena is
ready. The time shall start when the nose of the first horse crosses the start/foul
line and the announcer will immediately provide the number to be sorted first. Any
delay in crossing the foul line may result in a “no time” for the team. Teams
delaying in entering the arena within a 30 second time limit between teams will be
disqualified (unless waived for good cause) from competing in that class for that
day and will forfeit their entry fee. The order of sorting is determined by picking
a random number by the Announcer/Timer and that cow must be sorted first. For
example, if # 6 is drawn then # 6 must be sorted first then cow # 7, #8, # 9 and
so on. If any part of a numbered cow crosses the start/foul line prior to
its correct order, then the team receives a no time.

When any part of the first 9 animals crosses the start/foul line in order, that animal will be considered sorted. The 10th animal that crosses the line in correct order is considered sorted only when the entire animal has completely crossed the start/foul line.

Note: If any part of a sorted cow re-crosses the start/foul line the team
will be disqualified. If any part of any unnumbered cow crosses the foul line before
the tenth cow is cleanly sorted it will result in a no time.


Includes but is not limited to running over cattle with horses, stepping on cattle
while in pursuit, running through the herd in such a manner that cattle are knocked
down or off stride, horses consistently biting cattle, and entering the pen with
such force that the cattle jump other cattle, leave the arena or collide with the
perimeter of the sorting pen.


~A. If there is a malfunction of the pen, equipment, computers, timers or a
numbered cow jumps any fence and leaves the arena or ends up in the opposite pen,
but did not pass through the gate, it will result in a re-ride for the team
immediately providing it was not
caused by roughing of the cattle. In the instance of a re-ride, the competitors will
receive a full 90, 75, or 60 second clock but their time cannot be improved,
however the number of cattle sorted in the allotted time can be improved.
Example: If a team sorted 5 head in 55 seconds (with a 60 second clock) when the
cow jumped the fence, they would get a re-ride with the full 60 second clock.
In the re-ride the same team sorted 10 head in 50 seconds. Their official time
would be 10 head in 55 seconds.
~B. Should a herd be numbered incorrectly or have too many or too few
nonnumbered cattle, only the team that is in the arena at the time the error was
discovered will receive a re-ride. The re-ride will be done immediately without any
time penalty.
~C. If a team is given a number that has already been used within the same herd, a
rerun must be given immediately using the correct number within the same herd.
~D. If a team observes an unfit, injured or unidentified animal before committing
to the cattle, the team must notify the judge. Once the team has crossed the foul
line and the flag has been dropped no re-ride will be granted. Luck of the draw will
~E. In the event a team rides out of order, their time and number of cattle will
stand. No rerun will be given for the teams riding out of order. Once the problem is
identified the next teams will be placed in the proper arena and follow the order as


In multiple go rounds teams must sort cleanly with a time to advance. You must sort in all 3 go rounds to receive a cheque.



A Show Management has the option of up to 4 go rounds. The first go will be
determined by draw. Teams advancing to the second go or further will be run in
reverse order from the previous go. The teams will sort in the top 10 of each class from least cattle sorted to the most cattle sorted. Teams that sort in four go rounds, place higher
than teams sorting in three go rounds; teams sorting in three go rounds place higher than
teams sorting in two go rounds; teams that sort in two go rounds, place higher than teams
sorting in one go round; no matter how many cattle were sorted or time accrued.


Unsportsmanlike conduct by a team and/or rider may result in disqualification.
Unsportsmanlike conduct is defined as abuse of one’s horse or cattle, excessive
use of foul language, intoxication in the arena or on the grounds or any other
conduct felt to be detrimental to the sport of Team Sorting. Abuse of one’s horse
may include but is not limited to excessive jerking, spurring, whipping, slapping or
kicking, or riding a horse that is visibly lame, sick or emaciated. Unsportsmanlike
conduct may also be levied against a rider showing disrespect to a Judge or Show
Management. Any rider who shows disrespect to officials and is awarded an
unsportsmanlike conduct will be disqualified for that day of competition and
all entry fees for the day will be forfeited.


Spotting of cattle is not allowed and if blatant spotting occurs the competing team
will be disqualified immediately.


Contact with or hazing cattle with hats, ropes, reins, bats or romals or any other
equipment or apparatus is a disqualification.


The fall of a horse and/or rider shall not eliminate the entry. The rider may
remount and continue sorting however, any attempt by a dismounted rider to work
cattle before remounting will result in automatic disqualification. Outside help for
dismounted riders by anyone other than the team mate in the arena will result in


All appeals must be addressed politely to the sorting judge. The announcer and the time keeper shall not be approached. Only the following matters may be reviewed:

  • Number of cattle sorted
  • Order of the cattle sorted
  • Official time of cattle sorted
  • Duplicate number called


The official clock for Sorting is the Display Spilt Timer. A Display Split Timer is to
be used in all sorting classes to designate the placing of the class. Split times are
to cumulative in multiple go round events, as well as the number of cattle sorted.
Teams that sort 10 head in one or more go arounds will place higher than teams
with equal # of cattle and go rounds but who did not sort 10 head in any single go
around. Any team that sorts 1 or more head in a go round has an official time, if
less than 10 head are sorted, the official time is 60 seconds. If 10 head are
sorted, the actual time on the clock is the official time. Lap time will only be used
to break ties if needed. In case of promoters who own electronic display clocks
without a split timer, a stop watch will be used. The stop watch used for split time
purposes will also be the back-up timer in the event of a malfunction of the
electric display clock. Split times are cumulative in multiple go around events, as
well as the number of cows sorted, but do not replace the official time of
each run. Split times only come into play when the cattle counts and the official
times are identical. Prior to starting the next run, the back up timer/judge needs
to confirm that their record of cattle sorted matches the Display Split Timer
record of the split timer judge.


ATSA rider ratings will be used for Team Sorting. Ratings will be primarily based
upon Canadian Team Penning ratings and adjusted by the rating ATSA rating committee. ATSA will have a chair person and a committee to evaluate our membership ratings.


Sorting may contain any or all of the following suggested classes:

~A. Junior Youth Class

Junior Youth must be youth that are 12 years of age or under as of January 1, of the current show year. All junior youth riders must wear a proper helmet. Jr. Youth class will be offered at all shows. Format will be determined at each show based on attendance.

~B. Senior Youth Class

Senior Youth will consist of 2 youth between the age of 13 and 16 as of January 1, of the current show year. Sr. Youth will be offered at all shows. Format will be determined at each show based on attendance.

~C. Open Handicap Class

For all riders, regardless of their ratings.

Pick & Draw one or more.

~D. 8 Handicap Class

The combined rating of both rider cannot exceed eight.

Pick & Draw one or more.

~E. 6 Ranch Hand Handicap Class

The combined rating of both riders cannot exceed six. One person must stay in the gate at all times.

Gate horse rider must compete in a defensive manner 

Pick & Draw one or more.

~F. 6 Handicap Class

The combined rating of both riders cannot exceed six.

Pick & Draw one or more.

~F. 4 Handicap Class

The combined rating of both riders cannot exceed four.

Pick & Draw one or more.

~G. Round Robin Class

All teams are created dynamically, and each rider will ride at least once with every other rider. This is a single-entry, “draw only” class. No picks are allowed. All cow counts and times are accumulated for each rider, and the payout goes to the rider (not the team) with the most cows in the least time.

~H. Western Heritage Class

Western Heritage sorting is for those who excel in slow and quiet cattle handling. Riders are limited to a trot or slower and verbal noise directed to influence cattle is discouraged. The actual sorting aspect follows other standard ATSA rules.

~I. Pick & Draw

The pick & draw system is designed to allow new contestants to the sport and an opportunity to find rides and meet other contestants.

Pick & draw at least one or more in a class.

The number of entries per person per class will have a limit of 6 including the mandatory draw.

~J. Additional Information

The handicap system for all ATSA events in ranch sorting will be as follows:

Each rating below the highest possible team number in a class will receive one additional second beyond 60 seconds to sort their cattle.

For example:

The #5 team in the 8 Handicap Class receives three additional seconds to sort (8-5=3). If they sort 8 head in 56 seconds then the team’s final time would be 8 head in 53 seconds (56-3=53). This system levels the playing field for all sorting contestants with a handicap based on their rating. .


~A. 1 place for every 15 teams entered in the class up to a max of ten.
As follows:
1-15 teams – 1 place

2 places

3 places

4 places

5 places etc.

~B. You must sort in all 3 go rounds to receive a cheque.

Youth Classes – 1 placing for every 3 entries


You must attend and compete in 2 regular season shows during the year to be eligible for the Finals. Each day at an ATSA weekend show will count as one qualifier show.

Round Robin classes will count as a “show” using strictly round robin system.


All participants must purchase a membership for the current ATSA show year.

early bird membership

- payment before April 15th

Family $45
Single $25
Youth $10

regular membership

- payment AFTER April 15th

Family $60
Single $35
Youth $20


~A. All contestants must wear a western hat or protective helmet, boots and a long or short collared shirt which is tucked in at the waist or jacket with cuffs covering the wrist. Western style long pants (jeans without holes) are required. In the event that a contestant has a mishap during penning and a button or snap is torn off or broken, this is not to be considered an infraction of the dress code. All contestants are encouraged to maintain a western image.

~B. In the case of a dress infraction, a fine of $10.00 is to be levied against the individual team member.