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New sport hits the north country

Teams sort the cows and move them from one arena to the other, scoring points along the way.1 / 3
Youth team members are, from left to right: Ella Larson, Paige Li Wickum, Madie Evje, Steph Lauderbaugh and the high point earner Lexi Reese.2 / 3
The Studley Studs are, from left to right, Danny Anderson, Orlan Dvergsten, Bob Promersberger and Jeff Thurlow. Not pictured is Karl Johnson.3 / 3

There is a new sport in the area that not everyone is aware of. That new sport is called Ranch Sorting and is held at the Battle River Arena, located 1.5 miles west of Kelliher. The arena is owned by Jeff and Dianna Thurlow of Kelliher.

Ranch Sorting is a relatively new equine sport to northern Minnesota and whether you have done it before or never chased a cow, it doesn't matter. It makes no difference where your skill level is as this sport only takes a well broke or trained horse and a willingness to have a good time!

The Thurlows will assist and coach you to learn the sport while enjoying the camaraderie of your fellow horseman or woman. If you have questions or need help with the sport be sure to ask as they are more than willing to help or answer any questions you may have.

What is Ranch Sorting? Cowpunching at its best!

Ranch Sorting is taking the ranch work of sorting cattle and establishing a set of rules to create a fun and exciting competition.

Here's how it works:

1. A team consists of two riders.

2. There is 10 head of cattle in the round pen numbered 0 through 9.

3. The start/foul line is a 12-16 ft. opening between the two pens of equal size. Approximately 50-60 ft.

4. There is a 60-to-90 second time limit.

5. The cattle are bunched in the center of the pen on the back wall before the run begins.

6. A designated starting number will be announced and time will begin when the nose of the first horse crosses the start/foul line.

7. The team must sort the cattle in numerical order beginning with the designated starting number. A cow is considered sorted when the cow is completely across the start/foul line. If any part of a sorted cow re-crosses the start/foul line the team will be disqualified. If any part of a cow that is out of numerical sequence crosses the start/foul line the team will be disqualified.

This sport requires herd work and you will gain the ability to read cattle. It takes teamwork as well, with things constantly shifting and team members rotating from the gate position, making the cut in the herd and turning back the cattle as the situation calls for.

For the past couple of years, the Thurlows have held practices on Thursday nights and held one Jackpot a year during the Big Bog Festival in July.

This year, they started Ranch Sorting Leagues and held sanctioned events with the Ranch Sorting National Championships.

These leagues consist of a team of five members and with space being limited a maximum of eight teams can enter to ride and sort cattle. Each team has a designated captain and a team name. The leagues for this year wrapped up Aug. 20. The winning team received Battle River Arena Jackets and all members of the youth team received Battler River Arena Bronc Halters.

The winners of this year's leagues are as follows:

The high point earner team were The Studley Studs and consisted of Danny Anderson, Orlan Dvergsten, Karl Johnson, Bob Promersberger and Jeff Thurlow.

The Buckin Hot Babes team consists of Emmy Dreher, Karin Elhard, Rachel Larson, Kim Lindner and Libby Wickum.

The Wild Heifers consist of Rachel Gray, Peggy Gross, Rachel Merrill, Michelle Mouser and Connie Steele.

Barbwire consists of Linnea Frenzel, Missy Lehman, Lexi Lofgren, Krista Milli and Jessie Mistic.

The Cattle Jockeys consist of Valerie Evje, Julie Hamilton, Tessa Hoffman, Ericka Pickett and Corinna Prestegard.

Walker Brook Wild Bunch consists of Amie Foldoe, Dave Foldoe, Cole Korton, Eva Staehnke and Todd Staehnke.

The high point earner for the youth's team was Lexi Neese, followed by Paige Li Wickum, Ella Larson, Steph Lauderbaugh and Madie Evje.

The leagues may be over, however, the season isn't done yet as Battle River Arena has two RSNC-sanctioned events yet this fall. Sept. 10 is one of these events and they will host the state finals Sept. 24.

The RSNC state finals is sponsored by Blackduck Co-op, Frenzel Fertilizer, Cease Funeral Home, Edge of the Wilderness -- First State Bank of Bigfork/Kelliher, Bagley Livestock Exchange, Paul Bunyan Communications, Turtle River Veterinary Services, Johnson Horseshoeing, Village One Stop, Reichert Saddlery, Beltrami Electric, City Limit Storage, Battle River Bronc Halters, Reichard's Saddlery and L & M Fleet Supply.

Anyone can ride at the state finals and compete for a portion of the added day money, however, only the top point earners that attended five shows throughout the season will be eligible for prizes and money.

For more information and a complete list of the current standing you can go to the RSNC website at Or contact the Thurlows at 647-8557. They are planning to continue Ranch Sorting at their arena.