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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Riders versus cattle

Embarrass’s annual riding skills competition draws plenty of participants

David Colburn
Posted 9/2/20

EMBARRASS- The task confronting horseback riders at the inaugural Danny Theel Memorial Team Penning and Ranch Sorting Event at the Embarrass Region Fairgrounds on Friday seemed relatively …

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Riders versus cattle

Embarrass’s annual riding skills competition draws plenty of participants

Posted

EMBARRASS- The task confronting horseback riders at the inaugural Danny Theel Memorial Team Penning and Ranch Sorting Event at the Embarrass Region Fairgrounds on Friday seemed relatively straightforward.
Working in teams of three, riders were to separate a few cattle wearing the same number from a big group of numbered cattle at one end of the arena and herd them into a pen at the other end.
Simple, right?
Wrong.
The spunky calves were predictably unpredictable and noncompliant as targeted animals often refused to be separated from their comrades, while others ran willy nilly all over the arena, befuddling the efforts of cowboys and cowgirls alike. More often than not, it was the cattle who came out on top Friday night, and they got a good workout doing so. Fresh calves periodically replaced tired ones to keep the challenge level for riders high.
While a team could compete only once, riders took multiple bids at success by mixing up to make new trios, 55 in all. In the spirit of fun that permeated the evening, teams took on colorful names: Wild Child, Flying Free, Lady Cadets, Outback, and Rednecks, to name a few.
As country music blared from loudspeakers, riders employed various strategies to try to cull their targets while keeping the rest of the beef battalion corralled. If too many rogue cattle got past them, the run didn’t count. If they didn’t herd selected cattle into the pen, the run didn’t count. There were plenty of those kinds of runs.
But some teams indeed found success, determined by the number of cattle they got into the pen and the amount of time it took them to do it. For the best, buckles and cash awards awaited, so during a brief rain shower, out came the brightly-colored plastic ponchos and competition rolled on.
Social distancing for spectators wasn’t an issue, as cattle and riders seemingly outnumbered the fans scattered about the stands at any given time. Many spectators scurried to take a seat in the stands to watch their favorite riders and then retreated to cookouts going on among all the trucks, horse trailers, and campers encircling the arena.
For those who didn’t want to cook, a short stroll to the Doghouse Grill provided tasty standard cowboy fare like hamburgers and pulled pork, or more esoteric choices such as California burgers and New York sauerkraut dogs, as long as you didn’t mind waiting ten to 15 minutes for the “slow man at work” to prep your order.
Those who didn’t find success on Friday had another shot at team penning glory on Saturday. Sunday’s event, ranch sorting, was for teams of two and involved sorting ten head of cattle in numerical order from one pen to another.
The weekend event was dedicated to the memory of Danny Theel, who passed away last April. Theel was an active volunteer for the Babbitt Ambulance and Fire Department and volunteered many years with the St. Louis County Rescue Squad. He was the vice-chairman of the Embarrass Region Fair Board and was also active in competitive ranch sorting and team penning.

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