One round at the Ranch Sorting National Championships at Hardy Murphy Coliseum this week lasts just 1 minute. Fortunately, you get several chances and rounds during the week of competition.


One round at the Ranch Sorting National Championships at Hardy Murphy Coliseum this week lasts just 1 minute. Fortunately, you get several chances and rounds during the week of competition.

Dave Nessley, of Sugar Grove, Ohio, said Monday he did not have a good day, but is looking forward to the rest of the week.

“We plan on winning,” he said. “That is why we are here.”

The competition involves two people moving calves from one pen to another while on horseback. It gets a little more complicated because the calves have numbers, and you have to move them in order. In some classes, you have two separate positions — one who sorts the animals, and one who acts as a gate. In other classes, there is no distinction between the two team members.

Nessley and his partner, Darrel Webb, have a goal to win a national championship, “but it would be nice to cover our expenses,” Nessley said.

Nessley and Webb know each other well. That helps with communication when trying to move calves from one pen to another in the right order in a short period of time.

Familiarity was not a problem for Dora Blackman of Healdton and Daphne Gross from West Tennessee. They were able to communicate well even though they had never competed together before Monday.

They won their class of the Ranch Hand Division Monday, pocketing $3,500 and large belt buckles between them. They had met last year but had never worked together.

“Sometimes it is easier that way,” Gross said.

Blackman, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Healdton Elementary, said it was “easier to relax and just have fun” with a new partner. Blackman has been involved in this type of competition for 17 years, while Gross has only been at it for three years, but this was her second nationals.

“I just came out here to have fun,” Blackman said. “I am so proud of this.”

Gross said she was not expecting a national title.

“I would have just been happy to get to the next round,” she said. Both will be riding with other partners through the finals Saturday.

Riders compete in many classifications and at different levels. In some, you are put together through a draw like Blackman and Gross were, and in other cases you may pick your partner.

LaRei Grier and Frankie Chester of Palm City, Fla., are two that compete together often. They were pleased with their ride Monday even though they didn’t win.

“I thought it went smooth,” Grier said. “To get this far is great.”

Some competitors like Nessley, follow the circuit all year long, culminating with the national championship — the Super Bowl of ranch sorting.

Nessley farms and works in a glass factory in Ohio, but still finds time to get out and compete. Some training of the horse is needed, as well as communication between the rider and animal.

“There has to be some training,” Nessley said. “But you have to have a horse that knows how to work cows first.”

James Jordan
221-6527

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Watch the Ranch Sorting Nationals live online

http://www.horseshowwebcasts.com/shows/2011/25445/index.shtml.