Team penning refers to a method of saddleback riding developed by saddlebags and kinsmen of yore. It has become popular among western horse riders because it makes the rider feel more secure while riding. Team penning is also a popular western equestrian sport which evolved out of the more traditional cowboys’ task of splitting cattle into separate pens for doctoring, branding, or shipping. The basic saddlebag saddlebags are slung over the back of a seated rider and secured with buckles, straps, or hooks.
Western riders developed a simple system of tying lines on the inside of the saddlebags and then placing a saddle over the line. On a flat grassy field, they tied the string to a tree so that the animal couldn’t get away from the saddle. Once tied, riders sat on their mounts and pulled the string using their hands to move the horse along the string. This system worked well enough until the technology improved.
With improvements in engineering, rodeo professionals devised a way to move a horse without applying any physical force at all. Instead, they just gently grabbed the stirrup, pulled it down over the back of the horse, and then let the horse ride itself free. The whole process didn’t even take twenty minutes! Before riders could blink, the horse was already up and moving.
Team penning became very popular during the early days of rodeo.
The bulldog, Texas star, and puma breeds developed particularly well in this environment. Other breeds became less successful, especially those with poor hips or thighs. Through much research and testing, modern day pen equipment has improved significantly. Rodeo teams now have hi-tech harnesses and other clever equipment that give the horse the advantage of moving freely without causing injury to himself.
The old rodeo trick of catching a horse by its reins and dragging him across the roping (or “pen”) is often attributed to “pony holding his tail”. However, it should be noted that nothing could be farther from the truth. In actuality, the pony was simply tucking its hindquarters in close to the tail for balance. Modern pen equipment makes this impossible with hi-tech seatbelts. Also, when the pony is tucking its bum into the tail for balance, the backside of the pony’s tail also becomes a source of tension for the rider.
Team penning still applies today. Many top western teams still pen a horse in a pen. This serves two purposes. First, the horse can be comfortably ridden in a variety of environments – both indoor and outdoor. Second, it allows the jockey to gain valuable knowledge of how his charges react to different situations.
Penning a horse in a pen also helps develop important skills such as handling a horse in stressful situations. The jockey must learn to read his charge’s body language and react accordingly. It also teaches the horse to yield to the jockey’s orders. A horse will often yield when he senses pressure being applied on him. Team penning helps the jockey gain these important skills.
One important thing to remember about penning a horse is that you will need a large enough pen so that your charges can get plenty of room to move around. Furthermore, your pen should be deep enough that the horse will not be forced to stand or be held down by other riders. It’s also important that you have a variety of different areas in which to pen your horse. If a horse gets hung up on one spot, then it will become harder for him to move around. Team pening may seem difficult at first but with time and experience you’ll find that it’s actually easy and fun!
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