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First cattle sorting event makes an impression in Willmar

Ken Krebsbach, left, of New Prague and Rick Brown of Nicollet wait on their horses Saturday prior to a ranching event at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

As the dirt kicked up and the smell of the farm filled the air, a crowd of blue jeans and cowboy boots looked on as 27 riders competed to earn the top spot of champion.

Saturday marked the first National Sorting Cows Horse Association event at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds. Smilin' D Productions of Kandiyohi put on the two-hour event, described by owner Dave Reigstad as "an action-packed equine event."

"The horses are the finest horses around, costing the riders a lot of time and money," Reigstad said. "The competition is a fun, family-filled, event that puts the animals and riders to the test."

The event included 20 sponsors from the Kandiyohi County area and Babcock Ranch from Gainesville, Texas.

Reigstad said sponsorship helps made $15,000 available to the competitors.

As for the rules, they're pretty simple. Teams of two on horseback are given a minute to sort 10 calves -- each numbered from one to 10 -- from one corral into another. As riders begin, a number is called. One rider then sorts the calves numerically, beginning with the number that is called. When a calf enters the corral out of order, the team is disqualified.

Reigstad's sister, Jill Knutson of Willmar, was one of the competitors. She said she is, "kind of a newbie and still getting her feet wet," but is quickly embracing the competition.

"It's one of the most exhilarating things compared to skydiving," said Knutson, who competed with her 9-year-old horse. "It's the sportsmanship and coming together of all the riders that truly makes the sport."

The contest didn't go her way; she and her partner were disqualified.

Still, "I do it for fun and the camaraderie between the riders," Knutson said. "We are all one huge family; that's what makes it fun. Being able to be on a horse and feeling that power and the way they move. When they are working a cow, it is the greatest feeling."

Reigstad said Smilin' D will host two more shows July 2 and Aug. 13.