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Evergreen Ranch Sorting Association (ERSA)

Ranch Sorting is one of, if not the fastest growing equine sport around the country, not to mention in our mountain area.  In true mountain folk tradition, a set of locals have started up their own ranch sorting group nicknamed ERSA, to enjoy this addictive and entertaining sport in our own backyard.

Evolving from the need to separate cattle into different pens for tasks like doctoring, transport or branding, the sport of Ranch Sorting is done in two equal, fifty to sixty foot diameter pens that are connected in the middle with a twelve to sixteen foot opening.  Eleven cattle, with large numbers on their sides are in one of the pens. Typically two riders (there are variations with one, two or three riders), enter the pen and as soon as they cross the opening/barrier between the two pens, the clock starts.

The two riders must then work in harmony to move the cattle in numerical order from one pen to the other.  The judge chooses the number that they start with and if they get one across the barrier out of numerical order, they are eliminated.  The fastest time wins.

There are different styles that Ranch Sorting teams utilize to sort the cattle.  For example, some teams choose to have one rider stay at the gate and fend off the wrong numbers, while the other rider attempts to bring the correct cattle in the right order.  ERSA teams take turns guarding the gate and sorting out the next number up to drive through to the other pen.  This gives each rider a chance to do both positions and helps to level the playing field during competition.

With a solid group of leaders and members, ERSA has created a fun, supportive and social environment for its members.  People new to sorting will find knowledgeable help to get them going and the group is small enough to ensure that each participant frequently gets a turn. One member stated, “I sorted for the first time last summer.  I had a great time and everyone was very helpful in assisting me to learn the skills I needed to sort.”  Coming from a different perspective, local horse trainer Tucker Black found that, “Ranch Sorting with ERSA gave me a great way to freshen the minds of my horses by giving them a reason to do the maneuvers we practice in training.”

Friendly on the wallet compared to other Ranch Sorting gatherings and groups, ERSA is $150 per year to join and $20 per day for members or $45 per day for non-members.   All of the money is used to care for the cattle and other expenses, as well as put on a Buckle Sort and barbeque at the end of the season, which starts the weekend after Evergreen Rodeo weekend and goes as long as the weather allows.  Any shape or size of horse is welcome as well as families who want to enjoy the sport together.

Pep and Jim Reffel have graciously offered their perfect place in Pine for ERSA to hold the Ranch Sorting’s.  The ERSA officers include:  Carl Heckendorf, President; Jerry Toman, Treasurer; and Linda Heckendorf, Secretary.  The Board of Directors as well as fencers, haulers and cattle number-er’s aka wranglers of the group are Bruce and Laura McReynolds, Rex Eaves, John Orlando, Al Chidester, Harvey and Laura Penland, and Porter Bennett.  Most importantly, Adam Shirley devotedly feeds and waters the cattle everyday to keep them happy, healthy and gaining weight for their owners!  Thankfully, Carl Heckendorf’s connections with feedlot owners have kept the cattle price at a feed only basis.

Tom Hushen has added a link to ERSA through www.evergreenrodeo.com. More information on Ranch Sorting can be found at the Ranch Sorting National Championships website, www.RSNC.us and through its sister discipline, the United States Team Penning Association, www.ustpa.com.  Copyright 2013 Heather McWilliams, MtnHomes4Horses.com.

Buffalo Bill Saddle Club

If there is one thing horse people like to do it is get together and talk about horses.  The Buffalo Bill Saddle Club (BBSC) was founded in 1947 by Evergreen and Golden area residents as a way to fellowship and to promote and preserve Western heritage.   This doesn’t mean what shape of saddle you use or what type of horse you ride, but just enjoying horses and all that goes with it – caring for livestock, working together, preserving the land and giving the general population the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about horses and their gear.   The main way BBSC does this is by creating activities for families and riders of all ages to enjoy their horses and each other.  Trail Riding is a big aspect of this along with parades, camping, a gymkhana, social events and monthly meetings.  Members participate in only the events that they are interested in and that fit their schedule.

TRAIL RIDES                 

BBSC started with trail rides originating from member homes in Evergreen.  They then added three trail rides each year up the Apex Trail originating from Heritage Square and ending at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave Site.  This evolved into adding Washington Street as part of that ride which turned into the Buffalo Bill Day Parade.  In addition to keeping up this tradition, many of today’s rides are in our local parks that are within an hour or two drive of the west metro area.  Horse camping with BBSC ranges from primitive tent camping to heading to a ranch like Winding River Resort in Grand Lake with accommodations for both RV’s and those who need a room to stay and even rental horses for themselves or friends and family.  This June, some of the eighty members and their mounts headed up to Custer State Park in South Dakota to stay at a horse friendly campground and enjoy daily rides through the park.  This month they went to Beaver Meadows Ranch Resort near Red Feather Lakes in Northern Colorado.  Every year they incorporate a breakfast ride, moonlight ride and poker ride.

BBSC trail rides are organized for safety and fun.  They have thorough guidelines that members follow out of respect and safety of other riders, horses and the land.  I met with Jan Kray who started with BBSC in 1998 right after she purchased her horse, Apache.  Her first ride with them she had a borrowed saddle and a rented trailer.  She was immediately part of the group and felt at home with the diversity of riders, horses and experience levels of both.  One member even brought his truck and trailer to where her horse was boarded to help her and her horse become more trailer savvy.  Over ten years later and an active member of the group, Jan states, “If you want to have fun with your horse, you want to do it safely and you want to make some nice friends,  you like to laugh a lot, come and join us, try us out, come on a ride and see if you like the group.”  BBSC also has a Facebook page to facilitate ride sharing and invites to short notice rides by members.

As individuals, some of BBSC’s members are involved as equestrian advocates with the Jefferson County Open Space Trail Use Task Force, which serves to protect the land and acts as a voice between hikers, bikers and equestrians.  Jan Kray is personally involved with Jefferson County Open Space as a volunteer Equestrian Patroller.


To get together, talk horse and just enjoy each other’s company, BBSC members plan gatherings each year such as dinners or attending cultural events.  In addition, monthly meetings, consist of planning upcoming rides and events, a time to share information and experiences and many times in the winter months, have horse related outside speakers.  In addition, BBSC does a yearly fun family Gymkhana with ribbons, trophies, food and fellowship.


As mentioned earlier, BBSC started the Buffalo Bill Days in Golden, which starts each year with a parade and has grown to the largest community festival in Golden, including a car show, golf tournament and Wild West show.  Along with participating in the Buffalo Bill Days Parade, BBSC members are regulars at the weekly Golden holiday parades, the Evergreen Rodeo Parade, and the Denver Saint Patrick’s Day Parade – one of the largest “green” parades in our nation.  After some of the Golden parades, BBSC members set up corrals and their equipment in Heritage Park to allow the public come to pet the horses, pick up horsey coloring books, ask questions and learn more about our equine companions.

An organization like Buffalo Bill Saddle Club is an excellent advocate for horses as a part of a lifestyle and the community.  It is vital to our future as people to keep our relationship with the land, animals and agriculture not just selfishly for the obvious physical and mental health benefits, but as a connection to beauty, wide open spaces and to care for this amazing creation of molten crust we call home

Particulars:  Go to their website at www.BBSCGolden.org for more information and to view the calendar.   Email them at info@BBSCGolden.org.  Meetings are at Jefferson County Fairgrounds the second Wednesday of the month in the Green Mountain Room B, 7 p.m.  Membership fees are $25 per family or $20 per individual.  Find them on Facebook for the latest and more communication between members.

Copyright 2013 Heather McWilliams. MtnHomes4Horses.com.