I am interested in getting into team penning with my horse. What are the "criteria" (so to speak) for starting? What should my horse be capable of before even looking into lessons for team penning? Thanks
You will want your horse very well broke. You need to have complete control of their body, everything soft and responsive. You want them working off your seat and legs. Work on teaching your horse to work off its hind end, especially stopping and turning. You want them capable of bending and flexing their whole body. Mentally, your horse should be able to almost ignore whatever is going on around you and remain focused on its rider. Team penning has a lot going on at once and at a fairly fast pace so your horse needs to be paying attention to you at all times.
Also make sure that your horse is physically fit enough to handle the bursts of speed and hard turns that are a part of the sport.
I do recommend that you look into starting with sorting before penning. Sorting is typically a slower pace and with fewer cattle can be less intimidating for a horse new to working cattle (and for you as well).
Thanks! He is pretty good about ignoring what does on around him and only listening to the rider, but I'll be sure to work on that this year so that he is even better with it. I'll definitely look into sorting first, thanks for recommending that. He has never really consistently worked cattle before, other than "walking" them around the field.
I would really, really, recommend that you put him in an arena with cattle and see how that goes. There's a world of difference between riding around cattle, and moving quickly up to one that is moving quickly toward you. If you put too much pressure on him too quickly, you may pay for that for a very long time. I would NOT make his formative cattle workings in a competition setting.