Ok, so what is team penning anyway?
In an arena, there are 30 cows at one end, numbered from 0 through 9. There are three number 0's, three number 1's, etc. Three riders enter the other end of the arena and proceed to the start line. When the timekeeper calls to start the event, the riders are given a number, 5 for example. They then have to remove all three number 5's from the herd and move them down to the other end of the arena and put them into a pen. The team with the quickest time wins the event.
This is 3 riders penning three cows. It is what is most frequently done in competitions. Some practice promoters may use three riders to pen only 2 cows (3 on 2). This may be done if they do not have a full herd of 30 cows. In competition penning, it is always penning 3 cows.
Positions of riders
BRINGING OUT THE CATTLE:
There are different positions (or roles) the rider takes at each end of the arena. When you are trying to extract the cattle from the herd, there are the cutter(s) and the holder(s), also called the turn back person. The cutter goes into the herd and brings out only his numbered cow. Any wrong numbered cows are called 'dirty cows'. Time is lost if dirties are allowed to run all the way down the arena.
The holder tries to hold back all dirty cows and let out only the good numbered cows. On a fresh herd of cattle, they tend to be more wild, and two riders will act as holders. On cattle that have been penned a bit, sometimes 2 cutters will enter the herd.
Usually the first cutter goes in, comes out with his cow, then the second cutter will go in and come out with his cow, then either the holder will go in and the 1st cutter becomes the holder, or the 1st cutter will re-enter the herd.
PENNING THE CATTLE:
The positions are now assigned on where you are in the arena. A rule is that you never cross in front (or behind) another rider when you drive all 3 good cows towards the pen.
The positions are as follows: The hole man goes in the alleyway between the pen and the wall and prevents cattle from escaping through the hole. The wing man is closest to the wing, and acts like an extension of the wing. The sweep (or pusher) herds all 3 cows towards the opening of the pen. The cattle are funneled into the hold and one of the riders signals for time by breaking the plane of the pen with the horse's head and holding up a hand.
So, as you ride towards the pen, the rider closest to the alleyway, would be the hole man, the rider in the middle becomes the wing man, and the far rider is the pusher. The reason the roles are assigned this way, is because it is dangerous to cross another rider in the ring, and it prevent all three you yelling at the same time, "I'LL TAKE THE HOLE".
The maximum time allowed to pen 3 cows ranges from 75 seconds to 120 seconds. The WCTPA is 75 seconds and the USTPA is either 60, 75 or 90 seconds depending on the promoter. Most local practice times are 90 seconds.