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Standardbred Nicota is working cattle
Monday, March 17, 2014 - by Jessica Schroeder, USTA Outreach & Membership Enrichment Coordinator

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Columbus, OH --- Over the weekend Nicota wasn’t seen winning a race at The Meadows or Buffalo Raceway. He also wasn’t in the breeding shed producing the next generation of harness horses. Instead, the 8-year-old gelded son of Blissfull Hall, who retired from racing in 2013, was beginning a new career in an unexpected place -- the cow pen. Together with his young rider, 14-year-old Shaunna Morris, the two are learning the intricacies of ranch sorting.

A timed team western-style event, ranch sorting requires sorting cattle in a sequential order, starting with the number officials designate at the beginning of the run. When it was Nicota and Morris’ turn, the number four was called, so they had to separate the calf wearing that number from the herd and push it from the sorting pen into the next pen.

Kathleen Haak photo
Shaunna Morris and Nicota are learning the intricacies of ranch sorting.

Then, Morris and Nicota worked together to sequentially move calf numbers five, six, one, two and three into that same pen. If the calves go through the gate in the wrong order or if your team member isn’t able to keep them from coming back into the sorting pen, the run is disqualified.

At this training event, there were six calves to move, however at ranch sorting competition there are 11. The fastest team that gets their calves through the gate, in the correct order, wins.

This weekend’s event was only the fifth time Nicota had been ridden and after racing for six years and earning $142,091 on the track, he’s still learning his cues but he demonstrated the willingness of off-the-track Standardbreds to learn new disciplines.

Morris, the daughter of Meadows outrider Missy Rothfuss, has only recently begun working with horses and is using Nicota as her 4-H project.

Since 1996, the Standardbred Equine Program has worked with off-the-track Standardbreds and their owners to educate the general public about the many disciplines at which Standardbreds excel once they are retired from racing.

For more information about the SEP at the USTA, visit, or send e-mail inquiries to

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