Episode 011 - Founder of the Ranch Sorting National Championships, Dave Wolfe

Tune in to hear former Colorado State University professor Dave Wolfe’s story of founding two Western organizations in the industry. He founded the United States Team Penning Championships in the 1990s and also prides himself in founding the National Ranch Sorting Championships happening June 10-17, 2023, at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Podcast Transcript

Taylor McAdams: You're listening to the kick your boots up podcast, where we swap stories of the West. Whether you're just waking up or getting in for the day, come on in and kick your boots up. Today's guest on the Kick Your Boots Up podcast is an innovator of his own. He has gone the extra mile for the industry has started a few organizations and today we're going to talk all about it. The founder of the National Team Penning Championship in the 1990s. He was the former American Quarter Horse Association and paint Association, Palomino Association judge, so he's judged for all the associations. He's a former professor and coach at Colorado State University. And we all probably know him today as the founder and president of the Cinch® Ranch Sorting National Championships. Mr. Dave Wolf, Dave it’s so good to have you on the podcast here today.

Dave Wolfe: Well, I'll tell you, Hey, thanks for having me. I really enjoy these kinds of things. It's a great way to promote the sport and get the word out. So thanks for having me on.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, of course. And speaking of promoting the sport, we've got to tell everyone all about the the national ranch sorting championships. But before we do, I want to back it up just a little bit and get to know more about you and how you got started in the industry. So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you all got started. where you are today?

Dave Wolfe: Well, you know, I grew up in the horse industry. From the youth I started out in four h and went to college, Lamar Community College, couple years in the horse Training Management Program, and then transferred to Florida State University to finish out a bachelor's degree there in equine science, got very involved with judging at the collegiate level of judged on the collegiate teams, and then pursued the judging career with American Quarter Horse Association paying Association and Palomino Association, was a wonderful experience for 24 years, I got to travel all across the United States and around the world. Judging horse shows and meeting people in the horse industry and seeing some awesome athletes and horses in the horse industry. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, and I'm sure that you've gone the extra mile along the way, I've got to kind of back up a little bit to the collegiate judging, my cousin was fortunate enough to be a collegiate judger. And it's just given him so many opportunities in the horse industry. So what was it like for you kind of getting to do that without you knowing that it was a gateway going in to be a professional judge on down the line? What was that like?

Dave Wolfe: It was it was special. And you know, it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work. Nobody really realizes how hard it is to go through that collegiate level and all those practices. And given all those reasons, and throughout the career at college, but it was a special treat, we got to go to the you know, the World Championship shows and compete against all the other colleges across the country. And I really felt it was it was sort of beckoning me to pursue that part of the industry. And right after college, I worked for Colorado State University, and the Equine Science program. And then, of course, you have to be 25 before you can be apply for a judge's application. And I got it right after that. And what a special deal. It was really awesome.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, I'm sure and we were just talking off camera, the places you've gotten to go and the many, many, many miles you've been across the United States judging. I'm sure you put in a lot of hard work, too. But I'm curious to know when you were going to school and getting your degree. Was your end goal being a judge and a professor? And did you even think dream up of founding these organizations? Or were you trying to do something else? It sounds like maybe you were going to be a vet or somewhere along there? What were your thoughts? Well, certainly,

Dave Wolfe: yeah, my first goal or my first thought, when growing up and youth was to become a veterinarian. And I went to Oklahoma State University for a year. And to pursue that. And my, actually my advisor at Oklahoma State University, and you know, just plaid asked me, what, what do you want to do? And I said, Well, I love riding training horses. But I don't know that I can make a living doing that. I thought veterinary science was the best. He said, You know, there's a, there's a first Training Management School. And that was way back in the early 80s, when they were just getting started about training horses. And so I went to Lamar, and then transferred on a car State University, but but my instructor at Lamar, there were 54 kids in the class that I was in. And he said that, you know, probably five of you will end up making a career in the horse industry. And he said, it's all about finding a niche, what works, what that's and something that you can dedicate yourself to and be successful. So I remember that, from that day on trying to think what will my niche be? And it started Without judging, judging was a great niche and a great opportunity for me to travel and make a living in the horse industry. And it opened my eyes to all aspects of the horse industry, obviously, with judging a quarter horse, show you judge everything top to bottom English, the Western to, to cattle and raining all of it. And so it was great opportunity to learn a lot, get to know a whole lot about the horse industry and pursue the idea of what I wanted to do.

Taylor McAdams: That's so well said and one of the reasons why I would consider you an interview and innovator is the fact that you took an industry that traditionally is harder to make money at you learned, you know, you making a living would be hard on your body if your horse trainer, things like that. And you decided to to originally found an organization, the team pinning Association. But now of course, fast forward to where we are today. You've made the national ranch sorting what it is today that really Yeah, the red shirting national championships what it is today. So what was it like going through those growing pains? Whenever you were trying to get things figured out? I mean, for both organizations, I'm sure there was so many hurdles you mentioned, you learned about judging cattle judging what that was like. And then now that you bring the cattle into the sport that had to have been hard to so tell us all about that, and all the growing pains that you had getting those two organizations established,

Dave Wolfe: You know, from the outside looking and it seemed so easy. But from the inside, it was a struggle. Without question. There's tons of hurdles that you have to jump. Obviously breaking into an industry into the equine industry with a new sport. Starting Association at a national level takes a lot of planning a lot of dedication, and commitment with without question and you get the naysayers, it won't work, it didn't want to happen, you can't make it you'll never get big, you'll have a little club, all that. You go through all of that. And of course, the financial struggle of getting it started. Takes a lot of advertising a lot of promotion to get the word out on a national level. And I did that with the national team Penny championships and, and basically all of that derived from getting a family, I now have three boys that are all grown up, you know, 30 to 22, I guess. But they were young boys and and we wanted to pursue the horse industry for them. And in my experience and all of the judging and everything I what I always lean towards was the fun side of it. Not the serious competitive side of it, which is so rewarding for so many people. But I wanted my boys to have fun. And whether they won or not, it was going to be fun. And when we looked at it, we looked at the the sort of the rodeo industry and the roping, the team roping and that kind of thing. And obviously that's a lot of fun. But we also found that this sport of teen pinning was a was a real fun project. I wanted to focus on fun for the family. And we looked at different sports somebody came along said You know, you ought to try this team penning. There was a team thing down the road practice and we went to the practice had fun, somebody suggested that you ought to try producing a painting or some practices. We had an arena and we were producing real beans at that time. So we tried it and my gosh, people came out of the woodwork. And it got bigger and bigger. And every year we got more Chatto and and we can begin to grow. And we decided we wanted to put on a team painting at Cheyenne Frontier Days. We live just 35 miles from Cheyenne. And we thought it would be a great opportunity to promote that fun sport. And so I made some connections that Cheyenne and I actually got in at the Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne and said we could have the pinning there. And I convinced the folks at Cheyenne frontier day park that on final Sunday, we could do a top 10 Team painting on the racetrack right in front of the arena at Cheyenne frontier day Park during Cheyenne Frontier Days, it was a great opportunity. And I could not believe it that year that we had 1200 teams, the first year of any big production that we had ever done and we were so excited about it. From there we decided to start a team penning association called National Team many championships. And we spread it across the United States we became became a sanctioning body. We wrote a set of rules murdered all across the United States and it grew and it became a very sick Just organization.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, yes, without a doubt in to have that big, huge startup Cheyenne, the daddy of them all, what an iconic story there. And so I'm curious naturally, you wanted to move to another organization creating more opportunity and maybe a sport where people didn't have to grow up in the industry to learn the sport and have appreciation for the sport. And so that's probably how the ranch sorting national championship came about what was the ranch sorting aspect talk us through there, how you branched off from the team pinning Association. 

Dave Wolfe: During the team penning, you know, we tried to grow it at a national level. And it was became very successful, the largest company in association United States. But we seem to run into barriers, and we got to about 5000 members. And after that, we didn't continue to grow to get new members like we had hoped. And so we sort of sat back and looked at it and said, what are the barriers, and the barrier seemed to be that the cattlemen were concerned about running the cattle up and down the arena, obviously became harder to get cattle for those kinds of events. That was a concern. And number two, you know, the majority of the folks in IT, as they got started, were novice writers on cattle that they hadn't experienced working cattle before. And so it gets out of control. For arena 200 150 by 300 foot arena, with two or three writers in there and 30 head of cattle, it takes some talent, it takes some success, it takes some cattlemen to be able to manage those cattle and in a successful way. And the horseman sort of looked at it, like, you know, are these novice riders just riding on cattle. And so that became a barrier that that, you know, the equine industry was was sort of bumping up against on the sport of teen pinning. Now, I love team pinning, and there's a lot of folks out there that love to Penny. And as you become experienced in it, it's a wonderful game. But the break in part is sort of tough. And so we looked at it and said, well, let's let's control the game a little bit more, confine it into a round pan, and we're just going to short cattle. Instead of taking them down the arena and putting them in a pan, we're just going to learn to sort cattle. And so we set up to round fans, and we put a 12 foot opening between them, we put 10 head of cattle on one side, and two writers and you just went in and sorted cattle out in numerical order. And we started that alongside of our team fitting Association. And we called it ran story. And it began to grow, it'd be good to get bigger and more interested in it. And the new riders in the sport loved it because if they missed a cow, all they had to do was turn around and the right back in action on that cab. He didn't run down the arena. So very, very exciting. And it began to grow. So I founded Ranch Sorting National Championships alongside of NTPC national TV and championships. I was the founder of both, I was the president of both I had investors in both. And the rants sorting got bigger and bigger. At one point it was sort of became conflict of interest for me to run both associations and obviously didn't have the time to do it all. And so I sold my share and national company championships and took over the share that the shareholders had in our sec and went forward with the Ranch Sorting National Championships. And from there on my gosh, this sport is exploding.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, without a doubt. And it's so cool for me to sit here and hear this story. So I hope everyone out there listening is taking it all in to to hear from the horse's mouth. Exactly what happened. That's just so so incredible. And so I'm curious, I know that you're always thinking about bettering the sport bettering the future bettering the future generations even. So I'm curious to ask you, what do you think? Or where do you see the future of the sport growing?

Dave Wolfe: You know, truthfully, we're just beginning. This sport is such a perfect opportunity for so many people to get involved in the western industry, especially the western industry on cattle, because it is a confined area. And we even have a western heritage class where you don't get out of a truck. You do the whole class, your whole run at a tribe, a walker, a tribe, and so so many people can get involved in the sport. You don't have to go and take a ton of lessons. You don't have to have a special horse If you can control your horse, you can ramp sort at the beginning and novice levels and be very successful. And we have a number of rating system from one to a nine. And the number one is grandma on a trail horse. Truthfully, that's what we tell people, if you're, if you're not grandma on a trail horse, you're beyond the number one spot, we want everybody to get involved in our sport, at a basic level, and we save that spot, when you win three checks in our sport, you graduate to a number two rookie. And when you win $1,000, you graduate to a number three novice. So lots of opportunity that as the introductory level for this sport, like no other caliber sport there is, and that's why this sport is going to get tremendously large.

Taylor McAdams: Yes, that is so awesome that you operate offer those opportunities. A lot of the biggest misconceptions with the horse industry is that you have to start with a background start with the knowledge, start with the money start with the expense of horses. So I love everything that you guys are doing to allow anyone to come in, or the to love the sport and respect the horses and learn the correct way. And then even have the incentive of being able to grow and that can become better and get better and better and better. And who knows. There's probably some pros out there that started as novices, you know, that just got bit by the bug and loved it.

Dave Wolfe: Absolutely. Actually, our office manager Tanner Sperle, right here in our office, I gave him his first clinic in Evergreen Colorado, oh, six years ago. And this guy, he couldn't hardly turn around. He had a great day-old trail horse that was 15 Three and couldn't get it done. And I get I remember to this day, that first lesson I gave him and he said I love this game, I gotta get better. And he has progressed he came to work for us. He's now won over $100,000 in the sport and is one of our top riders in the industry. And it's so exciting to watch people mature from the beginning level, all the way to the professional level in our sport. And it's a lot of fun to watch that.

Taylor McAdams: That gives me so much hope for the future. So everything that you have going is so good. And what an incredible story. I know there's several stories out there like that, so well done on your guys's end, but we've got to get to the excitement this week is the the biggest week of the year for you guys. June 10 through the 17th is going to be all things ranch sorting national championship, tell us about what we can expect what's going on. Where does that tell us all the details?

Dave Wolfe: What What a wonderful experience it will be if you get a chance to come. Whether you're a competitor or not, obviously there's no ticket sales or anything like that you can come to the John Justin arena, in beautiful Fort Worth and Will Rogers Memorial Center one of the epic places for horse events. And we are there for eight days straight rants sorting is all we do. And we have a lot of fun and we have a maturity. For our three and four year old horses. We have a pro rider class for our upper level riders. And then we have a whole array of other classes for all different levels of contestants. Even the brand new beginner that's never won three checks in the sport and is a very green novice rider never worked on cattle we have a class for them at our World Finals. In fact, that class will have over 400 teams in it. It's It's amazing brand new people coming every year to our sport. But we have seven different sorting pins running into two main arenas there Will Rogers Memorial Center all day long for seven days. And it's exciting. It's It's unbelievable. To see you know you call it a three ring. Circus we call it a seven ring circus people going from one ring to the other and one class to the other. All week long. We have great organization we have over 100 people on staff for that event. And we have a potluck dinner. We have a we have a for sale there. Horseman's choice as for sale, there were cow horses and ranch shorting horses, and it's just a wonderful time. And it's the it's a party for the score to grant sorting.Without a doubt, I know I'm looking forward to going to check it out. Anyone out there who's interested. Feel free to follow along. I'm sure you guys have social media, right? Oh, absolutely. We have a lot of great connections. But you know what's amazing to most people is the numbers that we pull from that world finals. Last year we had over 8700 teams and our world finals paid out close to a million dollars. And man the growth of the sport. People coming from California to Florida to all over for that event. We could talk 9000 teams this year. My goal is 10,000 teams Obviously, just to say we did it.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, yeah, that's a really good goal. And it brings me to a really good question. I love what you said earlier, all the different options. Do the members have to qualify for the national championships or this is a clean slate kind of championship?

Dave Wolfe: A new member of beginner does not have to qualify, but all other members have to have competed in five sanction events sometime during the year across the United States. We have about 450 sanctioned events across the United States each year. 

Taylor McAdams: Wow. Okay, so I see lots of opportunity to get involved. Anyone out there who's a horse hobbyist, maybe has a trial riding horse that wants to get started and see if their horses even Cowley at all, I feel like this would be the best and perfect, most perfect opportunity. So well done for what you guys have going on over there. Dave, congratulations on all of it. I feel like I'm in that conversation with a legend here. You're You're paving the way in the industry and making opportunity for people out there. So thank you for everything you do. If you guys are curious to follow along with the schedule, maybe you can't make it to the championships, but you want to get the chance to go to another event throughout the year, you can go to www.rsnc.us and figure out their schedules, everything they have going on, of course, follow along on social media. This will be a huge event to look forward to. Dave, thank you for your time. And thank you for everything that you've done for all the organizations but especially the Ranch Sorting National Championship.

Dave Wolfe: Well, Taylor, thanks for having us on. I really appreciate it.

Taylor McAdams: Thanks for joining us on kick your boots up. I'm your host Taylor McAdams and we can't wait to share the next story of the West. Until then, feel free to like subscribe and leave us a review. Follow us on social media at Justin Boots to keep up with our next episode. And we'll see you the next time you kick your boots up