MAHNOMEN (AP) -- For Ken Krebsbach, riding horses again was like riding a bicycle.
Krebsbach, 42, was raised on a cattle farm and first rode a horse when he was 5. Now he is a team penning world champion despite a long respite from the farm and horses.
"I've always, from the time I was a kid, wanted to be around horses," Krebsbach said. "I seemed to have a natural talent for communicating with them."
However, when he was 17, Krebsbach left his love for horses behind when he found a job off the farm.
"I wasn't able to have horses because I didn't have a place to keep them," Krebsbach said. "In 1991, I got back into horses. They're a lot of fun. I can spend hours and hours by myself with those horses."
Within two years, he started competing in team penning, a popular equine event where a team of three members on horseback must sort out and pen three specifically numbered head of cattle out of a herd of 30 within 90 seconds. Time begins when the first horse crosses the starting line and ends when the cattle are penned.
"It's the fastest growing equine sport in the United States," said Krebsbach, who went to his first team penning event in 1992 as a spectator.
He has been hooked on the sport since. "It looked like a lot of fun and I started doing it myself," he said. "I basically have been doing it ever since."
Now he travels several weekends each year, competing in local, regional and national team penning events.
"I just love the game of team penning," Krebsbach said. "If you're successful, it just makes it that much more fun.
"It's got a lot to do with the way you ride. It has a lot to do with the way you read cattle. You can tell what way the cattle are going to go."
During the U.S. Team Penning Association National Finals from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, his team placed second in the open division and won third in a combined professional-amateur division.
After the USTPA event, Krebsbach's team won the team penning world championship at the 27th Annual American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show with a time of 34.64 seconds. The event is the world's largest single-breed championship horse show.
"It's three guys that have to work together to make it happen," Krebsbach said. "You have to play your position. If you try to do too much yourself or one of your partners, you can run into trouble."
Now Krebsbach is combining his success and love for horses to change careers. A painter for years, he is hanging up his brushes for medical reasons and will train and sell team penning horses for a living.
"I'm going into the horse business full time," Krebsbach said. "It's going to take some time to generate income like I did when I was painting."
But he's counting on his successes to help bolster business.
"It's going to help what I did the last month, all that winning," Krebsbach said. "It's almost like it was meant to be. I've already had people calling me and wanting me to ride their horses."
Krebsbach wants to build on his team penning success, both as a competitor and trainer.
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