Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Erin Bales
story by Lindsay King
Hailing from Sheridan, Wyoming, rodeo and the western way of life was in Erin Bales’ blood from day one. She grew up on the family ranch with her little brother, and their parents made sure they were in junior rodeo as soon as possible. “We moved to Texas when I was 8, but my parents still made sure my brother and I were always entered in playdays and junior rodeos,” said the now Lemitar, New Mexico, native.
The family moved back to Wyoming when Erin was in middle school and she continued to rodeo. Erin rodeoed for Miles Community College in Miles City, Montana, before retiring her longtime barrel horse. “After college I was living on the border of Wyoming and Montana and I got my pro permit. Montana is huge and it was just more of a trailer race to make it to the next rodeo. It was just difficult and expensive to be doing at the time.”
In November 2014, Erin moved to New Mexico. It’s a much smaller state in Erin’s eyes and she truly enjoys going from one corner to the other for NMRA rodeos. She’s been a member of the association for the last three years but has served on the board as the Inc. Barrel Racing Director for the last two years. “I like getting to talk with people and work with producers of the various rodeos. I also like getting to know what goes on behind the scenes, it’s been very eye opening. I like making those connections with the stock contractors and competitors.”
When Erin moved to New Mexico, she found the friends she wanted and needed to push her to the next level in life and rodeo. “I have friends that I look up to and are really encouraging. They are willing to tell me what I need to do and be tough on me and that is what helps me grow.” Erin is a special education teacher at Sarracino Middle School and regularly sees some of her students at the barrel races she producers in Socorro. “I know they are watching me, that makes me want to do better and show them anything is possible regardless of a timeline. I thought I would be at a much different place than I am at this age. I have quickly learned that you never stop growing and every chapter in life is a stepping stone.”
Even though Erin grew up on a ranch, barrel racing is her main focus as a competitor. “I love to rope, but training a barrel horse is easier. All you need is three barrels and I don’t need somebody in the arena to help me open chutes or anything like that.” Erin has roped in the past, but she doesn’t really have a horse dedicated to that event. Or so she thought. “Four years ago, I started roping off my barrel horse. I felt bad because he was so good at it that he may have missed his calling as a heel horse.” That gelding is now 19. Erin’s son Caden, 14, is a freshman in high school who loves both football and roping. He helps his mom with the horses regularly.
One of Erin’s greatest accomplishments in both life and rodeo is her ability to take a horse she couldn’t even give away and make something special. “My parents got this blown up barrel horse in a bad deal. She was a hot mess when I picked her up. She rocked the trailer the whole way from Wyoming to New Mexico.” Erin wasn’t sure what she got herself into, but she managed to turn the fire-breathing dragon into a semi-fast barrel horse who is clocking faster every day. “She has changed me a lot over the last two years. As a horsewoman I have learned a lot about horses and myself by just listening to the horse and learning from others. It is a huge accomplishment to take a horse that could’ve went to the kill pen to competing with her on a higher level knowing she is a changed horse.”