Roper Review Erin King
Erin King knows she’s led a blessed life, and the blessings keep coming.
The cowgirl who lives in Wickenburg, Ariz. with her fiancé Brandon Bates and their daughters, Madison and Brooklyn, has loved every bit of her life.
She grew up in Sheridan, Wyo., a member of the King ranching and roping family, with parents Bob and Debbi King who were horse people. Debbi did combined training with horses, and Bob, who co-owned King Saddlery with his family, was a highly respected team roper.
Even though her family made the world-renowned King ropes, she and her younger sister Kristen were never forced to rope as kids. “We didn’t grow up roping, which is funny, because our dad made the ropes,” Erin said. “He never pushed that upon us. He knew, when we wanted to rope, we’d come to him.”
The girls were involved in a variety of activities, though. Erin was a member of 4-H, FFA, gymnastics, dance, and ran barrels, poles and breakaway roped throughout junior, high school and college. Debbi always told her daughters there were two kinds of people: those who loved horses, and those who were in love with horses, and Erin was the latter.
It was when Erin met Brandon twelve years ago that the roping bug really bit. Erin had dabbled in breakaway, but it “wasn’t her thing,” she said. She was riding and training horses, but when Brandon came into her life, that changed. “That’s all they do,” she said, referring to their roping and riding, “and rodeo for a living. I was thrown into the atmosphere.”
Erin learned quickly, in part because of her horsemanship skills. Because she knew how to ride and had ridden colts, barrel horses and jumping horses, the riding part was easy. Brandon helped her learn how, providing the best teacher she could have: a good horse. “That horse took me to the same spot every time and backed into the box the same every time. I still remember the first money I won. It was at a round robin, it paid $700 and I thought I was the coolest thing ever.”
She headed for a while, then after selling two good head horses, switched to heeling for a good reason. “Brandon’s a heeler, so we’ll always have good heel horses around,” she said. The heeling did good things for her heading. “I love heeling,” she said, “but with heeling, your arm has to be stronger, and heading became more simple for me.” Her heading improved, and “I started winning a lot and they raised my number,” she laughed.
For several years, the couple lived in Idaho, then moved to Texas and California. But those places weren’t a good fit for them, so they moved to Wickenburg a year ago.
Wickenburg, the team roping capital of the world, is the perfect place for them. They just opened up their new place: the Wickenburg Winter Cowboy Camp.
WWCC, as it’s known, boasts sixteen plug-ins for RVs and trailers, two barns with thirty stalls combined, a third barn under construction, and two arenas.
The plug-ins are full electricity and water with most of them having sewer as well. A lot of people park their RVs or trailers and rent or borrow a smaller trailer to haul horses to ropings so the big trailer doesn’t have to be moved.
“We’re more than a place to stay and plug in,” Erin said. “People can come here and do it all in one spot.” They offer lessons, horse training, and their arena is open from 10 am to 4 pm every day, for ropers to practice or train a horse.
Erin and Brandon also take in consignment horses, and Brandon is building a deck onto a barn so they can host cookouts as well.
Erin has qualified for the World Series Finale, held in Las Vegas at the South Point Hotel and Casino, in December. This is her first time to compete at it, even though she’s qualified four previous times.
She loves what the Arizona atmosphere has done for team roping. “No matter what roping you go to, the cattle are incredible, the competition is unbelievable, and you have to be your very best. You can’t make mistakes, and I think that is amazing.
Her dad used to compare team roping with golf to explain its complexities and challenges. “He said, ‘how do you ever conquer them?’”
The environment in Arizona also makes it fun. “Everybody’s in a good mood,” she said. “Everybody’s on vacation and is so happy to be here. It’s sunny, it’s dry, and we feel so blessed to be here.”
And Erin is thankful for her family, her horses and her roping. “It makes you truly appreciate being here and doing what we love to do.”