Be careful what you wish for
By Kathryn R. Burke
Erin Stadelman went from a California beach kid to living in the mountains and married to a cowboy. “Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.”
She grew up in Southern Caifornia where her dad was a deputy sheriff, her mom a homemaker, and her life revolved around the beach. Erin was a lifeguard there—a dream job for some, but not for her after she saw her first horse. “My parents thought I was crazy,” she said. “But, it was love at first sight. My mother had a friend who owned horses and she allowed me to exercise them. I rode anything I could get my hands on.”
When she was 12, Erin’s dad took her on a cross-country trip to take her older brother to West Point. Her dad’s name was Ray, and when he saw the name “Ouray” on a map, he pronounced it “Ooo RAY” and declared they would make a stop there. Erin spotted a field full of horses near Ridgway. “I grabbed all the apples we had in the camper,” she said, “and fed them to the horses. And I told my dad, ‘I’m gonna marry a cowboy and I’m gonna live here.’”
And that’s exactly what she did. Here she is; 34 years, four children, six grandchildren (“We’re a blended family, and a prolific group!” she laughs), and a whole lot of horses later, living on the Ralph Lauren Ranch with her husband, Steve, who cowboys for the RRL. While Steve cowboys, Erin is involved in 4H, the Cattleman’s Association (she was president for eight years), rodeo association (still president of that), and the Ouray County Fairgrounds, where she has been the Assistant Fairgrounds Manager since 2015. “Susan [Long, the Fairgrounds Manager] decided that she needed help running the fairgrounds and event center, right after we finished [replacing] the grandstands and new arena. They needed help with marketing, so she and [Ouray County] BOCC solicited me for the job.”
It’s a great fit. “This is the job I’ve been waiting for since I moved here 10 years ago,” she said. “Working at the fairgrounds after all the time and investment my family and I made in 2014 for the renovation, primarily the creation of the arena—it’s where I needed to be. While I was president of the Rodeo Association, we got funds and labor to put the new arena together,” she explained.
Erin’s job involves working with events that come into the fairgrounds in addition to soliciting new events. “I basically do what Susan doesn’t have the time or energy to do,” she said, “which means I focus the majority of my time on outside activities.”
A new event this year was Skijoring—a horse and rider pulling a skier through the snow and a jump. “It was exciting, it was cold, and everybody had a good time,” she said. “The competitors certainly loved it.”
A lot of her focus is on kids. For the second year, she is bringing a vocation Bible camp to the fairgrounds this summer. Last year she brought in a circus—no animals, though, just clowns and acrobats. “I try to find stuff that’s important in my world—my kids, my husband, my livestock, my dogs.” And her beloved horses, of course.
Erin is looking forward to Labor Day Weekend this year, when the Fairgrounds hosts a three-day rodeo following five days of the Ouray County Fair. It will be ranch rodeo first, then two days of CPRA pro rodeo. Rodeo is a tradition in Ouray County, which has a long history in ranching. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Ouray County Rodeo and Fair. About ten years ago, the fair board segregated from the rodeo board, but for this event, both are becoming involved together along with Cattleman’s Association. “It’s going to be a big cebraton,” she said. Her husband will compete in the ranch rodeo on the RRL team, and she may as well.
“When my husband first saw me ride, he couldn’t believe I’d never owned a horse. ‘Your’e a natural,’ he said.” And she sure is—any of us who have seen her ride in a rodeo know he speaks the truth. That gal can sit a horse like she was born on one!
“I didn’t grow up with this lifestyle, but it’s my life now,” Erin said. “ When I retire” [which won’t be for a long while, she’s only 46], “I plan to put a lawn ornament horse out there. I’ll sit and look at my horse, but won’t need a saddle any more.”
Update: 2018. Erin is now the Ouray County Fairgrounds and Event Center Manager. (Susan Long retired.) She is also president of the Rodeo Association.