STAYING POSITIVE Darling Dazzles at Reno By Allie Bohus M edford, Oklahoma’s Michelle Darling had never entered Reno before. Her prized mare, “Martini” had never run at Reno. Despite both being newbies to Reno Rodeo’s grand stage, they pulled out of the Nevada parking lot champions. Darling started her year by doing something she had never done before. Hitting the California rodeos.

“I had never done that California run before, so I did that and did pretty well. I hit four rodeos and won like $14,000,” she said. The Cali wins really kick started her place in the standings. Then to win Reno was truly a ‘dream come true’, for Darling who is rodeoing as hard as she can but also being cognizant of her own mental and physical capacity for life on the road. “I’ve had good runs and bad runs but staying positive is what you have to do mentally. I’m tired right now, so I’m going to go home now and recuperate, then go to the Northwest,” said Darling who at press time had just ran at Salt Lake City, and Ogden, Utah. Darling drives herself and her little 7-year-old daughter, Demi Lynn Darling, travels with her. Demi’s hamster also joins them on the rodeo trail. “[Demi is] a great little hauler; it’s challenging when you’re tired, but she does great. [Her hamster] keeps her entertained, which is so funny,” Darling and Martini ran a 17.00 to win the first round at Reno. Although she didn’t place in the second round, she had a solid time good enough to advance her to the final round. There she won third and finished atop the leaderboard in the average with a total time of 51.37 seconds on three runs, just a tick ahead of reigning world champion Jordon Briggs who finished second in the average in a time of 51.38

seconds. “It was super exciting; I couldn’t believe it. It was so tight and so close I had no idea. When they called my name, I had to find someone to hold my horse because all the girls had left. I couldn’t even believe it to go out there and win and get those awesome spurs… I am so thankful for my horse,” she said. She also looks forward to displaying her infamous trophy spurs in her home! Martini, registered Morning Traffic (by Frenchman’s Guy and out of Evening Traffic), is Darling’s prized 11-year-old Palomino mare whom she bought as a 2-year-old and started her, then sent her to Wrangler NFR qualifier Stevi Hillman. Hillman took her as a 5-year-old and futuritied on her. Shortly after that, Darling got pregnant and Hillman ran her for a few years (including a few runs at the Wrangler NFR). Martini proved she loved the hard fast ground at Reno and can compete with the best of the best. They got to Reno on Friday night and didn’t run until Monday, so over the weekend Darling was able to get in the arena every day and practice. “[Martini] likes wide-open big pens. She was fresh and she felt good. I felt like the cards were in our favor. We just made three solid runs. I was on the bottom of the ground, [so my game plan was to] just go in there and do the best I could… I was so proud of her for working so good,” said Darling. Darling credits a lot of her success at Reno to Jack and Teresa Courier. Darling stayed at their place and they were enormously helpful to her. Teresa helped take care of Darling’s daughter, and just Michelle Darling is checking some new rodeos off her list in 2022 and after a big win in Reno, is laser focused on earning a spot at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Martini has been to the big show with Stevi Hillman, but Darling is hoping this will be their year as a duo to race down the famous Thomas and Mack alleyway. Photo by Fernando Sam-Sin

Michelle Darling and Martini had never entered Reno but that didn’t slow them down any as they competed like veterans and left with their first pair of famous Reno Rodeo spurs. Darling and Martini won the three run average in a time of 51.37 seconds, just a tick faster than reigning world champions Jordon Briggs and Rollo, who finished in a total time of 51.38 seconds. Photo by Fernando Sam-Sin


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