Steamboat Springs Saddle bronc rider and cutting horse trainer Travis Darling, 23, who won the Pat Mantle Trophy in Steamboat Springs in 2009, died early Monday morning when the pickup he was driving went off Farm to Market Road 487 near Rockdale, Texas, and rolled over.
Television station KXXV in Waco, Texas, reported that Darling’s truck apparently began to swerve shortly before 1 a.m., and he tried to adjust but lost control. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Darling’s mother, Barb Lynn, said Tuesday that her son had just moved to Rockdale a week before the accident and was enthused about a new job on a ranch with a large cutting horse operation.
He was to have received the mentorship of trainer Jonathan Rogers at Tiemann Land & Cattle in Milam County.
“He told me that when he drove up to the ranch, it was the most unbelievable ranch he’d ever seen,” Lynn said. “He was absolutely as happy as he’s ever been.”
Throughout five seasons, Darling won at least a share of 10 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association saddle bronc riding titles. In 2010, he finished ninth in the rookie saddle bronc riding standings and won the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla., and the Cold Lake (Alberta) Stampede.
Darling was the Colorado high school cutting horse champion in 2007 and qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo as a saddle bronc rider, earning a rodeo scholarship to Casper College in Wyoming.
He grew up in Steamboat but moved to southwest Colorado in high school, where he competed in rodeo and wrestling for Ignacio High School near Durango.
Lynn said her son had finished the 2011 rodeo season competing in the Mountain States Circuit Finals before taking a job as ranch manager near Cushing, Okla., where he hoped to be able to pursue a passion he’d had since he was 9: riding cutting horse colts.
Another advantage of the job in Cushing was that it was just 30 minutes from his father Mark Darling's home, and they visited often, Lynn said. The new job at Tiemann Land & Cattle would have afforded him more time on horseback.
Darling told the Steamboat Today in July 2011 that he steadily was improving with maturation as a saddle bronc rider, though that progress wasn’t showing up in his winnings.
“Mostly, it’s been getting older and wiser and figuring out how each horse is different,” Darling said. “You have to know the horses and know who to ask about the horses. You give different rein to each horse based on the way they buck, and it’s getting to the point now where I recognize horses. I’m starting to memorize them, to stay focused and be able to show up, physically fit, at a rodeo and know I have a chance to win it.”
Darling is survived by his father, Mark Darling; stepmother, Tammy Darling; mother, Barb Lynn; stepfather, Charlie Cammer; brothers Jeremy, Kane and Chase Darling; and sister Katie Darling Latham. A memorial service is at noon Sunday at the University of Wyoming’s Cliff and Martha Hansen Arena in Laramie, Wyo. The arena is three miles west of Laramie on Wyoming Highway 230.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com