She Smiled the Whole Way Down

The Story Behind the Trending Photo

By Robyn Duplisea

Photos by Cody Parmenter Photography

67294732_1424207694370584_6114220128671367168_nIf you have been on social media this past week, we are sure you saw this incredible photo by Cody Parmenter Photography from the POA National Congress show. The incredible once in a lifetime shot captured the young rider smiling all the way down to the ground in an unfortunate unplanned dismount.

We wanted to know the story behind that famous trending photo.

Emma Widener on her five-year-old mare Hot Willowbark Te were the subjects of this photo that quickly made them (in)famous. What the image couldn’t capture was the hours, weeks, months and years that Emma has poured into developing her mare into a champion before this class.

Emma and Willow at the 2018 POA Congress.

We spoke with Emma’s mom Tiffany, who shared that Emma has done most of the work on the mare herself. “The mare is actually pretty broke” shared Widener who continued that last year “she was a 2018 Reserve Champion in showmanship and Champion in the 14-18 reining.”

Tiffany added with a chuckle “It’s was a pretty graceful buck off though. She smiled the whole way down.”

While the 2019 POA National Congress may not have gone as planned, it is clear to see that Emma’s attitude is champion worthy and her love for Willow remains.

Emma shared that “although I didn’t have the Congress I’d hoped for; I did have an amazing experience! We did our best with the little bit of time we had to prepare. I am so grateful for this mare. I absolutely owe her for making me the rider I am today! Still my unicorn, even when she’s a little quirky”

We couldn’t agree more, the greatest of horses often have their quirks.

Kudos to Cody for capturing this incredible photo and to Emma for keeping her smile all the way down and for reminding all of us that it is not always the placing that matters, but how you handle the situation that defines you.