That thing. You know, that thing where you’ve had a horse in your barn…in and out of your string…for years and you’ve never quite gotten it right. Then, suddenly you get the horse out again and things just start to fall into place and you think…what in the bloody hell is going on here?? I’m dubbing that thing The Willow Effect because it’s hard to imagine a horse illustrating it better than she has.

I recently moved Wilz to the Northwood Farms Campus (a rotating 2 of my string live there) and so far it’s been a cool, fun, mind sparking experience. I’m in this fuzzy place of just existing because I don’t really know what is happening and I don’t really understand why she’s so different with me now.

A few things occur to me:

1. It strikes me that not only does the rectangle need to actually be peaceful inside…. or at least the safe zone… but the WAY I help my horse find the center has to be tactful as well.

I think of the rectangle as being the safe zone with Wilz vs totally peaceful because it helps me to not stress out when she isn’t magically 100% let down when she gets into it. She might still be a little concerned about something but so long as she knows it’s the best of all her options, and especially when it becomes her CHOOSING that option, we’re good to go and it will all get better.

2. I feel like getting united has been a mega theme for me lately and with her it’s a keystone. I’m not really using the short serpentine at all but definitely using arcs and rewarding her body being united on whatever curve I choose. That and feeling for the hindlegs.

(Here’s a 5min video I did talking through one of our first rides back. AND Here’s the direct YOUTUBE LINK-Wilz Candid May 2 2017 in case you need to go there to get HD. ?)

3. I have to be disciplined with her to use one rein at a time. Even when they are in close succession, if she’s troubled, I try to get my stuff together asap to use an arc one rein at a time. Not easy. Not as easy as it should be I suppose.

4. Watching her be disciplined online in our warmup is helping me at least as much as it’s helping her. It’s helping me to believe.
Wild how she used to not be able to canter united online without a bunch of warmup. Now, it’s there right away

5. Wow, when she is relaxed… she’s screaminly fancy and looovely to sit on. In moments I feel the value everyone talks about with a horse with so much life. I can’t quite grasp it but it seems like it has something to do with the mind. Like, once it’s going my way, it feels better somehow…not sure exactly about that…

6. She is so so sensitive. Even when you get past the reactive place, she’s still dialed in and feeling for my thoughts so I MUST stay present and thinking and perhaps the fact that I’m about a million times more consistent with my body and in control of my cues, is a huge part of why she’s more settled.

7. My warm up on the ground is magnificently more effective than it ever was before. Like, night and day for her. For the other horses, I’ve noticed it being better, but with her, it’s the game changer. When I cottoned on to a few things after watching Gary, I told him… one of these days I’m going to crack out Willow and if it is as big of a difference as I think it is, she will be the one to prove it.

8. I think so much more about riding the hind legs. All the time I think of it and I’m pretty sure, again because she’s so sensitive, that makes her feel a lot more comfortable. The other day I got super curious about her mouth and how quiet or not it was, so my mind left her hind legs. Things started to fall apart quickly. I went back to feeling for that relaxation and forward and balance in her hind legs and she settled back again. Verrry interesting.

9. I think I’m feeling a ton more, and able to effectively influence, her lateral width. Like, how far apart her front feet are. How big of a base she has. She doesn’t feel at all as tippy as she used to.

10. My only hope is to use the current circumstances to build a rectangle. To very carefully and deliberately solidify the curriculum and the relaxation that’s possible. To find it again and again. To change her mind when little stuff happens. Careful careful. My only hope is to not think about the possibility that my friends would “just ride her forward” or “give her a job” or let her spook all over until she “started lookin me up”. I have to remember that even though sometimes I really want to be, I’m not Isaac or Michael or Nathan or Gary or Buck (or Monica). I remind myself that it’s ok to have a different journey. I’m just me and I have nothing to lose and a great opportunity for some mega data collection. Which… I love.

11. It’s hard to believe that any of this will be a lasting change. Maybe it’s just the campus giving her security. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe the indoor makes her feel secure. Maybe it’s all just a lucky fleeting thing. Or… maybe, I really am different. Maybe the fact that I notice that her feet are with me even when she’s looking briefly at something else, and occasionally when she winnies is key. Maybe the warm up really does make a difference… maybe… It’s a good exercise in living in the moment.

12. I love this stuff. As always, I’m hip to hear what YOU think. Leave me a comment, send me a message or an email. You can find me everywhere @emmadailykline. Cheers!?????


  1. Thank you, Emma, I really enjoyed this. Both the videos and your thoughts in the blog, very interesting stuff. I am processing some things with my pony, Hoping for some breakthroughs this year. You are dedicated student of the horse, a deep thinker, lovely rider and talented horseman/woman!

    1. Thank you so much Lori! I look forward to hearing about what you discover. One of the best parts about horsemanship is unveiling a new level of understanding. Utterly addictive!

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