On Cell Phones and Horses...
I love my phone. I may be slightly addicted to it. If I can’t find it, there’s a horrible race of panic that makes me wonder if I left it at the barn, at home, at the gas station. While it has many conveniences (like the internet wherever you may roam and instant text messages of important stuff and also emojis), it’s also a tool/burden/crutch/distraction that takes me away from real like, the present, the now, the truly important stuff.
When I’m riding, I always have it with me. I often ride on the trails or out in the fields, away from the direct line of sight from buddies at the barn. This is a little insurance that should something go wrong, I have a phone on me. I have used it before while riding. One call to the Sheriff’s when hacking with a friend and her horse tossed her and headed right for the hills, very likely to continue over the hills and into traffic. He was lost for a few hours, luckily all ended up well. A few calls back to the barn to ask for help (can’t get the stone out of the shoe please bring a hoof pick, there’s a stray dog with a blue collar on the trail does anyone know his owner, it’s starting to pour can you roll up the windows in my car). Unfortunately also a few calls to 911, but that’s why phones and horses go well together.
Admittedly, I like to snap photos every now and again. Just to remember the wonderful ride, weather, or good friends I'm hacking with.
A few years ago I noticed something. I would hack out, and I would check out. I might take a call or exchange text messages, or sometimes even check social media while in the saddle. These are the times my horse would try the following:
about face for home
stopping and looking
I would also get back to the barn and realize that while I had been gone for 20 minutes, it either felt like a horrible eternity of boredom or about 3 seconds. My mind was seldom focused on what was actually happening - and my horse and I were on two different tracks. My horses know when my mind is elsewhere - they start to wonder what’s going on and can they get away with this and OH MY I AM SURE THE TREE IS ALIVE AND HUNGRY.
The part I was missing? Being present and aware and fully in line with my horse - no distractions. Along with the no distractions is learning to just sort of empty your mind and enjoy every single step your horse takes. Every single step. You can go into a moving meditation with horses - and believe me, he will notice. You begin to find a rhythm with your horse, and all of the annoying trail behaviors, grass snatching, horse eating monsters begin to disappear. I’m not saying he will be a perfect angel, as the occasional tree or shrub may *actually* be alive and hungry, but I’m saying he will know you are with him, every step.
This practice of being present with my horses allows me to have much more relaxing and enjoyable rides. I savor every moment, and I’m humbled at how precious the moments are. I don’t take any time with horses for granted, instead I’m grateful every single day that I have that time with them. If someone asks me how the ride was, I try and remember to say that it was the best one I have ever had. Even if, on paper, it qualified as a disaster.
I’m curious if anyone has ever noticed something similar with their horses? Do you ride with a phone for emergencies, or do you allow yourself to be distracted by the phone?