In­side Your Ride

Top tips for man­ag­ing your phone at the barn

Practical Horseman - - News - By Tonya John­ston

Men­tal-skills coach Tonya John­ston and ju­nior hunter and eq­ui­tation rider Tay­lor St. Jac­ques share tips to man­age cell­phone use dur­ing barn time.

Chris­tine from work left you a voice­mail, Steve sent a text about reschedul­ing your daugh­ter’s voice les­son, your brother emailed you about din­ner on Satur­day and Alice com­mented on your new pro­file pic­ture on Face­book—but guess what? You don’t know any of that be­cause you are with your horse and your phone is the fur­thest thing from your mind (turned off, in the car, in your tack trunk, on air­plane mode or at home). Bravo! You have suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge to main­tain­ing clear fo­cus in this day and age.

Wait a minute, are you sure this sounds like you? Or did some of those calls, texts or posts man­age to get through as you were tack­ing up, leav­ing your mind jum­bled and your at­ten­tion split as you started your les­son? If so, read on for some in­spi­ra­tion and prac­ti­cal meth­ods that will help you con­trol your phone at the barn.

Tay­lor St. Jac­ques: A New Prepa­ra­tion Strat­egy Pays Off

Ju­nior hunter and eq­ui­tation star Tay­lor St. Jac­ques made a big splash at the Devon Horse Show this past spring by win­ning all four of her sections of the ASPCA Ma­clay, USEF Medal, WIHS and USET Tal­ent Search medals as well as win­ning the pres­ti­gious Ron­nie Mutch Cham­pi­onship. Ob­vi­ously, there are many in­gre­di­ents that con­trib­ute to that sort of cham­pi­onship per­for­mance, such as great tal­ent, a won­der­ful horse and top train­ing. But at Devon this year Tay­lor also added a new el­e­ment to her prepa­ra­tion rou­tine. Her new strat­egy was part of trainer An­dre Dignelli’s and her mom’s de­sire to have her re­duce her dis­trac­tions and stay more fo­cused through­out the com­pe­ti­tion. We dis­cussed the strat­egy as well as the pos­i­tive im­pact it had on her ex­pe­ri­ence.

“My daily rou­tine was to get there at about 4:30 a.m. and be on at 5 or 5:30. As soon as I got there I would put my phone in the bot­tom of my tack trunk with stuff on top of it so I was never tempted to go near it. I wouldn’t touch it un­til I was walk­ing back to my car to leave for the day.

“I thought it re­ally helped me fo­cus. I wasn’t wor­ried about what was go­ing on with my phone, who to talk to, so­cial me­dia, all of that. It was a new thing. Usu­ally I am not that ded­i­cated to re­ally fo­cus­ing be­cause I think, ‘Oh, maybe my trainer needs to get a hold of me’ and stuff like that, but it is such a small show­grounds that ev­ery­one knows how get a hold of each other. It was the first time I have ever done that and ob­vi­ously it paid off.

“I think it re­ally helped me, so I will def­i­nitely be us­ing that again in the fu­ture. I hon­estly have never felt so fo­cused in my life. I had noth­ing to dis­tract me or put my mind off of what I needed to fo­cus on,” ex­plained Tay­lor.

Sure enough, and true to her word, this sum­mer Tay­lor used the same strat­egy to help her win the 2017 Hun­ter­don

Cup and be named the 3-foot-6 Over­all Grand Cham­pion at the USEF Ju­nior Hunter Na­tional Cham­pi­onships East.

Best Prac­tices for Man­ag­ing Your Phone At the Barn

It’s pos­si­ble that your phone has been dis­tract­ing you and sap­ping your good-qual­ity en­ergy at the barn with­out you even re­al­iz­ing it. For ex­am­ple, there you are about bri­dle your horse and your phone alerts you to an in­com­ing text. You look down and your at­ten­tion is im­me­di­ately ab­sorbed in some other as­pect of your life—you mo­men­tar­ily for­get how im­por­tant it is for you to be aware of your horse and sur­round­ings.

If you would like to cre­ate some pos­i­tive change, here are some fresh ideas about how to keep your phone us­age un­der con­trol at the barn:

1. Cre­ate a phone rou­tine: Stuff­ing your phone in the pocket of your breech-

es is a rou­tine. It may not be a con­scious (or an ideal) rou­tine, but nev­er­the­less it is one. There­fore, if you would like to rein in your phone us­age at the barn, it is use­ful to brain­storm a new, re­al­is­tic phone rou­tine. For ex­am­ple, can you make it a habit to leave your phone in the car? Or put it in your tack trunk be­fore you greet your horse? Com­mit to a set amount of time, like a week or two, to ex­per­i­ment with a dif­fer­ent be­hav­ior pat­tern.

2. Re­place­ment so­lu­tions: Brain­storm­ing al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions to some of your phone’s func­tions (and your in­ter­nal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions) ahead of time will help you con­trol your phone. For ex­am­ple, do you need to time your trot sets? Wear a watch. Wor­ried about miss­ing an im­por­tant call? Record a con­tent-spe­cific voice­mail mes­sage and/or cre­ate a de­fault away re­sponse for texts. Want to take a pic­ture or video? Try cre­at­ing spe­cific times and places to do so or even en­list friends who aren’t rid­ing at that time for help.

3. Track com­mu­ni­ca­tion threads: When you are in the mid­dle of ex­changes on email or text, it can feel like you have un­fin­ished busi­ness and you need a way to ef­fec­tively dis­con­nect. Ex­per­i­ment with jot­ting down names of the con­tacts you are en­gaged with and/or de­tails you need to com­mu­ni­cate with a pen and pa­per or a white­board in your trunk to help you step away from the com­mu­ni­ca­tion stream with­out los­ing your place. Once you trust that you won’t for­get an im­por­tant re­sponse or mes­sage, you will feel more calm and cen­tered and able to walk away from your phone.

4. Man­age so­cial me­dia habits: Here’s the thing, so­cial me­dia is a fun way to stay in touch with friends, but the po­ten­tial down­side is sig­nif­i­cant when it comes to get­ting ready to ride (see side­bar page 18). When striv­ing for fo­cus, the last thing you want is to be dis­tracted from the present mo­ment, com­par­ing your­self to oth­ers or pas­sively scrolling through tons of edited life sto­ries. When you are head­ing to the barn, there are some sim­ple steps you can take to re­duce the temp­ta­tion to scroll feeds, in­clud­ing turn­ing off no­ti­fi­ca­tions, delet­ing the ap­pli­ca­tions for the morn­ing (or day or week­end at the show) and/or plac­ing your phone on air­plane mode if you need to keep it with you.

Your phone cre­ates in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties for stream­lin­ing your daily tasks and in­creas­ing your ef­fi­ciency in to­day’s world. How­ever, make no mis­take, rid­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with your horse are not on that list. When it com­pro­mises your mind­ful­ness, men­tal strength and peace of mind, it be­comes a threat that re­quires care­ful han­dling. In the weeks ahead, be ex­tra con­scious of how you blend your phone into your rid­ing rou­tine—your horse will ap­pre­ci­ate your un­di­vided at­ten­tion!

Af­ter win­ning all four of her sections at the Devon Horse Show this spring, Tay­lor St. Jac­ques went on to win 3-foot6 Over­all Grand Cham­pion at the USEF Ju­nior Hunter Na­tional Cham­pi­onships East this sum­mer.

An eques­trian men­tal-skills coach and A-cir­cuit com­peti­tor, Tonya John­ston has a mas­ter’s de­gree in sport psy­chol­ogy. Her book, In­side Your Ride: Men­tal Skills for Be­ing Happy and Suc­cess­ful with Your Horse is avail­able in pa­per­back or e-book edi­tions. For more info on Tonya’s work, go to www. TonyaJohn­ston. com.

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