Editor’s Note

Practical Horseman - - News - San­dra Oliynyk Editor

Iwas bliss­fully un­aware of how dis­tract­ing a phone could be un­til I re­cently bought a new one. My old phone al­lowed me to get voice­mails and texts, but I had to go into those ap­pli­ca­tions to ac­tu­ally re­trieve them. I could find emails only by go­ing through the In­ter­net. The plus side of this was that when I went to the barn, I was able to keep my phone near me for emer­gen­cies but still stay fully en­gaged in the mo­ment, whether I was feel­ing my horse’s legs for heat or try­ing to fig­ure out why his right leg-yield was eas­ier than his left.

My new phone is a mini-com­puter that is con­stantly ding­ing and light­ing up, keep­ing me abreast of just about ev­ery­thing that is go­ing on—or should be go­ing on—in my per­sonal and pro­fes­sional lives. I now un­der­stand what it means to be fully “plugged in.” Iron­i­cally, be­ing more avail­able to peo­ple who need to get in touch has made me less plugged in to what is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing around me, in­clud­ing at the barn.

Ob­vi­ously, I’m not alone in this dilemma, as demon­strated in men­tal-skills coach Tonya John­ston’s and Olympian Jim Wof­ford’s col­umns this month. While ac­knowl­edg­ing that phones help with stream­lin­ing daily tasks and ef­fi­ciency, def­i­nitely a plus, Tonya points out that rid­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with your horse are not on that list of tasks (page 16). In­stead, she says, “When it com­pro­mises your mind­ful­ness, men­tal strength and peace of mind, it be­comes a threat.”

Jim Wof­ford takes this no­tion a step fur­ther, say­ing that if you use your ear­phones when rid­ing in pub­lic, you’re a men­ace to so­ci­ety be­cause you need to be ex­posed to the same stim­uli that your horse is to stay safe (page 12). He also ques­tions how you can need them to al­le­vi­ate bore­dom “when you are con­nected to the most won­der­ful crea­tures in cre­ation.” In­stead, he says, think about the spe­cial re­la­tion­ship you have with your horse.

This re­la­tion­ship is at the heart of Cana­dian Olympian Kyle Carter’s story about rid­ing over ditches (page 32). You need to “cre­ate a re­la­tion­ship of faith, al­ways think­ing through the best ways to com­mu­ni­cate with your horse,” Kyle says. But that’s hard to do when you’re dis­tracted by the lat­est voice­mails, texts or Face­book posts blink­ing up at you.

So in the next few weeks, my plan is to chal­lenge my­self to un­plug at the barn and tune back in to time with my horse. If you’re in­spired to do the same, let me know how it goes.

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