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.