A few years ago, a wonderful TV advert showed a generously proportioned lady on a generously proportioned cob trotting down a bridle path. When her mobile phone rang, she answered it with a big smile and announced the name of a firm of solicitors.
The idea was to prove that with a mobile phone, you can be available to anyone at any time. My husband joked that a better idea would be for me to re-name my cob Business, so if anyone called, he could say I was “out on Business.”
His idea was best, because although it’s important to take your phone with you when riding – complete with ICE (in case of emergency) and your vet’s numbers keyed into your favourites list – I’m rather depressed at how we’re letting our mobiles take over our horsey lives.
Or am I just being grumpy when I say that when I’m riding, I want to concentrate on enjoying and getting the best out of my horse? For me, it’s a precious time when I can try and push all my other thoughts and worries out of the way and aim for what a psychologist friend calls a “state of flow.” That’s when you and your horse are so perfectly tuned to teach other that everything seems to happen naturally.
Even if I’m hacking out, I want to be aware of my horse and how he’s reacting. I want to enjoy it and I want to be safe. Earlier this week, I drove up a quiet road behind a rider who had one hand on the reins whilst the other held her phone to her ear.
She didn’t hear me until I’d been crawling behind her for several hundred yards and even then, simply steered her horse on to the grass verge without acknowledging me. Not a good way to foster good relationships between riders and drivers.
Maybe professional riders, who often make and answer calls whilst riding, look at things differently. The prize for initiative – or something – goes to the event rider who chatted away happily when I called her for a magazine interview.
It was only when I commented that it sounded as if it was a bit windy in her part of the world that she explained that she was doing fast work on the gallops whilst she talked – with her phone tucked under her hat harness. I’m not sure that quite meets the hat manufacturer’s fitting guidelines!
When riding is part of your job, perhaps it makes sense to multi-task and perhaps riders who are more accomplished than me can keep half their attention on their horse and half on their phone conversations. But if you call me and I’m riding, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave a message.
Riding is my time. The strange thing is, though, that by concentrating on my horse, I often found that when I start or get back to work, my brain has solved a problem. My psychologist friend says that when we give our total concentration to one thing, our brain re-arranges its files behind the scenes. Apparently, dreaming solves the same purpose.
So if I don’t take your call, don’t take it personally. And if you always answer your phone whilst riding, try letting the call go through to your voicemail, just for one day. You might enjoy it.