Every time we swing our right leg over a horse’s back and into the saddle, we promise to give them our full attention and respect. Riding requires a specific kind of listening; the kind that allows us to interpret the cues our horses give us and respond with cues of our own. As riders, we must be aware of the space we take up in the ring and manage it according to traffic.

For me, this is difficult enough to do with two eyes, two legs, two hands, and all of my brainpower, and yet, some equestrians choose to ride with a phone wedged into their helmet or in their hand.

…riding with the reins in one hand and a phone in the other just seems disrespectful…

Certainly there are extenuating circumstances that require texting in the saddle, like a trainer telling a client to come up to the ring or asking the vet to come take a look at a horse. Maybe we could even forgive a working amateur who took the week off to show but needs to take a quick call from the office. And sure, keeping your phone in a pocket or holster to take plenty of “between the ears” shots is harmlessly endearing.

But other than that, riding with the reins in one hand and a phone in the other just seems disrespectful to the animals that do so much for us.

We get frustrated when our horses are distracted during a ride, so shouldn’t we hold ourselves to the same standards we hold our mounts?  Is your conversation so important that you can’t put your phone down for a twenty-five minute hack?  Better yet, are you truly concentrating on safely navigating a busy schooling ring if your cell is strapped to your ear?

When I took driver’s education as a teenager, the biggest lesson I learned was to drive defensively, because other drivers may be distracted by any number of things.  While it’s scary to know that other drivers aren’t always paying attention, at least cars have seatbelts and airbags.

Unfortunately, custom French saddles don’t come with those features (yet).  Common sense would argue that texting while riding is similar to texting while driving a motor vehicle: dangerous and possibly even reckless.

Effective December 1, 2017, US Equestrian passed rule HU154, which prohibits the use of earbuds in the schooling ring for hunter/jumper riders; you can read more about that here.  While this doesn’t necessarily tackle the texting and talking on the phone issues, it’s certainly a step in the right direction to ensure the safety of all riders and equines.

Photos by Kate Kosnoff, and Erin Gilmore for Noelle Floyd.