The 21st century equestrian is a distracted one. As hand-held cell phone bans for drivers become ubiquitous across the nation, it is this horseman’s opinion that riders should take note. Generation X successfully championed the cause of banning public smoking, a formerly social normality. The pandemic of the millennials is the smart phone; on planes, trains, automobiles and yes even on horseback, teens and twenty-something’s are lighting up—their smart phones.
One study reports that on average, 11 teens are killed each day by smart phone distracted auto-incidents. Another study reports the use of a smart phone makes the driver 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. If such accidents pervade the roads, it must be certain the same phenomenon is being seen in the ring and on the trail. “It’s important for riders to remember that the horse can be an unpredictable animal,” says one equestrian safety professional: “If the rider is distracted by using his or her cell phone, and the horse reacts to something in its environment, serious injuries may be the result.”
Equestrians recognize the similarities between riding and driving, distractions in either scenario can be the cause of serious injuries. To date, 12 states have prohibited drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Consider the idea that riding involves two minds, horse and rider, and thus should require more focused communication. Although bans on smart phone use with equestrian sports will be hard won, the responsibility will fall on the individual level. Out side of show fair grounds, there are few places that such behavior can be socially policed. Take the pledge, and vow to be a phone free rider; you owe it to your horsemanship.
In addition, review the following rules for smart phone use with horses: