Technology and horse riding, do they really mix? Many of us are probably guilty of checking our phones even while in the saddle, but is it wise?
So, can you use a phone while riding a horse? It is advisable to have a phone on you when you go trail riding and especially if you go alone. The phone should be kept on your person so that in the event of a fall you can use it to call for help. Apart from emergencies, it is not recommended to hold, look at, or use a phone while horseback riding as it distracts from what you are doing, which can be a safety hazard.
In this time and age, our phones have become our second brains and for many (us included!) it seems impossible not to bring it with us wherever we go. And in fact, in some cases, you really should bring it with you when you go riding. Taking it with you and using it are two different things though and we will get more into the when, how and why’s in this article.
Can You Use a Mobile Phone on a Horse?
CAN you use a phone while horseback riding? Yes. SHOULD you use a phone while on horseback? No.
There is solid scientific evidence proving that when we use our cell phones, we are significantly less attentive to our surroundings. These results paved the way for new legislation in many parts of the world around cell phone use while driving, making it illegal in most places.
Studies have also shown that even when walking and talking on our phones our peripheral awareness is significantly reduced. This study had two groups walk down the same road, one group having a conversation on the phone, and the other not. 5 objects were placed along the road and the participants were asked to identify them after the experiment was over. Only 20% of the participants who talked on the phone could do this versus 76% of the ones that didn’t talk on the phone.
We thought these results were pretty eye-opening and can serve as a reminder of how much distraction a cell phone can actually be, even when we think we are multitasking. For this reason, it is not recommended to call, text, or otherwise use your phone when riding a horse.
Is It Illegal To Use a Mobile Phone While Riding a Horse?
Whether you can or can’t legally use a cell phone while riding will ultimately depend on where you live. However, looking into your country’s or state’s legislation and answering the following two questions should help you find the answer.
- Are horses considered a vehicle by law in my location?
- Is it illegal to use a cell phone while operating a vehicle in my location?
If the answer to both questions is yes, then you can theoretically be fined or prosecuted for using your phone while in the saddle (especially in areas with traffic).
Regardless of legality, cell phone use distracts us and takes focus away from our surroundings. And as most riders know, horses can be unpredictable so keeping our eyes on the road and what’s going on around us is always very important.
The Best Way to Carry Your Phone While Horse Riding
Even though cell phone USE is discouraged while riding, having a cell phone WITH you is recommended. For trail rides or whenever you go somewhere alone on your horse, it is a great idea to keep your phone with you in case an accident should occur. We recommend keeping the phone somewhere on your person so that in case of a fall where the horse takes off, the phone is with you and not in the saddlebag on the runaway steed.
There are many products on the market to secure your phone to you while riding. Below are the main categories that exist.
- Holster. A holster is essentially just a holder for the phone that can be attached to different parts of the body such as the leg, the arm, or to your belt.
- Phone Pocket. Certain clothing items now come with phone pockets and you can get both breeches and sports bras with this feature.
- Running belt. Although not developed with the equestrian sport in mind, a running belt works great as a phone holder on trail rides. I am very happy with mine, which is a Salomon Pulse Belt.
Tips for Using Your Cell Phone Camera While Riding
One of the reasons why horseback riding is such an amazing sport is all the experiences you get to have, and it is only natural that you would want to document some of them! Having a camera available is almost as important to us as being ‘reachable’ and it is so fun to later share great moments you had on horseback with others.
‘So how can you say using a camera is great when you just said not to use your phone while riding?’. Excellent point! We’re not. We do not recommend using your camera on horseback, but we also live in the real world where we know that you probably will. So instead of preaching, below are a few tips for how to get those fun shots in the safest manner possible.
Attach a camera to your helmet. If you have a GoPro or any other small action camera that can be attached to your helmet – this is clearly the best solution! Having the camera attached to your head means you have your hands free to hold the reins and the only distraction you will have is turning the camera on and off. We have used a GoPro on trail rides many times and they capture the action and sounds so well – we love watching it back!
Attach/store the camera safely on your body. Keep your phone in a location that is:
- easy to access (without having to move in the saddle)
- secure and protects it from water and dust
- away from your vital organs
- not in a place that will interfere with the tack or disturb the horse.
We usually keep our phone in a holster strapped to the thigh or attached in the belt strap of our breeches and both work great!
Secure first, snap later. Before taking a picture, make sure your horse is calm and secured and standing still. Take a moment to observe your surroundings and look for things that could potentially spook your horse. Also, keep in mind that your horse cannot easily see what you are doing and may find your fumbling and moving during the photoshoot stressful. Be sure to listen to your horse’s body language and put the camera away if he becomes agitated or restless.
Don’t hold your camera while in motion. Take your photo and put the camera back in its holder. We have seen several phones die a quick death falling to the ground when riders tried to record during a gallop. It only takes a pull on the reins or a branch in the face for this to happen and remember what we said about distraction and peripheral awareness..?
Avoid flash and turn off sounds. Flash photography can spook your horse, so if you are in a low light setting, try to find better light conditions or just forget about the shot. Also, for the same reason, ensure your camera shutter does not make any sound when you take a picture.
Take photos of each other. If you are riding in a group, take photos of each other. Instead of you leaning off in all directions trying to capture the best selfie, get your trail buddy to do it. The less your photography activities disturb your horse, the better, and your friend has a better angle anyway!
Share your photos. Sharing is caring and it also means that not everyone has to pull up their phones to take a shot of that beach, that sunset or the amazing house you just passed. If you are on vacation or with a group of people you ride with regularly, create a Dropbox folder or upload your photos to Google photos for everyone to use. Perhaps the equestrian center you ride at have a Facebook group to share photos in? In our experience, people really appreciate it when you share great shots you took of them and will reciprocate when they can.
Hopefully, you are now aware of the recommended cell phone policy for horse riding (according to us anyway) and will take precautions before next time you pull out your camera on a trail ride.