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HANG UP AND RIDE

SCENE 1

It’s a beautiful day and I’m riding Cowboy Up to the Bar (yup, that’s his name) through the scenic Cleveland National Forest, located of course, in Southern California. We stop to enjoy a fantastic view and Cowboy is grazing on some tasty grass. Suddenly, I’m flat on my back on the ground and Cowboy is giving me one of those, “what are you doing down there ya dummy” looks!  Yes, I fell off while my horse was standing still!

SCENE 2

I’m sitting quietly on Pepper at a Sharon Camarillo clinic. My reins are draped over his neck. (Pepper is fully ground tied. He waits quietly while you go to the lavatory with those same reins draped over his neck. He stands when asked and comes when called. Plastic bags and flapping flags are of no concern to him.) Suddenly, Miss Sharon is ripping into me about safety and how it ‘only takes once’ to have a serious wreck!

So why am I telling you these embarrassingly painful stories? Because I’m 53 years old, I’ve been riding for only six years, I don’t bounce real well AND I have the ambulance rides to prove it!

Horses are unpredictable creatures. Even the most bomb-proof horse can be frightened and spooked, and if you are distracted by a cell phone, iPod, or just ‘not paying attention’ then when “not if” something happens, you are much more likely to end up in a heap of hurt! This truth applies to us all, not only to those old enough to remember the names of all four Beatles.

SCENE 3

A young woman is riding her horse back to the stall while talking on a cell phone. Suddenly the horse spooks and takes off like a banshee. At first, the rider attempts to regain control of the horse while CONTINUING to talk on the cell phone. Finally, the rider says, “Hang on, I’ll call you back,” and starts to put the cell phone away. Unfortunately, the cell phone never had a chance and neither did the rider, who next found herself in the emergency room with a broken arm and a concussion. The horse was later found in his stall, calmly munching on dinner.

Thou shall not mix horses and cell phones.

I do understand that in today’s world, interrupting someone is very rude, but not answering your cell phone is inexcusable (sic)! We’ll save cell phone etiquette for a future column. However, this leads us to the second rule of safe horse-person-ship, “Thou shall not mix horses and cell phones or any other distraction.” (Information on the first rule of safe horse-person-ship may be found my first article, “Always keep the horse between you and the ground.”)

Now with regard to your iPod, PLEASE don’t tell me that listening to music helps maintain the rhythm of your barrel run… YOUR HORSE CAN’T HEAR THE MUSIC in your earphones and you can’t hear the rider behind you calling for help! Besides, you just might miss an important cell phone call! How’s that for circular logic?

We all insist our horses pay attention to us and show us respect… why not pay as much attention to our horses and show them the same respect? Pay attention to your horse. Trust me, your horse will let you know when it’s about to land in the manure pile! Listen to your horse. My horse doesn’t talk as much as I do, but he seems to have far more to say. Respect your horse. Hey wait a moment, hold the phone (so to speak), how about we all show respect for each other! You know, ‘do unto others’ and all that.

SCENE 4

The crowd cheers as the horse and rider turn a great first barrel … with a perfect flying lead change they do Miss Sharon proud as they demonstrate The A.R.T of Barrel Racing around the second barrel. They hit the approach point to third barrel right on the money and suddenly the whole run goes into the toilet (and that darn timer just keeps running). Oh, by the way, did you happen to notice the rider suddenly losing concentration and reaching for the outside pocket of her jeans? Seems she forgot to turn off the cell phone and that vibrating ringer came as a real surprise.

Our horses have a lot to teach us about improving our barrel runs, if only we would pay attention, listen and avoid distractions! So, turn off the iPod, hang up the phone and ride!

The Galloping Gringo would like to thank his wife, The Lovely Lady Linda, (stunningly beautiful, incredibly talented, and wicked smart), for her assistance with this column.

Illustration by ProSportsPix.