Ask me how I know.
On a gorgeous spring late afternoon about a week ago, I headed out on my horse Jobber to one of our largest pastures. As is my (safety) habit, I had my phone in its well-abused case tucked into my back pocket — partially so I can call for help should I take a tumble and need some attention, and partially so I can alert farm headquarters when I inevitably find escaped livestock. “I’ll get a dorky belt clip like I had for my last phone,” I’ve stated out loud in front of many other people for the past two years since acquiring this phone. Had I actually gotten one? No.
I’m sure you see where this story is going. Jobber, with his magnificent four-hundred-foot long* canter stride, covers some serious ground, and as we loped majestically across this broad expanse of hillside, I felt/heard my phone wiggle free of my pocket and clatter down the saddle and to the ground. I glanced behind me for the briefest of seconds and then nobly reminded myself: “Live in the moment. Enjoy the canter.” (*may not be entirely accurate.)
After getting the quality of stride I had been seeking, I rewarded Jobber by transitioning down to the walk and then meandered back towards the approximate location my phone had fallen, and then in larger and more random circles as it failed to materialize. This particular pasture was a hay field, and the grass was indeed growing; my neon blue phone case did not magically make the rectangle easy to spot as I had hoped it would. Jobber got an excellent session in turning off of leg aids as I started to hack more and more aimlessly, criss-crossing our tracks all over the place, increasingly frantic.
Eventually, after putting Jobber up and enlisting the help of some family members, we did manage to find the darn thing, nestled amongst a tuft of grass, no worse for wear other than the 46 missed calls we had placed after deluding ourselves into thinking we would hear the ringtone out there in the breeze. I went home and promptly ordered myself a phone mount for my belt.
I know for years and years we all rode around just fine without a cell phone — a large chunk of the summers of my youth were spent careening around the woods bareback on a free lease pony with zero adult supervision (yeah, someone knew I was out there and roughly what time they should expect to see me back, but still). But just like other various safety developments in the recent past, especially for those of us who hack out alone far from our home barn base, why take the risk and leave without this simple means of almost instantaneous communication?
Lest you all find yourselves in my exact field-searching scenario this summer, here are five ways to keep that ever-important electronic device on your person.
1A. If your phone has a “find my phone” feature, turn it on.
As we trudged up the enormous hill, my aunt turned on her phone-finding feature and had me punch my information in, and then we all stood around and stared eagerly at the screen as the little compass whizzed about… only to reveal that I had never turned that feature on and my phone could not be located. Don’t be silly like me. Turn it on right now.
1. Clothing with zippered pockets.
(Emphasis on the zipper. Obviously, the back pocket of your jeans is a poor choice.) I believe it’s important to keep the phone on your own person rather than clipped to your saddle or in a saddle bag — just in case you part company with your horse and he or she takes off and leaves you. Generally, the zippered pocket concept is a no-brainer if weather conditions allow. Some of the newer technical apparel for hiking or other outdoor applications include zippered pockets. If you’re not riding in the blazing sun at speed, you might be able to get away with a light vest. If you’re anywhere that summer is actually hot, you’ll probably want to avoid adding yet more layers.
2. Horse Holster or similar
There are several variations of this product on the market, including non-equestrian versions designed to fit on your upper arm. The Horse Holster itself is neoprene with an elastic strap, designed to be worn around the rider’s thigh for minimal interference as you ride but easy accessibility. A no-slip strap anchors the holster to your belt to prevent it from sliding down your leg as you ride. The Horse Holster can also be modified to slip onto a belt. Check out the Horse Holster website for the full array of colors.
3. Belt clip
This is what I’m talking about — I used one of these for my first smartphone when I was coaching a collegiate team and the students loved to make fun of it, but I never lost my phone, nor tried to awkwardly sit on it in the saddle. Many of these belt clips are designed to accompany particular phone cases, which is always a good idea to have in the first place when you have an expensive electronic device around horses. Tragically, my fancy charging case for my new(er) phone did not come with accompanying dorky belt clip; hence the back pocket fail.
4. Belt holster
As my day-to-day farm chores can easily include not just riding but driving my draft team, wrestling escaped goats, sorting cattle, wrestling escaped goats again, stacking hay and various other sundries you can expect from a working farm, I really liked this particular rugged belt holster from Duluth Trading Company, and I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival on my porch (yeah, it’s specifically labeled “for men” but whatever, gender roles are outdated). I am pretty confident that not only will my phone remain secure inside while I’m cantering again across a giant hay meadow, but it’ll also be protected when I inevitably get knocked down and run over by all of my sister-in-law’s goats. Farm life is great.
5. Riding band
If you don’t want to go adding more things to your belt, the riding band might be the way to go — this stretchy band is basically worn like a giant belt but you can tuck all sorts of things into its two zippered pouches, including not only your phone but your keys, ID, credit card or whatever else you can come up with to jam in there. This particular product pictured is from Noble Outfitters, available via SmartPak.